Okay, now that Bush has been re-elected and the world has ended, etc. and I've gone through my despair-and-kleenex stage and then had my inspirational moment of "I helped make Wisconsin vote for Kerry. I am powerful. What can I do next?" it's time to actually start doing the doing. To that end I have been talking to people about where to begin my fledgling personal effort to make the world a better place. Here's what we've come up with so far (if any of this seems obvious and elementary, please bear with me. I need my process of discovery and discussion):
Volunteer to work with congresspeople.
Become part of their support staff.
Research problems YOU think are important and draw their attention to them.
Write letters to your representatives about the issues you want them to act on (writing letters is much more powerful than we think because politicians know that one letter from a concerned person really represents a lot more people who just don’t bother to write).
Donate to organizations with specific causes.
Volunteer with those organizations, helping to raise consciousness (and funds) about those causes.
Join the discussion about re-focusing the Democratic Party.
Prepare for 2006 and 2008 elections.
(This feels like a huge one to me and I don’t know how to break it down into smaller pieces. We didn’t go into a lot of discussion of this subject).
Look at the companies you do business with and find out who their political contributions go to. Go to http://www.opensecrets.org for this (and buzzflash?).
Avoid patronizing companies whose politics clash with your own.
Other parts of the discussion:
We also talked about the importance of identifying your personal core issues so you don’t get overwhelmed by the millions of good causes you can give to. Focus your actions and charitable donations this way so you don’t feel guilty about not giving to every good cause you receive info on.
It’s important to focus on specific acts that lead to measurable goals. For instance, I volunteered with the Kerry campaign, specifically working on Wisconsin’s electoral vote on November 2nd. That was a finite, measurable task that I could feel a sense of accomplishment about. Something like volunteering to end world hunger, while also a worthy effort, is harder to measure and feel a sense of accomplishment about. Figure out a smaller, measurable piece of it to focus on so you don’t eventually feel discouraged and burnt out.
Changing from rich, fat, stupid Americans to aware, involved, active Americans:
“My political responsibility begins with conquering denial of my disproportionate access to resources in a global context.” - rr.
We talked about how many Americans don’t become politically active because it’s painful to face how many resources we dominate at the expense of others in the world. But it’s important to work through that denial, and through the guilt that often follows it. Guilt is not a sustainable motivator and people will only embrace political awareness/activity if they are driven by positive things like hope. Guilt doesn’t go as far.
ITEM FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION:
Attend a Move On House Party on Sunday evening, November 21. I’ll be at one. Move On.org was instrumental in the 2004 election, and the grassroots network they have in place is ready to focus on other issues. At tomorrow’s house parties we’ll be discussing what issues are important to us and what we want to do next. The field is wide open and the network is in place. Come and help determine the focus! Go to http://action.moveonpac.org/future to find a house party near you.
Regina’s personal ending note:
The things I feel moved to do are attend a Move On house party and start writing letters to my reps about the things they should be working on. That’s where I will start.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion so far. It really is helping me focus on what’s possible, keep up my spirits, and feel the support of others. This process has to be communal for me or I won’t do it (maybe that’s true for many?). There will be more...