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Magnetic Activism

Trump year 1

What have you done in the last year to respond to the upheavals in American politics?  This is an installment in a series of short essays that reflect on the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency.

I am addicted to my Fitbit. I get 10,000 steps every day — even if it means I am pacing around my kitchen table at 11:47 pm.

As I looked ahead in January 2017, I saw a manuscript deadline, stacks of grading, and a tenure portfolio in need of creation. I had a lot of work without motivation to match. I decided to Fitbit my life.

That’s how I ended up with the Grown Up Chore Chart on my refrigerator. My friend’s kids get a sticker if they make their bed or eat vegetables.

I get a purple magnet every time I spend an hour writing.

I get a green magnet every time I get 10,000 steps.

I get a pink magnet every time I am politically active. The pink magnet keeps me motivated so I do not slump into discouragement in this Age of Trump.

If my day is colorless, a quick email to my senator gets me in the pink. My senators have become my pen pals.

“Dear Senator: Please speak out against Trump’s tweets.” Pink magnet.

“Dear Senator: Don’t tax graduate education.” Pink magnet.

“Dear Trump: $&#*(&*#!#.” Pink magnet.

Politics have also become my social calendar.

  • January — Women’s March.
  • February — Airport Rally.
  • April — Moms Demand Rally to protest the NRA in Atlanta.
  • June — Food Drive at the Mosque to oppose Anti-Muslim Rally on the other side of town.
  • August — Anti-Fascism Rally September—Vigil against the scheduled execution.
  • September — DACA rally at the detention center

Seven pink magnets.

I’m seeing some of the same faces. Finally, I’m making friends outside of work.

Once in a while, I’ve thought I was too tired to protest. Those times, Mom calls me up and says, “What time should I be at your house?” I’ve become the driver for her and her radical Sunday School class. I pray antifa won’t march over them and break any hips on my watch.

Mom and I are getting more quality time together. We used to hit the mall where she would ask if she was too old to wear this or that trend. Now she shows up in a Nasty Woman shirt and sneakers. She and her friend have bought canes that convert to seats for comfort at rallies.

Dad sets aside money each month for bail, just in case.

I try to make protest fun. I hosted Eggs & Rage where friends came over for brunch and ended up writing over 100 postcards. I held a TACOvfefe party where we wrote another 50 cards and mourned the taco trucks we could have had on every corner. My friend put 5 pink magnets on the fridge for those days.

My classes have also changed. I am more blunt in discussing white supremacy — from the Atlantic slave trade to Jim Crow to Charlottesville. My syllabus now says, “White supremacy is always wrong. We will not debate this. We are looking for the historic roots of it.”

I am more forgiving when a student says, “I’m waiting to hear from my family in Puerto Rico, so I don’t have my bibliography.”

I ask my students if they have considered running for office.

I read.

I read narratives of southerners in Jim Crow who put up with hell much longer than the 11 months we have had Trump.

I read Hannah Arendt to remind myself that this can never be normalized.

I read Marc Bloch and remember why History matters.

I put Bloch on next semester’s syllabus and call this course prep so I can get a yellow magnet.

I keep going.

I need 10,000 steps every day.

I need to reclaim my country every day.

Now I have written something, so I have a purple magnet to move.

Robin Morris is Assistant Professor of History at Agnes Scott College.

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Robin Morris

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