The American election is pretty much over now. There are still some things to wrap up, but for the most part, we’ve done our bit. And man, did we ever do our bit. More people voted in this election than literally any election before it. That’s astounding. This whole election has been astounding. Also, terrifying, heartwarming, stressful, heartbreaking. I’ve been voting since I turned eighteen, never missed an election, and I’ve never seen anything like this. People way older than me are saying the same thing.
For some of us, this feels like a big win. It feels like the light at the end of a fucking long tunnel. It feels like after four years we can finally take a break. Sorry, I have some bad news.
We cannot stop paying attention to what our politicians are doing. We still need to pay attention to the news, pay attention to what’s going on in the world around us.
The problems in our country didn’t start with Trump. And they won’t end with him being booted out of office. Though I’ll personally rejoice to think that he’ll never again set a diet coke on the Resolute Desk without a coaster.
We the people found our voices this year after far too many of sitting complacently at the sidelines. We cannot go back to that.
I will not go back to that.
There are still marches to walk in. Laws to fight for or against. There are still kids in cages at our border. Millions of Americans still don’t have health care. We still need a Green New Deal. We still have to defend a woman’s right to chose. Flint Michigan still doesn’t have clean water. There is work, so much work, to be done. And it doesn’t start at the top. It starts with us.
I get that this is overwhelming. But it’s where we are. And if we’ve learned anything in the last four years, it’s that we cannot expect our elected officials to fix things for us.
If you, like me, want to make sure you’re doing your part in the coming years, here are some things you can do.
Know your local politicians.
I’m sort of bad about this myself. I didn’t even know our Lt. governor here in PA was a damned king who I need to pay more attention to. But this is where real changes that will impact you start. Who’s your mayor, state representative, governor? You should know their names, where they stand on issues that impact you, and what their email addresses are. Maybe even where their office is.
Vote in local elections.
When you know who your local politicians are, you can vote with more understanding. And you should vote. There are elections at least every two years. Know when yours are, and make a plan to vote in them. These people are going to make decisions that impact your life whether you vote for them or not. You should have a say in who they are.
Pay attention to the news.
Yes, I’m fully aware that this is hard. The world can be dark and scary. But we have to know what’s happening to make it brighter. I subscribe to The Skimm, which I read every morning. I also follow independent journalists and look into the information they provide. Just don’t shut down. Knowing what’s happening is the first step to doing something about it.
Call or write letters about things you care about.
This may seem like a waste of time, but I promise it’s not. We have to have our voices heard if we’re going to get anything done. Don’t ever forget that your politicians work for you. And you should tell them what you think of the job they’re doing.
I know that life is hard. There’s so much to do. Adding anything to our already bloated to-do lists seems like an impossibility.
But not paying attention is what got us here. It’s like in Phantom Tollbooth when Milo ends up in the Doldrums. Tock, the Watchdog, asks him how he ended up there. “I guess I wasn’t thinking,” Milo tells him.
“Then what do you think you need to do to get out again?” Tock asked.
We got here by not thinking and not paying attention. So, what do we need to do to get out?