A Beginning, Not an End: My Open Letter To You on Inauguration Day

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A Beginning, Not an End: My Open Letter To You on Inauguration Day

People hold signs at a protest against President-elect Donald Trump near Trump Tower in New York City. (Photo: Reuters/Stephanie Keith)

Today is the beginning. It may be the start of the Trump Administration, but let it also be the inauguration of something much more powerful: a renewed feminist social justice movement that takes root in each of our lives, throughout the country and around the world.

"What did you do to protect people and to fight for our rights, our health, and our planet when it was all under threat?"

As a venal sexual-predator-in-chief ushers white supremacists into the highest offices of government, the unthinkable is becoming commonplace. And the commonplace has a way of bleeding into the acceptable. That’s why I’m writing you this letter—to recommit to what I believe in.   

I’m writing this letter to the future, too, because our children and new generations will ask us:

What did you do to protect people and to fight for our rights, our health, and our planet when it was all under threat?

I will tell them that we never accepted the unacceptable. We pressed steadily ahead to achieve our vision of social justice. We faced setbacks, and kept going. We had the wisdom to celebrate every victory, no matter how small. We were radical in our thinking and mainstream in our appeal. We created unlikely alliances. We mobilized masses of new and committed activists. We seized any opportunity to block harmful policies and build safer, healthier communities at home and abroad. We made resistance a way of life, and we made our connection to people worldwide our guiding principle. We took care of each other and we were brave.

If we can look back and say that, it will be thanks to the work that is before us now. It will be thanks to our abilities to bring movements together and work across issues to:

  • Defend those most threatened by harmful policies and hateful agendas, and stand with activists worldwide to confront the backlash of right-wing populism and authoritarian government.
  • Mobilize to protect communities from US wars, provide humanitarian aid and oppose destructive military policies.
  • Fight for reproductive justice as a cornerstone of women’s self-determination and in defense of every mother’s right to raise her child in a safe and healthy environment.
  • Realign economic and environmental policies to allay the worst impacts of climate change and protect people and planet. 
  • Fight for the full scope of women’s rights and LGBTIQ rights and defend people from attacks based on their gender or sexuality.

Right now, we stand on the shoulders of generations of activists past who risked everything to give us a chance at a life of dignity and rights. I gain inspiration from women worldwide who’ve refused to give into despair, who’ve imagined a new way of life even in the midst of war and disaster, and who are bringing that new world into being.

Alice Walker said that "resistance is the secret of joy." The reverse is also true: "joy is the secret of resistance." Remember that laughter dilutes fear and opens the way forward to action. I’m committing with this letter to daily, joyful resistance, and I hope you will, too, whatever that looks like for you.  

Hope lives in action.

Yifat Susskind

Yifat Susskind is the Executive Director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization. She has worked with women’s human rights activists from Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa to create programs in their communities to address women's health, violence against women, economic and environmental justice and peace building. She has also written extensively on US foreign policy and women’s human rights and her critical analysis has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy in Focus and elsewehere.

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