Allyson Whipple

Rules for Surviving an American Dictatorship


Listen. Pray. Arrange for someone to take care of your pet while you protest. March. Give time. Listen. March. Carry a knife. Take naps. Pray to a god other than the one you were raised with. Remember that not all violence is physical. March. Remember Trayvon Martin. Take your children to a protest. Show up to your representatives’ open hours even though you know you’ll be turned away. Buy all the books the government might want to burn. Wish you’d planted vegetables instead of perennials. Read poetry. Apologize for your country. Make a list of everything you are willing to die for. Give space. Renew your passport. Apologize for your country. Remember Malcolm X. Drink. Make a list of everything you are willing to be arrested for. Wish you’d paid more attention in high school civics class. Give food. Make a list of non-negotiables. Carry a lighter. Remember Sandra Bland. Apologize for your country. Pray even if you’ve never prayed before. Wish there was something more you could do. March. Learn another language. Take a gun safety course. Wish you had any hope left. Take sleeping pills. Buy a gun. Read the news even though it hurts. Quit drinking. Swear you’ll stay and fight. Email your representatives just for good measure. Learn how much you don’t know. Remember Audre Lorde. Read laws. Get some sleep. Arrange for someone to pay your bail if you get arrested. Tweet at your elected representatives because you don’t know what else to do. Teach your children critical thinking. Apologize for your country. Take responsibility for the future. Swear you’ll stay and fight. Remember Sylvia Rivera. Cry. Give money. Remember Raúl R. Salinas. Read court cases. Listen. Research how to recall elected officials. Remember Eric Garner. Wish there was an easy way out. Vote with your dollars. Pray even if you don’t believe. Swear you’ll stay and fight. Remember Mary Brave Bird. Swear you’ll stay and fight. Remember that ignorance is not bliss. Carry a First Aid kit. Memorize a lawyer’s phone number. Cry. Make a list of everything you can do without. Research which countries will allow you to bring your pet through customs. Listen. Swear you’ll stay and fight. Make a list of everything you are willing to go to prison for. Spend an hour trying to reach your senator by phone, even though you know that no matter how many times you press 0 for a receptionist, you will be routed back to the same full voicemail box. Record the police. Read testimony. Renew your energy by any means necessary. Meditate. Learn evacuation routes. Give testimony. March. Write a letter to your representative even though you know nobody will read it. Cry. Listen. Teach your children compassion. Teach your children unvarnished history. Cry. Rest. Apologize for your country. Remember Tamir Rice. Teach your children consent. Cry. Research ways to give yourself an abortion if you need one. Learn a new skill. Remember Michael Brown. Stay hydrated.