It may seem harder than usual this holiday season to find things to be thankful for. If you’re a rational human being who is paying attention, our physically and politically overheated world seems headed straight toward hell in a Trump-branded handbasket. But the first amendment still guarantees our freedom of speech, as well as our right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. So, there is hope. The hope is you. It’s your voice. Our voices. Together. The right to call out our elected officials is something to truly be thankful for. And something we cannot take for granted.
“We gotta do much more than believe if we really wanna change things.” - Dave Matthews
Prior to the election of Donald Trump, I was just a mild-mannered mid-level manager at a non-profit organization. I didn’t want or seek the spotlight, content to do good work in my local community. I still do and cherish this work, but the actions of the Trump administration and the ongoing degradation of democratic norms have made me into an unlikely activist. I’ve been fumbling around, trying to contribute as best I can, using the skills I’ve developed in my career. A longtime grant writer, I’ve leveraged my writing skills to contribute articles and commentary to the national discourse. I’ve also become active on Twitter, taking advantage of the power of social media to help spread information and resources.
You see what’s happening, too. It makes you mad. It ignites your passion. I encourage you to think about what skills, insights and passions you bring to the table, and challenge you to deploy those for the good of the country. We need every voice.
I recently had a conversation with a friend from work who has become so distraught by the news cycle that he’s completely withdrawn. There is plenty to think about in our daily lives: bills and finances, family logistics, illnesses, work, feeding our families and connecting with friends. It’s easy to not pay attention, and even easier to feel immobilized by the constant onslaught of horrible news.
You, too, might feel petrified and overwhelmed by the idea of fighting back. Or maybe you don’t know where to start. I shared with my friend some ways to contribute his time and voice, and reassured him that it does matter. This is the time to turn into the fray, not retreat from it. Doing so does come with personal sacrifices. Talk with your family and friends about how they can support your passion and effort. It’s critical that we find the balance between doing all we can to advance democracy and taking care of ourselves, our families and communities.
I challenge you to make your voice heard. If you are currently not paying attention, start by paying more attention and sharing information with friends and family. If you are already sharing information but want to step up your efforts – call your members of Congress. Donate to organizations like the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center. If you are passionate about a particular issue (such as the environment), you could resolve to stay informed about and take action on that issue specifically. If the bad news onslaught is too much and you want to look more toward the future, you could focus on the impending 2018 elections (which could potentially be the most consequential midterm elections in our nation’s history). Support local candidates and infuse your energy into get-out-the-vote efforts.
Here are some resources, ideas & strategies to help you get started.
- Engage locally, through an Indivisible Group. Look up a local group and bring a friend to a meeting. The Indivisible model is rooted in strategies outlined by this compelling CMF report about citizen activism.
- Utilize the resources that smart folks are putting together to make activism easier for you. The Loyal Opposition’s Daily Call to Action, Jennifer Hofmann’s Weekly Action Checklist, and Susan Rogan’s List provide easy-to-consume and quick-to-implement ideas for calling/emailing members of Congress, and even scripts for what to say. Or check out the Loyal O’s comprehensive activism toolkit.
- Democrats Work For America is a grassroots Political Action Committee, a kind of “People’s PAC”, aimed at helping Democrats get elected in 2018. Consider donating and check out their candidates across the US. Also, check out Swing Left and Flippable.
These are just a few of the ways you can get involved and raise your voice. Ultimately, how you choose to do so isn’t as important as ensuring that you do it. It’s ok to want to save America. We can do it. And by the way - we have to.