I live in Britain. When people hear my American accent, they want to talk to me about Donald Trump. They want to ask me what happened, and why. But most of all, they ask me – with fear filling their voices – what they can do, as individuals, to counteract him, here, from the United Kingdom.
I’ve been spending the day thinking about that – and the answers I have come up with are a bit unconventional:
Donate money to the movements fighting the widespread bigotry that fuelled Trump’s victory
Donald Trump is not a pantomime villain sweeping onto centre stage, although he looks and sounds like one. Millions of Americans voted him in, including, to some surprise, the majority of white women voters; while commenters emphasised that Trump’s base was angry white men without a college education, the facts have shown that there is at least tacit support for his racist, sexist perspective throughout the (white) electorate. To undermine Trump, one must undermine his values throughout society.
One of the easiest ways to do that from abroad is to donate money to the organisations and movements that are doing the work to fight inequalities and injustices on the ground – and have been doing so for years. The Southern Poverty Law Centre monitors and tracks white supremacist hate groups, which is essential in an era where Trump supporters burn black churches and spray Trump graffiti laced with swastikas. The American Civil Liberties Union defends freedom of expression, essential when Trump threatens to sue the New York Times for reporting truthful news about him. Planned Parenthood defends reproductive justice, including birth control and the right to abortion. Jezebel has compiled a good starting list with links to these and other organisations fighting for environmental justice, the rights of trans people, and many other causes.
Combat the bigotry all around us in the UK
Trump has won because so many American voters chose bigotry, but the bigotry doesn’t stop at the American border. The surprise Leave vote in the European Union referendum is a stark reminder that the UK is just as capable of voting for xenophobia, and Leave – like Trump – has emboldened racists; a few weeks after the vote, someone burned down the garden shed of a Polish man here in Plymouth and slipped a note threatening his family through his door.
One thing anyone can do is to report hate crimes to the authorities, and demand loudly that they act, as hate crime increases across the UK. Organisations like HOPE Not Hate and Stand Up to Racism work in local communities, and a planned demonstration, One Day Without Us, highlights the contributions that immigrants make to British society.
Challenge the bigotry in your own circle, and in yourself
During the American election and the referendum campaign, many of us got into arguments with close friends and family, and may have even unfriended them on social media and excluded them from our circles. As an act of self-preservation it is certainly healthy to avoid poisonous ideas, but to truly enact social change, we need to lock horns with them – not to reinforce our own sense of moral superiority, but to change their minds. This is no easy task, but Jay Smooth’s classic video explains how to call someone out on their racism, and many writers have offered strategies on taking relatives to task about their bigotry – even at the holiday dinner table.
Study history, and share it
When Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor in Germany, the worldwide response had some similarities to the response to Trump. Many thought that he would be a bumbler, that he would make a fool of himself and be humiliated off the world stage in short order, but he proved them wrong, with a cost of tens of millions of lives. The living memory of the Weimar era and World War Two are still – just – with us, but as social media has ushered in the era of the 24-hour news cycle (and the 30-second attention span), those of us who were born decades later must relearn these lessons. Here is a good new book on the rise of European fascism.
Get involved in politics
When I was a little Jewish girl growing up and learning about the Holocaust, I remember talking one afternoon with my classmates about what we would have done as German Jews living in the Nazi era. Many of us offered brave daydreams of joining the resistance, or running away to Britain or America to be a wartime nurse or fighter pilot. What we were never taught was the bitter, creeping ordinariness of fascism as it overtakes us.
Fighting fascism, in this era, is done with politics, and getting involved in a political party is a good way to prevent the creep of fascist ideas. The most crucial activity of political parties is on-the-ground campaign work, knocking on doors and identifying (and gaining) supporters, who we can encourage to go to the polls and to get involved in turn. Labour, the Greens, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, and Plaid Cymru have all taken explicit stands against bigotry, and joining a political party and participating in its meetings is a good way to combat elements who would pander to bigotry in order to attract voters.