Tomorrow, president-elect Donald Trump will stand before the American people, take an oath, and become the President of the United States, moving his administration into power. We have been promised much about the peaceful transition of power and making America great — time will be the proof of that. But two months ago, Sarah Kendzior had some words of advice: Write who you are, and what you know, and what you believe, because you may be surprised by how quickly these things are warped and subverted under authoritarianism. In some ways, the archives of this website are that letter to my future self, but as the nation poses on the brink of something very ancient and very terrible, I think it’s also wise to take a moment to talk to my future self one to one, as friends do.
For I often say that our integrity is the one thing they cannot take from us, but they can, if we have not defined what that integrity is. What it means to us. How we want to enact it. If I want to hold true to myself and my core over the next four or more years, I need to know who that person is, how to find them in the darkness, even when everything feels lost and confused.
I want my future self to know that I value all people: That everyone deserves equal rights and equal treatment, whether I hold more privilege than them, or less. That the value of humanity is not something that can be tidily and simply measured. That, too, liberation for some is justice for none. If I am free while others are not, I am not truly free, and I am feeding the oppression of others. It is not enough to get mine and say that others can get theirs next. We must all get ours. Together. What does it matter if I, a white mentally ill person, am afforded more protections from police than a Black mentally ill person if I do nothing to rectify that fact, resting content that at least I will be safe?
I want my future self to know also that resistance is collaborative and the product of solidarity. It is not trickle down, but built from the ground up, hand-in-hand with others. It is not my place to tell others how to fight for their liberation, but to sit and listen, and then to rise with them and join their fight. They know what they need more than I ever will, or can ever imagine, and true solidarity work involves taking yourself out of the centre.
I want my future self to know that I am opposed to practices like registering classes of people, forcibly removing others, creating a tiered society where some have more than others and it is entrenched in law. My future self must know that it is imperative to fight these things by any means possible. By contacting legislators and officials, yes. By supporting legal actions. By taking to the streets, also. By blocking the buses and standing in the way of armed agents of hatred, too.
I want my future self to know that resistance is more than simplistic gestures. When they come to us and say ‘here, these people must register,’ my job is not to register with them, to flood the database with red herrings. My job instead is to support them as they refuse to register, as all of us refuse to validate this. When people march on the streets, I travel with them, and give them aid when they are frightened, tired, hungry, thirsty. Performative ‘activism’ has never been a part of my beliefs and now is not the time to start.
I want my future self to know that times may become dark and ugly, but that I can claw my way out of them with the help of my people. Now more than ever, I am happy to have found my people and I will cling to them as I hope they will cling to me. Sometimes that will mean shaking pride aside to ask for, or accept, help. Sometimes that will mean reaching out my own hand to help someone else. We cannot do this alone. None of us can do this alone.
I want my future self to know that to listen is to know things, and that sometimes, we know things by listening to ourselves. If it sounds or feels wrong, it is. If it causes unease, it has good reason to. Listen between the lines and through the cracks and do not accept what it said at face value. Do not be misled or gaslighted or distracted. Focus.
I want my future self to know that it is necessary to settle on a course of action and refuse to waver. Though you may be nervous and uncertain, don’t let your second thoughts distract you from what it is to do the right thing. If it is easy, it is probably not the right thing. If it is too hard to bear alone, find someone to carry it with you, but do not turn away from the challenge.
I want my future self to know that some of us may not make it through this, and there is no shame in that. What would be shameful, though, would be refusing to aid those who are struggling, and allowing those who do not survive to be forgotten. We may not always like each other, and we certainly don’t always agree with each other, and we should not subvert our identities to group harmony and making everyone feel cozy, but at the same time, we must also recognise that we are all of us fighting, and that sometimes lending help is more important than being right, when lives are on the line. If I have to sit to table with people I generally dislike to accomplish a greater good, so be it.
We will all of us look back upon ourselves and judge, and history will do the same. People ask why it is that people never seem to come out on the right side of history, but they would do better to ask why those who come out on the right side of history are so quickly forgotten. I know my past, our past. I will not be part of its repetition.