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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” — Mark Twain

Some are cheering about the 34 felony charges against the former president, but is it really good news? Of course, we’re reassured that the wheels of justice—our third branch of government—are still turning. In a democracy, it’s crucial to hold elected officials accountable.

Zoom out, however, and consider three trends. First is the how many Americans are losing their basic civil rights. A one-term presidency was responsible for a 6 point slide (of 100) in our nation’s freedom score. Yes, you and I are measurably less free today than we were six years ago. Workers are struggling. Women and people who can give birth are losing their right to basic bodily autonomy. Families of trans kids are moving to ‘safer’ states. Our Jewish friends are nervous. At the state level, Americans’ individual rights are eroding even faster.

Secondly, consider the trend of increasingly extreme agendas. A study early last year showed that 64% of Americans believe our democracy is failing. A small group forcing its corrosive ideology of oppression over all is not democracy. The legacy of our nation’s worst president emboldens religious extremists to consolidate power, legislate intolerance, and deliberately manipulate rules meant to hold them accountable to us, the people.

Whether the former president is found guilty or not, goes to jail or not, the danger of his legacy lives on. If you are untouched by these trends of eroding rights and faltering democracy, consider how they impact a young person in a “bad” school district, a person needing abortion in one of our extremist states, or someone who can’t afford to run for office. It takes all of us, we the people, to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. Now is the time to speak up with our neighbors and refuse to be silent.

Americans of Conscience focuses on two crucial areas of action: strengthening democracy and expanding civil rights. Since 2016, we’ve shared thousands of actions to support democracy and civil rights in the Americans of Conscience Checklist. We curate these actions from grassroots activist and advocacy groups around the nation, providing you with clear, concrete ways to speak up with our neighbors and our democracy. In six years, we’ve taken tens of thousands of actions that have led to real change.

Will the U.S. be better off when the trial is over? Not measurably. We need a democracy centers the voice of all people over the privileged few. We need expansive civil rights to ensure that all people enjoy respect and equal freedoms. We can do this if we work together. Let us be the grit of sand that creates a pearl.

If these goals matter to you, your presence is needed. Commit to 20 minutes of action this week. Then keep going. Today and twenty years from now, you’ll be glad you did.

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