Sunday, March 12, 2017

Do Something

How about another political post?!

Like most people, I've been overwhelmed by everything our new President has been doing, saying, and lying about. Every day there's a new travesty, whether it's a completely incompetent cabinet nomination, unconstitutional bans on particular religions, or the rolling back of laws that protect our most vulnerable. It's easy to feel helpless, and it's hard to know how to deal with it all. ("Autocracy: Rules for Survival" by Masha Gessen has been very instructive.) I've been trying to be proactive and do what I can, but it never seems like enough and I don't actually know if my daily phone calls and monthly protests are making a difference. I'm also trying to conserve my energy. Outrage is exhausting, and I still have to live my life - go to work, be good partner, friend and ally, take care of my animals, take care of myself, write. 

Something that's been really helpful is the Action Now newsletter by Mikki Halpin, in particular the one titled "Do something. But you can't do everything." You should read it yourself so I won't recap the whole thing, but I will share this one section, because I've been thinking about it daily. She basically says we should direct our energy and action and avoid burnout by making three choices:

  • One thing to be a leader on ​
  • One thing to be a follower on 
  • One thing to make a habit of 

I've taken this to heart, and I'm starting to make progress in each direction.

One thing to be a leader on: 

This year, for the first time ever, I helped organize my local precinct for the Democratic Party. I'm not sure how it works in other states, but in North Carolina our neighborhoods are split into precincts, and these are the building blocks of the Democratic party. Precincts have elected officers, they represent your neighborhood at county, state, and national events, and they help guide the party by offering suggestions about what we should focus on, getting people talking to each other, and raising money. (I actually wrote a beginner's guide for my local activist group, which got shared and republished in a few places.) Precinct work is about as grassroots as you can get, and as it turns out my precinct has been unorganized for the last few years. So I, along with another woman, decided to change that. We went to a few training meetings, made a few hundred phone calls to our neighbors, and held a successful meeting in February. It was a little bit terrifying (I don't like calling strangers on the phone) but our success made it all worth it. We managed to raise three times our funding goal, passed two resolutions, named 15 delegates, and elected five officers. I was actually elected chair, which is pretty awesome. I'm excited to see what kind of difference I can make right here in my city, and to learn more about the political machine in general. 

One thing to be a follower on: 

I joined a local progressive group of mostly white women (facts are facts) who are doing a lot of work helping to organize and direct the post-election energy and anger of our citizens. By working with them, I've taken part in some direct action movements and been able to reach out to and get involved in other groups in town, like the NAACP and the Interfaith Refugee Ministry. I even attended the Moral March in Raleigh in early February, which was really wonderful and gratifying. Over the next few months, I'm going to do a lot of listening to these groups, figure out how I can help them accomplish their goals, and donate as much time and energy as I can. I plan to follow their lead, since they've been working hard for years and I just showed up. 

One thing to make a habit of: 

I have called my Senators and Representatives more times in the past month than I have my own parents. I also set up recurring monthly donations to Planned Parenthood and the Nature Conservancy. These are small things, and they might not make a huge difference, but they keep me engaged and help me feel as if I'm making a small difference - especially when combined with all the other small actions others are taking. Stronger together, right? I sure hope so.

Have you been doing anything differently, big or small, since the election? I'd love to hear about it!