This interview is part of an ongoing series profiling young resisters taking actions in their communities and sharing their ideas for countering “protest fatigue” with sustainable ways to keep resisting the Trump agenda for the long-haul.
Amidst pursuing a law degree at NYU School of Law, 26-year old Aditi Juneja co-created the popular Resistance Manual, an open-source website used to monitor Trump-era federal and state policy updates and provide resources to activists seeking to organize a resistance around these issues. Aditi is also co-creator of Ourstates.org, a mapping tool that tracks where Trump policies are taking hold in states across the country and builds a network of advocates pushing for equality and justice in their states. Aditi hopped on the phone with us to flesh out the tools our generation has in our progressive arsenal to begin the work of bridging activist energy with legal structures, and ultimately, creating legislative change.
Generation Progress: When you created it, why did you decide then that The Resistance Manual was necessary? What information and tools does it offer now that people did not have before—especially people who were not always interested in politics?
Aditi Juneja: I brought the framework for tracking policy changes to my friends at Stay Woke (who became my co-creators) because I believe that everyone has the right to know what their government is doing and to have the process explained in a way that allows them to impact it. The Resistance Manual gives people a comprehensive information resource, so they don’t have to read lots of different things to get a complete picture of what’s happening in federal and state government. It also provides crisis resources, tools of resistance and essential readings to help provide resources for those completely new to politics and those who have been organizing for a long time.
You distinguish political awareness from political engagement. Why is it important to show the difference between the two, and what first steps can someone who is looking to become active in the resistance movement take towards political engagement?
The distinction I was making is between knowing what’s happening politically and trying to impact or engage with it. I think the difference between the two is important because there are a lot of people who keep track of the news and have strong opinions but don’t make their voices heard. I think the first step to becoming engaged is whatever you want it to be, people should start where they’re comfortable. For some, it’s registering to vote, for others it’s attending a rally or making a phone call, and, for others, it’s coming to a site like ResistanceManual.org to get more information to help them form an opinion.
How do you leverage your own skills to shape the ways you participate in the resistance movement? Why is it important to understand that activism comes in many forms, and how does the infrastructure of The Resistance Manual reflect that?
I use my training in the law and my interest in policies to help curate content to inform people. Activism, to me, only means that you are actively involved in trying to create change. However, change not only can be created by people with different skill sets but requires people with different skill sets. For example, I was always nervous about attending protests because my epilepsy makes it especially dangerous for me to get arrested and not have access to my medication. As a result, I am particularly aware that people have different comfort levels and skill sets that lend themselves to different types of engagement. The infrastructure of the Resistance Manual reflects that understanding by having tools of resistance for all types of engagement and people and organizations that are looking for all types of skill sets. Furthermore, the Manual is open source as a Wiki so anyone can edit or add to it.
You spoke a little to the fact that today’s young people are going to be the ones who face the long-term implications of policies the Trump administration is trying to push, so it is urgent that we actively resist this agenda and its harmful perpetual effects. What advice can you give to people that choose not to actively resist because they are particularly disheartened by the Trump administration or feel like their efforts won’t do anything to alleviate the injustices embedded in this country’s structure?
I would tell those people that I was one of them, I was also disheartened after the election. Even as I spend hours every day on the Resistance Manual, it’s hard to know if it’s having a real impact. But then, I get a message from a social justice group thanking us for the resource and explaining how it helps direct their activism. Today [March 24, 2017], we had a victory where the GOP health care bill was withdrawn from being voted on because the chances of its success were so low. Individually, no one person or organization can change everything. Collectively, however, we are unstoppable. An administration can’t govern without the people’s permission. We choose our leaders when we vote. Injustices are not embedded in our structure, they were put there by someone and became embedded over time because no one took them out. Laws and structures can be changed, but they don’t change themselves. We have to create that change.
The analogy of resistance being a strenuous marathon is as true today as it’s ever been. We all must pace and take care of ourselves in order to defeat hate and bigotry. How do you balance all the work that you do—you’re in law school and preparing to start a career—with the demands of the resistance movement, while remembering that self-care is equally important?
I am the first to admit that I don’t always balance it well. I overextend myself or neglect some commitments in favor of others. The biggest thing I’ve learned in this political moment is how to be disciplined. I plan my time and I ask for help when I need it. The joy of a movement is that we’re not doing it alone. We are not just building a movement, we are building a community of people who believe in that movement, and we sustain each other. We remind each other to take breaks, check in on one another and carry the load when it gets too heavy for one person. The more people that are involved, the lighter the load is for everyone and the more we can get done.
By fusing your law training and policy interests to create The Resistance Manual, you have been able to integrate activism into your daily life. What advice do you have for young people who, similarly, want to integrate activism into their everyday routine?
I would suggest that people commit to an amount of time per week and schedule it in along with their other commitments. That can be spending an hour a day adding information to ResistanceManual.org, 20 minutes calling your representative or attending a weekly meeting. Figure out what works for you and commit to doing it!
Follow Aditi on Twitter at @AditiJuneja3.