Donald Trump has officially accepted the Republican nomination for U.S. president. This means the most racist candidate in recent history is now up for election. Even more disturbingly, polls suggest roughly 40 percent of Americans are considering voting for him.
That staggering number can only have come about because of one reason: a lot of us have become cicadas. What do I mean by that? When people don’t believe something can happen, we just don’t think it’s necessary to get involved. But then that thing happens… precisely because we assumed it never could. So we hibernate. Like cicadas, we lay dormant—politically dormant—most of our lives. We vote, but then we snuggle up in our little homes in the ground, content to let the world do its thing in our absence.
But when it comes to politics, we can’t afford to be dormant or absent—and a possible Trump presidency isn’t the only reason for this. Every single day, politicians, corporations and even local officials are making decisions that affect each one of us—from what our children will be fed for lunch, to where we’re allowed to go to the bathroom, to whether or not we’ll have a planet to pass down to future generations.
So, Trump is scary. But what’s scarier is the fact that most of us acknowledge the presidential elections are important—but we forget everything else. This culture of hibernation has contributed to the Trump reality, and it also has much broader-reaching implications. By sleeping, we’re allowing politicians to make decisions without our input and without accountability. We’re telling corporations and government bureaucrats that they can do as they please, without fear of ramifications.
So let’s get one thing straight: It’s an election year. That doesn’t mean you should vote and then go back to sleep.
Look at what happened with Brexit in the U.K. Pundits on both sides of the pond have drawn the conclusion that Britain’s startling vote to leave the EU is a signal that Trump really could win the U.S. presidency. Why? Because people believe it can’t happen, so they don’t get involved to stop it. Because fear-mongering can truly get the best of us if we let it. And because if we don’t investigate what politicians are selling us on, we might actually believe them (even when we shouldn’t).
Care2’s latest video shows what it means to be a periodically voting cicada and what you can do to make sure you don’t become one (i.e. #DontBeACicada). Being politically active has immense power. And there are three simple steps everyone can take to prevent a Trump presidency:
First, stay informed by keeping up-to-date with the latest news.
Not everyone reads reputable news sources—so not everyone knows what Trump has really said, or what he’s threatened to do. They hear what he wants them to hear—the bravado, the confidence, the showman theatrics.
But when voters like us remain uninformed, we’re essentially blindfolded. Our lack of information helps fear-mongers like Trump rise to power. But, if we take off the blindfold, and we help others take off theirs, we’ll help them to see Trump for who he really is: a scam artist who would divide our country and silence dissenting voices, while driving millions of minorities out of the country.
Second, get involved by joining civic groups or attending local government meetings.
This is a great way to connect with other people in your area and to learn more from them. If you’ve already joined all the local environmental organizations and other civic groups, you could seek out a discussion group or go to a protest in your area.
Don’t forget to attend local government meetings—they’re almost always open to the public, but most people overlook them. You may need to do some digging to find out when local government boards meet and where, but it’s worth it because these meetings are a great way to bring about some big changes that affect entire communities.
Third, talk to the people around you. Really talk.
Tell the people in your life what you’ve learned from your news-reading. Share your feelings and opinions with them, and tell them what’s important to you.
We care the most about things we hear from people we know—so if you’re shaken by the gunning-down of black men in our society, or you’re concerned about rising incarceration rates and nonsensical drug laws, tell the people around you. You might be surprised by how many people would actually agree once they hear your perspective. Or you could disagree completely and have an intense discussion that helps you understand why someone might go the other way—and this can help you be a better activist. Of course, one great way to speak up and make sure your voice is heard is to start a petition and run your own campaign!
We all paid attention when the Republicans officially chose their standard-bearer. But let’s make a commitment to pay attention all the time. Because that’s the only way we can ward off Trump or the next Brexit, and shape the everyday political and even corporate decisions that influence our lives. Remaining engaged and informed is the only way we can ensure our future is a compassionate, peaceful, inclusive one. And it will take politically active citizens like all of us—and not cicadas—to guide this country into a future that showcases these traits—America’s best traits.
So after you watch the video, really think about what it means to be a cicada. Then share how you plan to hold politicians, bureaucrats and corporations accountable all year round, using the hashtag #DontBeACicada on social media.
Joe Baker is the Vice President, Editorial and Advocacy for Care2 and ThePetitionSite. He is responsible for recruitment campaigns for nonprofit partners, membership growth efforts and all editorial content. Prior to Care2, Joe was the Executive Director of N-TEN. Joe serves on the Board of Directors of Death Penalty Focus, the Advisory Board of GiveForward.org and volunteers for the Sierra Club and Amnesty International.