In a past life, in the Cambridge, Massachusetts of the 80's, I was a canvasser for the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, which later merged with the Nuclear Freeze Campaign to become Sane/Freeze, which, these days, is known as Peace Action. I was young, idealistic, and excited to be working towards a better world with peace in Central America and the ratification of a nuclear test ban treaty. I remember knocking on the door of a mansion where the woman of the house answered by talking through her mail slot. I remember participating in a March on Washington to protest the US war policy in central America. I remember listening to an impassioned speech by Jesse Jackson in a hotel conference room in Cleveland, Ohio. These are memories of a younger idealism I still try to hold onto. It is so easy to age into cynicism.
I think one of the things that provided some glue from this earlier time to this current are the books I read when I was younger and the relevance of those titles to the world today. Rules for Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky still has a place of honor on my shelf, as does Animal Farm by George Orwell. I have the fortunate innate ability to be autodidactic. A normal classroom was never a comfortable place for me. But a table where friends engaged in heated debate over beers, the lovely musty smell of a used bookstore, the quoting of lines of poetry or referring to pages of paragraphs underlined with margin notes, these provided an education that followed a crooked, eclectic path. Whenever I needed to learn something, or was curious about something I would find a book. It is this path that has lead me to book selling. It is this same path that has lead me to be a librarian in a small rural library.
So shhh...pay attention ... this is important...pay attention.
There are lots of people resisting the extremism they fear is gripping our country. They show up at airports at a moments notice, they gather on Saturdays with pink hats. This is important work. There are lots of phone calls to congress critters. People are waking up and realizing this is a government of, by ,and for the people. They are demanding to be heard. Keep Calling. But say you can't take time off from work to attend a demonstration. Say you keep getting a voice recording when you make a cal. What can you do in the meantime?
You can read. Reading is resistance.
Books are the sharing of ideas. People ban and burn books they think contain dangerous ideas. I believe the recent bump in the sales of 1984 by George Orwell, when the unfortunate phrase "Alternate Fact" entered the lexicon, was a signal that we need to educate ourselves quickly on the ways that propaganda and newspeak are being used against us. Books are democratic. Anyone can use a library. All that knowledge, all those ideas whether we agree with them or not, are available in a library. You don't need money to use it. But if you have some extra money to spare for your library think of them when you are thinking of financial ways to resist. Make sure that the folks who can't afford a Kindle still get to read books. And while I hope Jeff Bezos continues to fund the Washington Post to do its fine work, support your local Independent Bookstore. These small businesses keep books in your community. They will order any book you need, hunt it down in dark corners, until it is placed in your hand. The bookstore I work for is in a small town in Central Maine. It is a cornerstone of free thought in my conservative community. Make sure these business can keep doing their important work.
This is simple and important work. Read to educate yourself. Read to children. Read to elders. Read on the bus, on street corners. Share what you are reading with a stranger on a bus. Leave books behind for others to read. Read late into the night when the house is quiet. Read during lunch breaks. Read Out LOUD when you come across a great line. Read important books about what is happening in our world now. Read history. Read fantasy. Read to comfort yourself from the 24 hour news cycle. Read to escape but also read to become informed. Read because we had a Reader-in-Chief and now we don't. A well read society is important because it recognizes demagoguery and rejects it. Read as if your democracy depended on it, because it probably does.