We’ve waited almost a week to write while others waxed prolific. We’ve been, and still are, numb. We can’t promise that our delay means that you’ll see more depth or wisdom from us, and we’re not even sure we can tell you what all of this means for nonprofits attempting to navigate the tricky counterterrorism waters. But there are few things on which we’re certain:

  • The prognosis for civil society looks dim. Haters gonna hate, as they say, but this time the stuff got real. Marginalized groups of every stripe have legitimate worries and there’s no reason to assume that their most vocal advocates, organizations toiling to make these groups’ lives better, won’t have to fall on the sword.
  • You waited too long. For eight years, you decided it was better to stay the course than to make waves during an administration that had largely decided that prosecution under the material support statute was not a priority. The enabling environment provided a short ride up the river known as denial but on November 8, the ferryman appeared on the opposite shore and he’s waiting to get paid. Don’t get us wrong, we’re glad that you were able to go places that allowed you to fulfill your mission. But now you’re going to have to scramble to turn your boat around.
  • We can no longer prop ourselves up with international humanitarian law. We all assumed that once we had to face a new administration, we would argue our rights and duties under IHL. We didn’t consider that the rule of law, any law, might not matter to that new administration.
  • We need to plan for the worst-case scenario. For every tidbit of “good news” that flits through your Facebook feed (Did he just say that marriage equality is settled law?), there are at least 7 or 8 really bad tidbits (he threatens to cut off remittances if Mexico won’t pay for the wall, deportations will begin immediately). Get used to this, and make sure your posture reflects that awareness.

So what do we do with this? Do we take to the streets or do we quietly toil in private, hoping we don’t actually wake that sleeping dog? Can the urgently needed changes come about quietly? We still need to figure this out. Meantime, here’s some advice on a peacebuilding approach from our friends at Search for Common Ground.

Regardless of our approach, there is work to be done. Roll up your sleeves and join us.