A Grief And A Gift

I recently took a trip back to Vermont for my Grandfather’s memorial service. He was a good man. I miss him. He taught me to fish and to be patient; I still try to use one of those things every day.

While I was there, I saw my cousin for the first time in a long time. And she saw me, trying to push through the day. She contacted me online after I got home to pass on some medical information in case it was helpful…she’s been going through all the same things. Pain, mystery symptoms, long pursuit of diagnosis. She’s a few years older than me, and she’s been living with it a little longer. She finally got her real diagnosis, though. EDS. Ehlers-Danlos. It’s genetic.

So now, I get to go back to my rheumatologist and yell. My official diagnosis has been “fibromyalgia, hypermobility, heart valve dysfunction, B12 deficiency, POTS, etc., etc., etc.,” and doctors telling me that it wasn’t all connected. All of these things are symptoms of EDS, which the rheumatologist said I “probably didn’t have, it’s so rare.” Now that I have an established family history, I have more confidence to self-advocate. And yell. And replace doctors, if necessary.

My reaction to all this? Hell if I can put it into words. There has been a lot of crying and some laughing at the absurdity. It does change my treatment plan going forward, but my doctors can either get on board or get out of my way. As long as I keep my heart function monitored, it’s not likely to kill me anytime soon.

This will hopefully be my last medical blog for a while. I have some closure; Knowing why my body is falling apart means that I can move on to living my life to the best of my somewhat disjointed ability.

See you next time.

New Book Goodies

There are now a few varieties of merchandise available through Zazzle with designs from currently published books. For right now, it’s a basic selection, but there are plans for more in the future. If you have any input on what you’d like to see, let me know in the comments.

Click on these words to see the store, or on any of the pictures below.

SurvivedButton

SeeFaeriesButton

SirenMug

Banging Your Head On Your Desk, And Other Solutions

I’m stuck! Wheee!

 

stuck

 

Okay, but seriously. I’ve got two books on the burner, and I can’t seem to get a fire going under either of them. It happens. You’re chugging along, knocking out a few hundred words a day, and then your country elects a belligerent news-cycle nightmare and suddenly there’s no brainspace left for writing because it feels like the room is on fire. (It’s not just me, is it?)

I’m still laying down a few hundred words a week. Epitaph For Everything Else is finally over 25k long. Pharos has got 18.6k and keeps getting sticky notes added to the idea wall. But I can’t seem to get a good workflow going.

The first-order advice I usually see to fix this is to sit down at your desk at exactly (x) o’clock every day and stay there until (y) whether writing gets done or not. The idea, I think, is that you will get so bored that you’ll do something useful. This would be great advice if my life were not a circus of doctor appointments, sleep-inducing meds, physical therapy, yelling at my government to not get me killed, and trying to maintain a bare minimum of normalcy. I’ve tried the “Butt In Chair, Same Time Every Day” advice several times. And I’ll try it again. But my success rate isn’t good.

What’s next? I’m not sure. A vacation from my life would be helpful, but wherever I go, there too goes my stupid needy body. Cutting down on distractions is good, but selling books means being present on social media, so there’s only so much of that I can withdraw from. I suppose I could cancel my Netflix. If I’m still too tired and achy to write, though, it won’t do much good. I’ll just spend more time in bed reading instead of watching.

If I come up with some magical new mind-diet that works, I’ll keep you posted.

 

P.S. I kind of hate that I just used the word “diet.”

P.P.S. Riots not diets.

Getting the Electric Chair and Living

As most of you know, I have some mobility issues that come with chronic illness. My body is always at a minimum of 2 on the pain scale, hates moving for long stretches, and has a tendency to keel over.

I bought my first cane more than a year ago, and it helps, but on the really bad days, I still had to stay home. I got a flimsy hospital-style manual wheelchair (“for emergencies only,” I told myself) but I wasn’t strong enough to push it far. I also discovered that Manhattan sidewalks tilt dramatically towards the street…which meant they were always trying to dump me and my wheels into traffic.

There are many different stages of denial that come with long physical illness, and this was one of them.

I needed a real wheelchair.

I put it off and put it off. I tried a Razor scooter, but I couldn’t stay on it. I allowed my social activities to continue dwindling, thinking that if I could just save up some energy, I could still do one or two things. I pushed myself to physical limits (and sometimes injuries) to make it to political rallies and marches, thinking this is important, this is worth it.

Then there was the Science March. My friend, who has a power chair for her severe arthritis and other conditions, brought an amazing sign with the accessibility stick-person in a wheelchair zooming along on it. It said “Science Moves Me.”

 

SciMarchGroup
That’s her beside me, far left

 

She was way faster than me. In fact, you’d have to run to keep up with her in that chair. By the end of the march, she was doing all right. I felt like I was dying, nearly falling over on my way off the bus and slogging all the way home. Nobody else seemed to be having trouble. The march wasn’t that long.

She mentioned that I should look into a power chair, which was probably obvious to everyone but me.

So I sat down and had a long think about why I didn’t get one yet.

I could afford one. No one who cared about me would judge me for using it. I just didn’t wanna. It broke down to something like this:

  • I’m not disabled enough. I have two legs and they still kinda work maybe sometimes
  • I know that accessibility in this city sucks and traveling would still be hard
  • Strangers who were weird about the cane would be even more weird
  • I could inconvenience my friends when encountering the dreaded enemy Stairs
  • I would suddenly become very short and I’m not used to that
  • The doorman might give me that awkward sympathy look
  • I hate being disabled
  • No, seriously, I hate it
  • I hate being disabled and I can’t make being disabled feel like fun
  • I hate it
  • I hate it
  • I hate it

So, obviously, we have arrived at the real problem here.

I fought my body over whether or not it was falling apart every step of the way. When I first started getting migraines, I spent more time throwing up than I really had to because I would try to ‘tough it out.’ (For those of you who have never had a migraine, imagine your head exploding…over the course of two or three days. It’s not just a headache. It’s a slow motion gunshot between the eyes, except you survive and get to do it again later.) When I couldn’t physically keep up with friends in college, I developed a caffeine habit to rival Mark Twain’s cigars. Every new symptom that appeared, I would do my best to literally pretend it wasn’t happening.

This only worked until I started losing weight and couldn’t stop. I finally had to quit my day job (working with animals, which I loved). I started seeing doctors. By the time I moved to New York (for better doctors) and saw one who took me seriously, I was 5′ 8″, 103 lbs, and most closely resembled Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

 

sally
This is fine.

I finally started getting some help, including vitamin shots, and so of course I went back to trying to pretend I was fine. I’m pretty sure the only thing that finally made me stop was that pretending to be fine is exhausting.

So, over time, I’ve made accommodations for myself. I say that I write full time, but honestly, I write part time and spend the rest of the time trying to hold it together. I got the cane. I got a tiny folding camp chair so that I can sit down at outdoor events without risking my inability to get back up. I shower sitting on the floor of the bathtub. I gave up bras. I walk a little slower. Life is easier. It still ain’t easy, and it never will be, but it was more manageable.

If all of those things made life easier, getting a power wheelchair was only smart. I went to Big Apple Mobility in Times Square and rolled out with one that same day. It had cherry red panels (not my style) and was small enough to turn around in most elevators (definitely my style). The battery runs for 12 miles before needing a charge. It has tiny stash bins under the seat, like twin glove boxes.

It has changed my life.

Even just using it to roll around the house, it means I have to stand up and sit down far fewer times each day. My frequent lightheadedness is now rare, and if I do faint, big deal! I’m already sitting down. It’s nice. Cleaning house has gone from a huge and painful chore to an opportunity to go for a joyride around the apartment.

And then there’s outside. Yes, some of the curb cuts suck. Yes, the subway is practically inaccessible. But I can go to the park without using up a full day of energy. I can march without it feeling like a survival challenge. I can take the bus without dreading the walk I’ll have left when I get off. Groceries? Bring it on. I’ve got a lap AND a backpack. I can roll right over to a doctor or dentist appointment, no worries.

I feel free.

It’s been a while.

 

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Self-Defense In The Age Of Emboldened Assholes

By the time my “What do you wish you knew more about?” poll on Twitter had closed, self-defense was the #1 topic people wanted. The first thing I have to tell you is that teaching self-defense over the internet is not sufficient. You need practice in order to avoid panicking in the moment. You need to adjust your life and go prepared. You need to do things that reading this blog won’t do for you.

But we can get you started.

The very first thing is that in self-defense, leaving is your primary goal. You don’t want to kill anyone. You don’t want to be an action movie hero. You just want to get somewhere safe. So if you have a chance to get out of a situation before someone aggressive ever touches you, that is the best thing to do. Yeah. I’m telling you to run. Running gives you a chance to call 911, to turn your phone camera on an aggressor from a safe distance, and most importantly, to avoid getting hurt.

If someone has attacked you, your goal does not change. You want to be able to leave. But this is the point where your method changes from escaping to incapacitating in order to escape. That’s what the rest of this will cover, but don’t get in into your head that want to fight any more than you need to. Fighting sucks. People get hurt. Trust me on this.

 

THE MOST BASIC THINGS.

Travel in pairs. Keep your phone charged. If there is a self-defense class in your area, attend.

 

PRESSURE POINTS

Life is not a kung fu movie, and you have not practiced for years. Sometimes you will miss. Sometimes the other person won’t react to a hit like you expect them to. But they’re still good to know, especially to break someone’s grip on you and buy yourself a second to get away.

We’re not going to get all mystical about this.

If you need to go after one of these areas, do it hard.

Eyes, nose, groin, fingers, and toes are all good targets to hurt someone.

Likewise the suprasternal notch (the divot between your collarbones) and the solar plexus (just under the ribs in the middle of the torso).

If you’re just going to haul off and hit someone in the head, do not REPEAT DO NOT punch them in the cheekbone. That’s probably gonna hurt you more than them. Bring the heel of your palm up into their nose. In a situation where your life is in danger, aim for the temple, but never do that with a practice partner. If you use too much force, you can seriously injure or even kill them.

For a good demonstration of where to hit someone’s arm to make them let go, see this video. If you just want to see a woman kick some ass (TW), click here. For the most practical real-world non-expert places to strike, watch this one.

Experiment time: Grab your own leg. Now use your other hand to pry your pinkie finger away. You won’t be able to hold on to your leg. The pinkie is the best finger to target if someone grabs you.

 

GADGETS

Pepper spray, tasers, self-defense rings, piercing alarm fobs, keys, knives, sticks, mech suits. What works and what doesn’t? (Well, okay, the mech suit would probably work, but the odds of having one in your pocket are slim.)

Look. Whatever self-defense product you look at, there’s gonna be some military-looking dude telling you that it has the power to drive off an army of stampeding bears. It doesn’t. It’s good to have some kind of non-lethal weapon on you, but don’t believe that any of them are magic, and don’t forget that you can use whatever is handy.

Pepper spray and tasers, if they’re legal where you live (check here), can be useful as long as you know how to use them. If you aim pepper spray the wrong way, it won’t go well for you. If your taser isn’t charged, it’s useless. So if you carry these things, maintain them, keep them somewhere easy to reach, and know how they work.

Alarm fobs and alarm apps are only good in populated areas. Honestly, you should opt for a phone app that can send emergency messages to your contacts or 911 if you hit a panic button or fail to check in. Some of these apps will also record live video or send your last known location. They are a good idea. (Inform your emergency contact if you install one of these, so they know what to do if they get the signal.)

More than anything else, use what you’ve got. Loose glitter or perfume in the eyes can be just as effective as pepper spray for those few seconds you might need. If you’re going to a party you’re not sure is safe, wear a spiked collar and bracelets. (Not only are they punk af, they also say “Don’t touch me.”) Wear good boots. If you only have a second to react, crack an attacker in the nose with the edge of your phone. Anything that works. Humans are basically fragile and you can kill one with a skateboard.

Final note: Do not bring a knife or a gun out unless you plan to use it and fast. The odds of it being used against you are too high.

 

LEGALITY

You have the right to defend yourself against physical aggression or intimidation. You do not have the right to attack someone because you don’t like their shirt or they insulted your mother. Everything you read above only applies if you are in danger.

A key phrase to keep in mind in all situations is proportional violence. If a co-worker backs you into a corner or a stranger puts a hand on your knee on the subway, you can slap them in the ear and leave it ringing or bend their pinkie finger back to make them let go, but you probably don’t need to tase them. LIKEWISE, if someone is trying to physically injure you or sexually assault you, any force needed to escape is justified, so you need to let your social training drop and knock them down.

Practicing both of these mindsets is helpful, but don’t practice the latter on a partner.

 

Stay safe, friends.

The Revolution From Under The Kitchen Sink

I asked Twitter what they wanted to know more about, and the initial overwhelming response was “DIY Resist Tactics.” That’s why I’m writing this blog first.

It can be tough to balance your desire to get a message out with the kind of predatory capitalist consumerism that crops up around any social movement. (You know the kind of thing I’m talking about.) For the record, I encourage you to buy from other indie folks like yourself via Etsy or direct sale at local events. Some of those people have invested in craft supplies to support themselves. (You don’t have to do everything yourself.) But before you impulse-buy a #Resist handbag from a major corporation, think twice. Was is made by ill-treated laborers? Will ten cents of your purchase end up getting donated to anti-choice candidates by the company’s overpaid CEO?

Look, sometimes you gotta buy things that aren’t perfectly ethical. (No ethical consumption under capitalism, blah blah blah.) Sometimes you have to photocopy things at Staples or eat at McDonalds before a march so you don’t faint. It happens. Forgive yourself. But sometimes you can do better, and you should. So here are some tips on making your movement without giving too much of your money to jerks.

NOTE REGARDING LINKS: There are a lot of Amazon links plugged into this to show you what you’re looking for, but most of all or these things can be found at your hardware and/or craft store. Get them there instead, if you can.

 

QUESTION:

Do you want to be an effective communicator, or a fucking punk rocker? Either is valid, and you can be both, but I’m going to divide this up into safe and…possibly significantly less safe sections.

 

If you answered EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATOR:

What you need are messages and messaging tools.

  1. Hone your messages. Study your main issue and memorize the pertinent facts. Get together with friends and educate them, then brainstorm images, words, and actions. This is where everything starts. (If you join an organization like Act Up, NOW, the Democratic Socialists, IWW, Planned Parenthood Action, or similar, they will have done the bulk of this work for you.)
  2.  Install GIMP. Back in the day, I would have told you to buy some letter stencils and markers. While you can still make flyers or signs that way, you can also learn the basics of a program like GIMP and create perfectly good material. Make sure that ever time you create a new image, it’s set to at least 300 DPI (under advanced settings) so it won’t be blurry if you print it out big.
  3. Make your own shirts. There are SO MANY ways to do this, but I’ll point out a few options: puff paint, household bleach, iron-ons, and good old-fashion marker. (They even make a Sharpie just for fabric now.) Remember to start with a cotton or mostly cotton shirt.
  4. Invest in a screenprinting kit. Only one member of your friend group really needs one, but maybe that member is you. Good for shirts, posters, banners, etc., and you can get artsy with it. If you’re going to run to the copy shop more than once or twice a year, it’s better to just DIY it.
  5. Turn paper into stickers, and posters into giant stickers, with wheatpaste. Remember to use it ASAP after you make it or it gets funky.
  6. Sidewalk Chalk is also your friend. Invite some friends to join you. Make a party of it. Leave popular Resist tags all over town. Chalk out #NoBanNoRaidNoWall in front of City Hall.
  7. Start a zine. Get collaborators online. Crowdfund your mailing costs.
  8. Anyone can make pussyhats, and they don’t have to be pink. Crocheting is literally one hook, one big ball of yarn, and a little patience. The Pussyhat Project has patterns, but basically, the hat is a big rectangle folded in half. You can do it. If you learn to knit or crochet, it’s also super easy to make things like pride-color bookmarks or even face masks.
  9. Take over your neighborhood. Take your posters, your event fliers, your stickers, and GO OUTSIDE. I know, it feels much easier to get the word out online, but it is not the same as existing in your public space. If you want online impact, put a hashtag on your media (#DIYResist, if you can’t think of anything else), but sooner or later, you have to take your activism outside. The most effective activism is intersectional, memorable, and PUBLIC.

 

If you’d rather be PUNK ROCK AS HELL:

You did not hear any of this from me, and I officially do not recommend doing most of it.

  1. First, the obvious: Steal from work. Or someone else’s work. Fuck paying Staples to photocopy a hundred fliers for you. Also, there may be snacks.
  2. If you’re broke, it is totally possible to tattoo yourself. Do your research first, and don’t get too drunk beforehand. If you do get too drunk, make your friend do it. DO NOT share needles, I don’t care how sterile you think you made it. If you wanna get a little more official than a sewing needle and a piece of string, someone has started selling DIY kits. Don’t use cheap pen ink. India ink is fine. It’s gonna hurt.
  3. There are ways to make sure that your public messages stick. Spray paint is well and good, but nothing beats a serious epoxy or etched glass. (Disclaimer ThisBlogDoesNotCondoneDefacingOtherPeoplesProperty, blah blah blah.)
  4. Likewise, go prepared to remove hate. Sharpie beats sticker. Hand sanitizer beats Sharpie. If some idiot kid in your neighborhood thinks he wants to be a nazi when he grows up, wipe his graffiti from the face of the earth.
  5. Parody everything, as offensively as possible. I used to have a D.A.R.E parody shirt that said P.U.N.K: Keeping Kids On The Streets. It was my fucking favorite, but it was tame compared to stuff I would encounter later. Go after their sacred whatevers. Dream big. (That said, don’t punch down. “Drumph is fat” is not a joke, it’s a fucking sad commentary on what we criticize as a society.)
  6. Learn your local laws so you can know when and how you’re gonna break them, and be prepared. See especially: mask laws, nudity laws, nuisance laws, graffiti laws. You’re out to be a pain in the ass, but be a prepared pain in the ass. They hate that.
  7.  Find and share the media. Introduce your friends who loved Sum 41 back in the day to Bad Religion and AntiFlag. Give your kissfriend a RiotGrrrl book for their birthday. Read banned books out loud in the park. Most of the stuff in the Anarchist Cookbook is obsolete, but we gotta remember those who kicked ass before us. (If you click that link, you have to promise me that you will not use any info you find there to hurt any living thing. Anarchy is a fundamentally self-defeating system and if you think otherwise, you are welcome to exit my blog.)
  8. Learn the many uses of bandanas; face mask, bindlebag, flag. And remember: Don’t go buy a fucking ten pack from Hobby Lobby, just hit a thrift store and cut up some old shirts.
  9. First, do no harm…then, take any radical, unapproved leap that makes sense to you to save the fucking world.

Hello, Hello World!

 

hello-world-cover

 

Today is debut day for Hello World, a lovely piece of science fiction by my sister Pandamoon authors Tiffany Rose and Alexandra Tauber. Jack from Phaethon and Scott from Hello World are very much kindred spirits. What’s great about Scott, though, is that he also brings much-needed asexual rep to the world of sci-fi hackers.

From the official release summary:

Scott’s skills as a surveillance expert come in pretty handy when he’s breaking down firewalls. But hacktivism isn’t enough; he’s going after the holy grail—UltSyn’s Human Information Drives, human assets implanted with cerebral microchips. While plenty of hackers are trying to save the world these days, all Scott wants is to find his sister.

After following the clues to London, he makes a plan to kidnap the technical marvel heading into town. When this Human Information Drive turns out to be someone unexpected his nerve waivers. The HID, who calls herself Sonia, would be priceless on the market, but born out of joint self-preservation the two team up.

With her contacts, they travel across Europe in the search of personal secrets and leave a trail of industrial espionage all for the sake of misdirection. As the unlikely pair digs deeper into restricted databases, Scott discovers that those who enlist with UltSyn get far more than they bargained for. Not only is this secret HID program is much bigger than he had imagined, students are lining up for a future they only think this biotech wonder company can provide. Even worse, these leads are getting him nowhere closer to his own goals.

Plunged into a world of human trafficking, Scott is determined to find his sister no matter the cost, which tests Sonia’s fragile friendship with him. But when the information reveals the people closest to Scott have been working for UltSyn all along, he has to find them—before UltSyn finds him.

I got to read this very early, so the temptation to tell you all about it is strong, but to avoid spoilers, I got you a quote from Tiffany Rose instead. Here’s her response when asked about her feelings on going back over the book in light of today’s sociopolitically charged climate.

“When I first wrote Hello World, I gave no thought to the use the guns in the book. Every fictional action hero in America uses them. But after being a peaceful activist for years, I have a new perspective on the action in the novel. In no way do I support running around causing chaos, but upon editing the story, it became a study on violence.

Is a silent and suffocating oppression more or less violent than firing a gun? I live in a country that over-values the second amendment, but what is someone really promising when they vow to “protect themselves” with a gun? What about hacking? Is that a “violent” attack? Thought experiments like the trolley problem have been discussed at length, and in the days to come, I believe it will continue to be without a real answer.

In the end, I’m glad I got to explore these ideas in fiction, since the one thing that continues to truly break my heart as an activist is how often I am unable to protect a specific person from harm. Hello World’s action allows me to explore the possibility that sometimes, no matter what violence you could resort to, saving one specific person may not be possible…but even in that case, you put your heart into it and fight for them all the same.”

I love this book, and I strongly recommend that you pick it up. And remember to leave a review on Goodreads!

Rolling Your Activist Character

Problem: Every person who is distressed by current events is trying to do everything possible to fix it all at once, reducing efficiency and causing burnout.

Input: My friend Tiffany Rose says “Pick a lane and drive like hell.” A woman at a protest, whose picture ends up on Twitter, wears a cardboard sign on her backpack with her name and what she can provide (“I have charger cables, power strip, tampons, cough drops, ibuprofen. Please ask!”). These things swirl around in my head with my experience at the women’s march, trying to pack everything anyone could possibly need. One tiny backpack full of snacks, water, first aid kit, back-up batteries…too many things, making them all more difficult to get to.

Solution: Character sheets.

Start With Your Stats:

Are you strong? Creative? Agile? Huge? Smol? Fill out that part of your sheet to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. (You can print the sheet or make a new copy to edit from.) This should help you pick a class.

Pick Your Class:

Team Lead: The team lead makes phone calls, organizes events, starts chants, and has ideas. They know their friends & who has what skills, as well as how to put them to good use. They also have to be watching the news for new things to jump on. They have everyone’s emails, phone numbers, etc., and protect that data. Probably a job for extroverts.

Tank: If push comes to shove at a protest, you get to the front. Take serious self-defense classes and swear to only use your new skills to prevent harm coming to yourself or your friends. Try something (other than boxing) on this list. Get some good combat boots and a thick hoodie.

Medic: This requires training. Get an education in first aid, CPR, and household hedgewitchery. Learn your legal rights and responsibilities. You are the one who needs to carry a full first aid kit. This includes protest-specific things like L.A.W. You can find some resources here.

Supply: Carry all the necessary stuff. Bring food, water, phone chargers, ear plugs, bandannas, heat packs, basic first aid kit, hygiene supplies, and a little book of helpful phone numbers & addresses (like lawyers, hospitals, friends, local orgs, etc.). Get a good backpack and a quick-access bag. A little grocery cart or tough-wheeled wagon wouldn’t hurt, either. If you live outside a major city, you should also have a car. A van is even better.

Engineer: Those awesome LED protest signs? The messages projected onto buildings? Those are your job. If you can program an Arduino, you can do even better. You have the gadgets; flashlight, laser pointer, 2-way radios, multitool, anything you think might come in handy. It would also be good to learn basic household emergency skills.

Messenger: This encompasses artists, writers, and people papering the streets. Make sure any facts you use to craft a message are accurate before you use them. Run a blog, a Pinterest board, a local mini gallery inside a coffee shop. Make powerful art and make sure as many people see/hear/read it as possible.

Spy: Not as much fun as it sounds. Involves some technical setup (likely running TOR inside a vm, for starters) and hanging out in hate groups anon/pseudonymously. Would have to keep an eye on places like Stormfront, 8chan, and Breitbart, and report on them to their potential targets. Get lots of screencaps. Not for those with PTSD. Will be stressful. Can also spend time reporting hate groups on social media.

Specialist: You’ve got a skill that other people don’t. You speak three languages. You make phone apps. Somebody needs you. You might want to volunteer with a local organization who needs your skills. If your skill isn’t full-time useful, you can still choose one of the other classes and use your skill where you get the chance: teach your friends sign language, knit hats and scarves in cause-promoting colors and patterns, cook for a gathering.

 

It’s just an idea. But it might help.

For more protest advice, see this slightly older blog post.

Stay safe out there.

 

Ways You Can Resist From Home

  1. Cancel your cable. If the news won’t tell you the truth, stop supporting them. (Also, cable packages are designed to make you pay for junk you don’t want while showing you ads on every channel every five minutes. They could get away with this before the internet. Don’t let them keep getting away with it out of habit.)
  2. Subscribe to a good newspaper. We will need them. You can use the money that you save on cable to support real reporting. The Washington Post has been reliably defiant. The New York Times also seems to be getting their groove back after stumbling during the election.
  3. Take an hour or two to work on your digital security. Use a password manager and change all your passwords so that no two match. Install Signal on your phone. Learn about your Google settings and minimize how much they track you. Enable two-factor authentication wherever it’s available. Delete old accounts. Encrypt all of your devices. Research what more you can do. Remember, it’s not about whether or not you’re doing something wrong. The definition of “something wrong”to the government can change at any time.
  4. Delete your Facebook. It mines data on everything you ever do, and uses that data to turn you into a product. And that’s on TOP of advertising to you and spreading fake news. If you just can’t bear to delete it, do the next best thing: Delete all your posts, photos, likes, etc.,  and stop using it except as a contact book. This is also a good time to clear toxic people out of your life. Be not afraid: offending bigots is your job now. If they’re offended by being unfriended, maybe they should rethink their gods damn choices in life.
  5. Call your government. Put your senators in your contact list & call them whenever you need action from them. Ditto your representative, your governor, even your mayor. If they’re receptive to your calls, be polite. If they’re rude, be rude right back.
  6. Write to same. Flood your reps with hand-written letters and postcards. Let them know that you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore.
  7. Organize. Use collaboration tools like Google Docs to spread info and organize protests. Start a group chat (by text, Semaphor, or other means) with local activist friends. Even a local Twitter list is a good idea to keep you in the loop.
  8. Do your homework. There are free guides from orgs like the ACLU for legal stuff. Even Pinterest is full of revolutionary art (and nothing beats using a belittled millennial “girl thing” to foster revolution). Watch Netflix documentaries on civil rights movements and US history. Read more non-fiction.
  9. Donate. I know not everyone can do this, but if we all pick a cause and pitch in $10 a month to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, NAACP, or similar organization, we can fund them through the next four years and nothing can tear them down. When the next election comes around, donating to political campaigns is important as well.
  10. Follow your government on social media. Not your president. Hell with him. But keeping up with Dem and Ind politicians who are resisting is important. You can get the news first-hand.
  11. If you are not registered to vote, GET REGISTERED RIGHT NOW. (If you can’t afford ID and need it in order to register, start a crowdfund and let me know about it. I will help.)
  12. Take some time to mark elections on your calendar. This means local elections, too. So few people turn out to vote in local elections that your vote has a LOT of power.
  13. Wear your causes on your sleeve. Go public with your causes by wearing pins, patches, tee shirts, hats, anything. Graffiti your own shoes. Make your power known every day. Break the social contract against discussing politics, because that’s how we got here in the first place.
  14. Make a boycott list. On your wall next to your desk, on your fridge, on a digital sticky note, anywhere: Make a list of companies that you will not buy from. Start by researching what the Koch brothers own. Find out who sells Drumph products. Put your reasons next to company names on the list. Make it public and tag it #MyBoycottList to share your research.
  15. Take care of yourself and your friends. You have to be in fighting shape to win.

The Protest Guide

The Basics:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and flat shoes, preferably work boots. This is not a Sexy Protester costume. You’re here to work. Wear layers in cold to moderate temperatures. Hats are advisable. Before you leave, do three things: eat something light, pee (no, seriously, pee before you leave), and check yourself over using your logic brain instead of your mirror.
  • Take only what you absolutely need. This has three purposes: lighten the load, don’t risk losing your stuff, and don’t carry anything that will cause problems if you get arrested. Take a snack, a small water bottle (drink slowly & sparingly), and your protest sign. At least one person in your group should carry a phone, but not everyone needs to. (If you are the person with the phone, carry a charger pack.) If you may need life-saving medication, take that with you (in the original packaging, if possible).
  • Use the double buddy system: Go with at least one person, and let one person staying home know where you’ll be and what time you should be back. Have a back-up location to meet your march partner(s) if you get separated. Make sure your stay-at-home buddy knows what to do if you drop out of contact: call your march buddy, your lawyer, etc.
  • Police are trained to play on your trust and civility. If they stop you, ask “Am I being detained?” Ask until they answer. Say nothing else. If you are being detained, say “I want a lawyer.” After that, go peacefully, but you are done talking to them. The ACLU has some good guides on how to handle all of this. Practice your lines to prevent freezing up in the moment.
  • Beware the narc. Anyone who tells you to throw a brick is an infiltrator. Anyone who asks you questions without knowing you or IDing themselves is probably either an opposition “journalist” or a cop. If someone is acting sketchy, spread the word about them. Take video. Do not tell them a damn thing.

The Advanced Stuff:

  • If you want to secure your phone: Lock it with password, encrypt it (IOS and Android both have a built-in options for this), and use end-to-end encrypted messaging like Signal. Make sure that it locks immediately, not after thirty seconds, and that it locks when you press the power button. Uninstall any apps that are not vital, as many things in the app store are not as safe as you think. Find additional tips here and here. To be honest, digital security is a long and complicated game. You can go so far as to delete all of your existing accounts, open new ones with more secure services, and only use the internet via TOR, but most people won’t do this.
  • If you want to DRASTICALLY secure your phone: Start with a password manager, use generated passwords for all your accounts, encrypt and lock your phone, use Signal, and don’t install anything you’re not sure of. The next level is to stop things from tracking you: turn off Google Maps history, set DuckDuckGo to your default instead of Google Search, and nuke your Facebook because it’s a monster that tracks everything you look at. Beyond that is the land of TOR, and more education than I’m going to fit in this blog. Independent research is your friend. You might not think this matters all that much, but activists in some countries, in 2017, are covering their phone cameras with electrical tape because their government has used a selfie cam against them. Remember what your parents told you about scary strangers on the internet. One final thing: You can secure your phone physically as well as digitally. A Faraday cage (you can make one with some tin foil and copper tape) will interrupt signals. A serious case like an Otterbox can save the device itself from falls. Getting a case with a wrist strap isn’t a bad idea, either. All of that said, the best security for your phone is to leave it at home, locked, encrypted, and somewhere safe. Use a prepaid hunk of junk when you’re out and about.
  • If you want to be a street medic: You need training. I recommend starting with a Red Cross Adult First Aid & CPR course. They do cost money, but they’re worth it in both knowledge gained and certification carried. You can find more info here or a full manual here. You will need to carry some special stuff if your protests are likely to see confrontations with police, like L.A.W., earplugs, and face masks. Keep in mind that you are not a doctor or a Jane, and your job has legally defined parameters: you can render aid within your level of training, only with patient consent, and often your job is to stay with someone until EMTs arrive. This is not meant to discourage you. Street medics, hedge witches, and all manner of educated community care personnel are vital. You should become one to whatever level possible.
  • If you want to be a safehouse: You may want your home to be the one friends can come to in case of an emergency. Anyone can do this to get people off the street in the short term. For ongoing emergencies, though, I’ll be honest up front: doing it right is expensive. Some things are easy, like making sure you have bottled water, extra canned food, flashlights, candles, batteries, and a portable radio. Everyone should have those, as well as a B.O.B. If you want your house to serve as a real safehouse, though, you’ll need places for guests to sleep, at least one resident trained in first aid (plus a good kit), and a home with reasonable security in a good location unlikely to be affected by natural disasters. Truthfully, outfit yourself for the zombie apocalypse and go from there. If you’re storing supplies like food and medications, make sure that you cycle through them before they expire. Check at least once a year.
  • If you want to be an activist artist: Start anywhere, go everywhere. Graffiti is the language of the people, but be aware of your local law (whether or not you intend to break it) and don’t vandalize places like small businesses or schools. That’s just a lousy thing to do. If you somehow got the idea in your head to, say, photocopy the bill of rights and wheatpaste it on every flat surface in your neighborhood, you didn’t get the idea from me. Remember that art itself is still legal and there are many things you can do without risking a misdemeanor. You can stand on the sidewalk in front of city hall with a painted canvas for as long as you’d like. You can organize a human statue demonstration with your friends and a big bag of flour.
  • If you want to be a better activist: Watch documentaries. Read all kinds of nonfiction. Listen to people who are different from you. Do not believe everything you hear, and do not discount someone just because their beliefs differ slightly from yours. Start a group that meets every week with a mission: to talk about the world, to track local politics, to call your senators, to escort patients at Planned Parenthood, to share and discuss documentaries, to make art, or just to form a community and take care of each other. Watch, listen, learn, decide, act.

Go.