Note: We encourage people to pair this content with hashtag #WeGrieveTogether and whatever hashtag related to Trump’s actions is trending at any given time (unless that hashtag is ableist or otherwise offtensive).
Trump has doubled down on his “law and order” narrative because his campaign has no alternative, coherent reelection strategy. Toward this end, Trump is presently ramping up his efforts to inspire and enact right-wing violence in the hopes of generating imagery that could help propel his fascistic agenda.
This post offers several ways to push back on Trump’s narrative on social media, or in person for those who may be gathering. If you are pressed for time, the tools we are sharing are featured at the beginning of each of the sections below. We encourage you to use these tools to support your own organizing, but we will also be holding an official digital memorial on September 26 that you can signup to participate here.
Trump has publicly defended Kyle Rittenhouse’s recent violent actions and rightwing pundits are already using the young shooter’s name as a rallying cry. By visiting Kenosha, in the wake of this shooting, Trump has attempted to ramp up racial tensions and street violence in the hopes of papering over the single greatest threat to his hopes for reelection: his handling of COVID-19.
This effort has not been organized in conjunction with any nonprofit or any organization affiliated with the Democratic Party.
How We Will Highlight Trump’s Handling of COVID-19
I’ve worked with writer and activist Tanuja Jagernauth and artist Elizabeth Brossa to create a visual timeline that depicts the way in which Trump has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis. This timeline can be shared one tweet or post at a time on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or printed for an in-person representation. You can find those images here. We encourage people to include prepared text or alt-text for these tweets for accessibility purposes. We invite you to tweet these images in order or to choose particular dates to highlight. The images can stand alone, be grouped in posts or linked in threads on Twitter.
For posts and tweets of the timeline images, we will be using the hashtag #WeGrieveTogether on September 26.
Why this action matters: We believe in this moment, collective grief is rebellion, and that giving the 180,000 people we have lost to COVID-19 the memorialization that so many have been denied is an appropriate response to Trump’s affirmation of hate-fueled violence.
We have experienced an extraordinary level of mass death due to Trump’s mishandling COVID-19 and we are witnessing an erasure of those deaths that should be unthinkable. That erasure does not just hinder us politically. It is a fundamental injury to our collective humanity.
Data for our timeline was sourced from available media resources including recent articles in Vox, NPR and material from POGO. (More sources are listed in this document.) The original suggestion of using timeline-based imagery for this digital action came from organizer N. Li.
Highlighting Trump’s Fascistic Role in Anti-Black Police Violence
You can find some sample tweets on the fascistic alliance between Trump and law enforcement here, and how that alliance fuels escalations in anti-Black police violence.
To aid in the creation of your own tweets on this subject, you can visit this site to get specific statistics on police violence, and also get breakdowns of police violence in your area — including available race-based data.
Why this action matters: COVID-19 and anti-Black police violence are inextricably connected issues. Black people are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates due to the same structural racism that allows police to kill Black people with impunity. In this section, we have some material we will be sharing today as a counter narrative to Trump’s narrative vilifying protesters and unrest. Trump’s campaign is being reinvigorated by the sensationalization of protest-related violence and property damage that has occurred in recent months. That narrative must be countered with the reality of why these protests are actually occurring.
How We Will Pay Tribute to Victims of COVID-19
Artists have created artwork for our memorialization efforts. This artwork can be used at any time for your own efforts to memorialize those we have lost. It will also be deployed en masse during our vigil on social media on September 26. We also have artwork that you can share that was created for the first #WeGrieveTogether vigil in May, which marked the terrible milestone of 100,000 people in the U.S being lost to COVID-19.
Trump’s supporters have sought to trivialize and erase mass death. This is a threat to us all.
Why this action matters: Collective grief is not something we owe to those we have lost, but also something we owe each other, for the sake of our collective humanity.
Black people, Natives, trans people, disabled people, immigrants and others who are disproportionately incarcerated in the U.S. all come from communities Trump has politically targeted, scapegoated, and inspired and enacted violence against. COVID-19 has allowed the Trump administration to turn many facilities within the prison industrial complex (which includes jails and detention centers) into death camps. The undeniable connection between the various forms of state violence deployed by this administration must be understood as part of a collective fascist agenda that is playing out even as we speak. We are witnessing mass murder and an escalation of criminalization, militarization, federal violence against protesters and the deterioration of shared governance, and many are not making these connections or naming them publicly.
Given the heightened criminalization of protesters, we must also understand the policing of protests as a deadly mechanism: dissidents are being shuffled into facilities that could easily serve as death chambers, making dissent a crime punishable by death, with or without trial.
While Trump affirms his support of street-level fascistic violence, and glorifies violence, we believe we must counter that narrative with content that reflects our values, including values that fascism is eroding in the U.S. in real time. The ascent of fascism doesn’t simply affect the politics and values of its adherents. It shifts how entire societies assign value to human life. For this reason, the fight against fascism has many fronts, and one of those battlefields is the emotional space between us as human beings. These times have driven many of us further apart, and made us less able to connect in defense of our shared humanity, and in defense of human life. The value we place on Black life, disabled people’s lives, trans people’s lives, Native people’s lives, immigrants’ lives, dissenter’s lives and so many others who are being ground under by state violence, is the most fundamental between us and the fascists. It’s a position that should unite us.
Unrest Is Not the Enemy. Fascism Is.
As some of us have stated in the past, unrest was inevitable at this moment in history. Playing into Trump’s narrative that it is the protesters who are the real problem will not help. What is needed is more messaging, more engagement, more political projects and storytelling efforts that challenge Trump. Playing Trump’s narrative game and trying to moralize away unrest that we do not have the capacity to control, is a mistake. We must replace his narrative rather than allowing him to set the terms of our own messaging. Trump may be ignorant, but he knows how to make people feel things. We must therefore engage people’s emotions through effective storytelling. People understand the world in narratives. Facts and figures can fill out a narrative, but they rarely persuade anyone on their own.
We must think about what we can control, build and shape most effectively right now, not whatever we are most inclined to vent our frustrations about on social media.
We hope you will join in these affirmations of our shared humanity and commitment to justice in the face of fascism. Regardless of any differences in our politics, this moment demands a great deal of us all. We must face those challenges together, bravely and from a place of solidarity.
Supporting Each Other in Our Grief
The Mutual Aid Mourning and Healing Project is an effort I co-organized that connects people who are coping with grief during the pandemic with grief related services, like counseling and help planning virtual memorials, free of charge. Please feel free to reach out or to share this resource with your networks.
Kelly Hayes (@mskellymhayes on Twitter)
Love & Protect
Tanuja Devi Jagernauth