I went to a local organizing group meeting today, a bunch of people in my local community who are mostly new to politics and feel angry, upset and overwhelmed but motivated to do what they can to change this situation we now find ourselves in as a country.
We began by going around the room and talking about what we have been doing and how we see ourselves becoming more engaged. Many reported feeling overwhelmed, but motivated to learn more, and to do something, while not being pulled into being obsessed with the whole deep (and messy) world of politics.
One of the things that I said was that I think if we all just get a little bit more politically engaged, that will have a big effect. We don’t all have to get arrested, we don’t all have to run for office, but if enough of us do more (and then maybe a little bit more) real change can happen.
For my part, as a longtime political junkie, I was inspired by the people in this fledgling group by stepping back from the inside debates and offering a few recommendations or the newly “activated” activists. I’m going to include education items, action items, and as some in this group admitted that they “hate politics,” a few spoonfuls of sugar to help the medicine go down. Although this is totally against my nature (as you could tell from scrolling the rest of this blog, I have a hard time keeping it under 1000 words), I am going to keep my template very brief and frame them as 5 “bite-sized” pieces of politics.
To understand: An article, video, or some other piece of media that informs and educates. These might be in-depth pieces of reporting or pieces of social science or history. Warning: these might be depressing. Sometimes not, but I won’t shy away from a realistic look at white supremacy, or the brutality of prisons, or some awfulness about how political sausage is made. I will be specifically thinking about an academically minded group of deep and curious thinkers, but who are fairly uninformed about politics. I’m interested in lots of stuff, but this will probably be biased towards stuff in my wheelhouse (race, education, science, health and criminal justice, so I am weaker on international issues).
To inspire: This will be something that inspired me, or something that I try to keep in mind to remind me of the deeper meaning and purpose to this new work we find ourselves undertaking. This might be an inspiring article, or a story from twitter, or maybe even just something my kids said. It might also be a recognition of little victories, or moments of real progress.
To give: This will be an organization that I think both does good work and needs the money. I will try to focus on local organizations, but occasionally include a large national organization. I will make every effort to highlight an organization that I myself have given money to.
To laugh: I do not believe that the need for increased civic awareness and activism began with Trump, nor will it end when he leaves the political stage. Because this is a marathon and not a sprint, it is totally fine to take breaks and do self-care. It is also totally fine to find moments to laugh at. It is also fine to ignore the other things on this list and just skip to this one.
To do: “The voyage of a thousand miles begins with one step.” A saying from Lao Tzu which was on my mom’s desk growing up reminds me that one step at a time is what we need for the journey ahead. Finally, I’ll close with one thing to do. This will mostly be a phone call or calls to make, or a march or event to go to, or a letter to write. Maybe it’ll be something else, we’ll see.