Support your local democracy workers!  This is an essential mission in times like these.

I spent some time this week listening to congressional hearings about the infamous Cyber Ninjas election audit in Arizona.  There was a lot of crazy involved in the audit situation…but one of the most painful things, for me, was hearing the Arizona election officials talking about the death threats and intimidation they’ve received from their fellow Americans.  Jack Sellers, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, talked about Sheriff’s department vehicles being parked in front of his house all night due to specific threats directed at him.  Keep in mind that this man is a Republican, but he is being punished anyway for not going along with Trump’s Big Lie.

This same pattern is playing out in many places across the country.  In red states, Republican legislators and election officers who dare to uphold the results of the 2020 presidential race are being harassed and pressured to leave office.  And school board members are resigning because of the vicious attacks they are receiving over mask mandates.  We hear a lot about the squabbling in Congress, but there is a different battle taking place all over the nation. The Trumpist right wing has turned its assault on democracy local.

This strategy works to their advantage on multiple levels.  Number one, it pushes people unwilling to kowtow to Trump out of these jobs, and replaces them with loyal followers who will toe the line.  In the future, the actual vote counts in an election might not matter, if state legislatures and officers are happy to overturn the results.  Number two, it creates a chilling effect which keeps responsible community members from running for these positions.  Who wants to deal with this much stress and fear for doing hard work which is either low-paid or voluntary?

As a volunteer for our county Democratic party, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of our local school board members.  These are regular, everyday Moms, former teachers, immigrants who live and work in our community.  They are not people with a Secret Service detail.  They cannot and should not have to deal with constant threats to their safety.  Fortunately, in the area where I live–as far as I can tell–the situation is not that dire, but many others are not so lucky.

So what can we do?  As always, just throwing up our hands and getting angry about terrible Youtube videos is not the answer.  I’m forever on my soapbox about how we need to be involved in local politics, but this is especially true now.

If you have the courage, time and resources, running for or volunteering for one of these positions is a beautiful thing.  The right is currently working on getting its very special Trump-approved candidates to fill these slots.  We need good, sane people to push back on this.

That is not realistic for everyone, however.  For those of us who cannot run, we need to find ways to show support for our local helpers of democracy.  One way is to show up to meetings.  Often, the majority of the community actually supports things like mask mandates, but the minority which opposes them is loud and aggressive about it–and they are the ones who show up and speak out (or scream out, more accurately).

Another way is to show support on social media.  This may seem like a small thing, but again, if you visit the social media accounts of your school district or city council or state legislators, you will often find that the comments are dominated by a flood of trolling and negativity–even for someone who just a few days ago may have won the community’s vote!  If they are doing something you agree with, leave a thank you note of support.  If we let the trolls take over, it gives the false impression that the community is opposed to popular policies.

And of course, around election time, support the campaigns of those who are trying to do the right thing.  Donate if you can, volunteer if you are able to.

It’s not glamorous and it’s not going to get national media coverage, but it’s actions like this, putting in the work day after day, election after election, that will save our democracy.

To the democracy workers–thank you for what you do.  We’ve got your back.

When the 2016 election results were announced, I was devastated. I was angry and sad. Trump wasn’t just anathema to everything I believed in–he seemed like a danger to everything I loved about America.

But I never once allowed myself to believe fantasies about Hillary getting reinstated halfway through the term, or conspiracy theories about the election results getting overturned. Not only because overturning the results of a legitimate election would be wrong, but because this just…was not…reality. And I knew that allowing myself to believe in fairy tales would only bring me pain and suffering in the end, when they turned out not to be true.

So instead I worked my butt off to promote my ideas and values on the local and state level, and volunteered as much as I could during the midterms and presidential election. It was sometimes discouraging and hard, but it was the only way to really make a difference and move things forward.

It’s rough–I know!–but the only thing to do when you’ve lost an election is to work to get the vote out and persuade voters that your ideas are the ones that will help them. Anybody telling you about a quick and easy solution is trying to sell you something. And threatening violence is truly the lazy person’s way out. “We can’t have our way, so we’ll have to shoot you.” Guess what: that only makes things worse, and more complicated. And it does not bring other people over to your side.

Please, don’t buy what the Russian bots are selling you. It will only make your life, and all of our lives, more difficult.

Sometimes I would have one of those days when nothing went my way–one of those days when my boss criticized me for my productivity levels, my cat meowed at me all afternoon, my best frienemy and I had a falling out. When it was that kind of day and everything felt wrong, I would sit down at my laptop and go to my favorite social media sites. And then Fakelina would flutter up to me, tap me on the forehead with her magic wand, and she would make it all better.

Fakelina was a news fairy, and she was very special. Anything you wanted to believe was true, no matter how much of a stretch it was, she could make it so.

“Fakelina, is chocolate good for me?”

“Naturally! You should eat as much of it as you can. The more you eat of it, the lower your chances of cancer!”

“Fakelina, I wish I didn’t have to go to the dentist.”

“You shouldn’t. Have you heard that the anesthesia they use can cause dementia?”

But then I got greedier and the wishes got bigger.

“Fakelina, I wish all these awful school shootings were just a reality show.”

“They are. I can show you the video which proves that the kids are all paid actors.”

“Oh, good! That makes me feel so much better. You know…I really hate thinking about that Trump guy, too. The things he’s doing to the EPA…our judicial system…”

“Shush…don’t think about any of that. Did you know he peed on a prostitute once?”

“No way! Tell me more, Fakelina!”

“Yep. Somebody somewhere is supposed to have evidence of that, or so I’ve been told. And did you hear what he tweeted last night?”

“Ugh! I’m not sure he’s even human. Do you think he might be one of those lizard people?”

“Nope, not a lizard person.” Fakelina shook her head. “It’s even worse. He’s a fungus which has taken on human form. He’s from a different planet. Watch this–it shows where his disguise slips for a second, and you can see a little bit of the mold coming through.”

“I knew it,” I mumbled.

“The world is controlled by alien fungi. Here’s another one about Barack Obama…”

I paused. What? But I liked President Obama! This couldn’t be true. Or…could it? The theory did make sense… They were all a part of the elite, so they were all fungus.

And the videos were undeniable. Oh, God… President Obama was fungus… Prince William was fungus…

I sat motionless, taking it all in. Fakelina was scratching one of her glittery wings.

“Amazing, isn’t it? You have just found out the thing they don’t want you to know. You were courageous enough to research it, and now the secret is yours. You’re not like the sheeple who believe everything the media tells them.”

She was right. I felt special. Like I was smarter than everyone else.

“You have to spread the news,” Fakelina commanded me. “The people of this country don’t know what’s being done to them. But remember–you’ll get a lot of blowback from those who haven’t yet seen the light.”

I did not shirk my duty. I spent the following weeks delving deeper and deeper into the archives of secret knowledge on the Internet, and becoming more frightened as I went. The leaders of Black Lives Matter were aliens. The leaders of the Women’s March were aliens. All the Hollywood actors and popular singers and rappers were aliens, too.

I shared as much as I possibly could with my friends and family online. I tried to warn them. But just as Fakelina had said, the people I once thought I loved and cared about turned out to be blinded sheep, who bleated at me about “rational thought” and “credible sources.” There was a deadly international conspiracy going on, and all they could think of were my sources? It was painful for me, but I had to accept that they were not ready to wake up, not ready for the enlightenment I had experienced. So I blocked and unfriended them, one by one. I would have to walk this path alone.

Or…not alone, actually. I had new friends–better friends. People who were fellow alien fungus researchers. They understood me. And whenever I got too discouraged and was about to give up my quest, I could feel Fakelina perched on my shoulder, whispering in my ear: “Keep going! Keep watching Youtube videos! You will find the answers!”

So I kept going. Months, or maybe years, passed. And as I spent more and more time studying the conspiracy theories, I shrank–first my mind, then my heart and the rest of me, until I became a very shrivelled little creature indeed.

One night, I woke up around 2 am, curled up next to my laptop, and I noticed that I had grown a pair of sticky, glittery wings. They didn’t help me fly, though. I could only flap them listlessly.

Fakelina was slouching on my sofa, smoking a cigarette.

“Am I magical fairy now, too?” I asked her.

“I guess so.” She shrugged. “Oh no, don’t give me that look. It’s not like we’re going to be fairy BFFs or anything. Time for me to take off.”

“What?? But…but you gotta keep helping me! What about our mission of bringing knowledge to the masses?”

“You have learned enough to continue the mission on your own, gullible grasshopper.” I heard a “ding!” and a tiny, sparkly suitcase appeared in her hand. “Besides, I sold all the data about you to Cambridge Analytica and I need a vacation.”

She floated up to me and tapped me with her wand one last time. “I now endow you with the power to not only share fake stories, but to make up your own shit as well! If you spin your web of lies well enough, you can play on people’s fears and prejudices and fanatical obsessions. And then you can do all sorts of things. Influence elections….sell useless nutritional supplements…”

My shoulders slumped. “Wow. Not quite the fairy tale ending I imagined.”

Fakelina laughed. “If you wanted a happier ending to your story…you should’ve used your brain!”

I could still hear her cackle long after she was gone.