May Day 2017 in Salem, OR

The State of Our Union: From Chaos to Connection

January 31, 2018

As I think about President Trump’s first State of the Union address, I keep coming back to my high school chemistry class. My teacher taught us the second law of thermodynamics: entropy. It’s the measure of randomness and chaos in a system. He explained a universal tendency to move towards entropy. One year into this president’s second term, this lesson feels truer than ever.

We’re in a time of chaos and disorder. Volatile world affairs, a renewed threat of nuclear war, and uncurbed climate change will disrupt our entire global community. A culture of hatred fueled by anti-Black racism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, ableism and anti-Semitism leave its targets under constant attack. These attacks can look like physical violence. They can also look like dismantling already threadbare social protections and services.

Dealing with these attacks can leave us breathless, isolated and scrambling to find solid ground. One way to respond to the chaos is to keep our heads down, dig in our heels and resist by ourselves with all of our might.

But resistance is not enough to change the destruction around us.

In my college chemistry class, I learned you can counteract entropy by bringing new energy into a system. Earthworms can turn decaying organic matter into rich fertilizer.

We can bring new energy that heals and transforms. We can reshape the chaos into a whole and interconnected world.

Wholeness is key. We don’t live single-issues lives. We don’t experience climate change on Monday, unaffordable healthcare on Tuesday, and gender-based violence on Wednesday. We experience all of this harm simultaneously—and we must face our challenges as whole people, together.

We believing moving together is not only necessary, but possible. That’s why we lead Strong Families, a growing network of over 220 organizations around the country. We come together across issues—immigrant rights, queer and trans justice, reproductive justice, criminal justice, ending gender-based violence and more—to change culture and policy so all of our families have what we need to thrive.

We believe women and non-binary people of color and Indigenous communities are experts in our own lives. No decision should be made about us without us. That’s why we build grassroots political power—no matter if the state is blue, red or purple—so communities come together and lift polices that support us all.

It works. In Oregon, we helped pass one of the most progressive laws in the country securing access to reproductive health and abortion coverage, regardless of documentation status. And just this month, we were part of a statewide special election to ensure 400,000 children—including 80,000 children of color—will keep their healthcare.

In Florida, with partner New Florida Majority, we’re busting the wall between economic justice and reproductive justice, mobilizing low-income Black and Latinx folks to push back against harmful crisis pregnancy centers.

In New Mexico, we bring over 150 Latinx and Indigenous community members to the state capital each year. Some travel six hours on a bus just to come. Together, they take over the Roundhouse in teams, speaking to legislators about everything from abortion access to funding for Medicaid. Now when legislators hear bills, they ask—what does Strong Families New Mexico think?

We believe the courage, strength and brilliance of our communities can transform our entire culture. That’s why we connect women of color leaders through Stepping Into Power, create a home for Black women and nonbinary writers through Echoing Ida, and amplify the powerful, radical imaginations of trans visual artists of color.

We may be in a time of chaos and disorder, but we have the tools we need to thrive. The powerful movements brewing all around us are proof enough—we have the energy we need to transform this world. It will take all of us, working together, towards something healed and whole. This is the work that will truly determine the state of our union. Will you join us?