When I worked with college students engaged in volunteerism, we always stopped at the end of a project to talk about what the experience meant to them. Whether it was walking adoptable dogs or planting trees in a sanctuary, we’d share impressions and about the significance of our efforts. There is power in reflecting on the meaning of what we do, helping us learn.
Similarly, we’ve been engaged in working for justice, liberty, and democratic values. Our lives have changed in the last twelve months. On the anniversary of the election, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on what our efforts mean.
Pause with other activists here to consider what this year means to you, and feel free to share in the comment section below. We can learn from each other too.
1. What have you learned this past year?
In what ways have you been involved this year? Think about what you’ve discovered about yourself, community, and activism. What do you understand about democracy?
2. What do you want to celebrate from this year?
Good things have been happening. Think about what you feel proud of personally. In response to the hate and greed, reflect on the kind, courageous, and collective efforts to do more good. Which groups and individuals stand out for you?
3. What do you want to do differently going forward?
Notice whether there’s anything you want to change about your engagement. If you’ve been worn down by the effort, what could support you better?
Thank you for what you’re doing for the common good. Remember that it’s okay to take a break, just remember to come back. We need your voice.
Less reaction/resistance, more creation/persistence. Let’s set our agenda, amplify compassion, caring for people, building up our strength so all rise. Love our neighbors, globally and rise. Thanks for your dedication.
Jen – thank you for your wonderful list and beautiful writing. You are changing people’s lives for the better. I fully agree with your letter, and with the sentiments of Anna here: we will only win in a sustainable way if we bring love, acceptance, joy, creativity, persistence, help, and an inclusive agenda.
I want to celebrate all of us for trying in exhausting, sad, and difficult circumstances. I also want to celebrate the revival of civic awareness and action. If more of us (myself included) understood the details around how bills are actually made, how congressional committees operate, how bills become laws, I think we would better appreciate the challenges inherent in actual governing, and how to best work with each other, across aisles, to accomplish meaningful change.
I hope and hope that the left doesn’t become a liberal version of the Tea Party. While this sort of passion energizes people, provides short-term wins, and brings meaningful ideas to the table, a democratic government cannot function if it only responds to ideologically pure beliefs. I hope, moving forward, we all try to open the conversation, listen with compassion, and learn how to compromise and share for the good of all of our citizens, our country and our planet.
First of all, thank you, Jen, for all your hard work this year and for giving overwhelmed activists a regular way to focus. It’s meant a lot to have a well-thought-out list of suggested actions for those times when I can’t do the research myself.
I agree with Anna, above, that in addition to reacting, we need to dig in and do the hard work of hashing out our divisions on the Left and constructing a compelling platform for the 2018 election and beyond. I still see way too much Hillary vs. Bernie battling on my social media feeds, and it’s discouraging. The recent brouhaha over Bernie being invited to speak at the Women’s Convention is another example. Maybe we need some kind of Chatauqua to help us process our divisions and direct our energies productively.
Your weekly list has been amazingly helpful. Yes, I too have felt overwhelmed by the daily news and the way that things I care about have been blocked or reversed. But I cannot give up. The resistance is essential. True some of my elected officials always vote for the wrong things but I know we have all made a big difference and we will continue to make a difference. We are seeing new candidates surfacing and there is hope for the needed changes in 2018. Please keep the lists coming and let each person choose their most passionate interests and keep the pressure on. We are creating the future by our efforts.
I appreciate all of the very hard work you have been putting into this weekly list. I have been more politically proactive than ever before in my life. For that, I am grateful.
I am also tired. I agree that such resistance is difficult to sustain. For my part — barring any sudden crisis of democracy, such as Trump firing Mueller, for which I will take to the streets — I will concentrate my resistance activities on two efforts:
1. pushing to get Trump impeached or removed via the 25th Amendment
2. promoting voting rights in order that the Democrats can retake control of Congress in 2018 and the presidency in 2020.
I believe these are the most pragmatic ways to defeat authoritarianism, to undo all of the harm being done to our democracy right now, and to create a more just and equitable society.
I look forward to hearing others’ ideas for keeping up our spirits and energy, and I will continue to value your weekly list, participating in actions that support my goals.
HI Jeanette, I feel as you do that voting rights are one of the most crucial things. You might want to see if there is an ACLU People Power LetPeopleVote group in your area, and join them. They have different strategies tailored to each state. Here is a link: https://map.peoplepower.org/?eventType=votingRights
Thanks for this information, Carolyn!
Sharing such contacts is essential if we are to multiply the effects of our efforts.
Some weeks I do best with thanking folks that have helped us move forward. Other weeks I can make those calls to legislators. In any case I love the guidance you provide, Jenn! I have seen so much more with the hateful political ads we are already subjected to for the 2018 election. The emails asking for donations exhaust me…it’s never ending and though I wish I could fund them all, I just can’t.
We have to just join hands and hearts for the good for the American people and hang in there!!!
I’m so grateful for this group and for your leadership Jen. While I may grow tired and feel defeated at times, I keep going. Breaks are okay, as is doing a bit less. This check list helps me focused and along with Resist bot on my iPhone, I keep in touch with D.C. Love and respect to all of you!
I’ve found it necessary to choose areas of specialty. Although I read about other issues, I don’t necessarily take action on them, choosing instead to focus on my areas of concentration – first amendment rights (encompasses a lot!) and the environment. Going forward, I think more of us will need to specialize just to keep up. The most energizing thing I do is write with Postcards to Voters. Reaching out to other individual citizens to encourage them exercise their right to vote keeps me going. I’m very happy with all the wonderful, concerned people I’ve met – mostly online – through my activism. I do not feel alone which is how I felt on Nov. 9 last year.
I learned: that I am stronger than I thought. And even when I am scared I can CHOOSE not to let it control me. Because I have also learned that part of why I am here at this time is to help heal/repair the world.
I learned to live in the moment, not look back or forward. I learned also to look honestly at how I am privileged by class and race and to try every day to treat others as I would want to be treated.
I learned to give support to others without being so afraid to give myself away and to receive/ask for and receive support from others.The second was harder.
I celebrate being a stronger person who can look darkness and my worst fears in the face and still move forward and be part of the light. I celebrate the things we have done: the ways we have said yes and the ways we have said no. We are not going away.
I celebrate the poems I have written in response to this year, the poetic resistance local meetup I started 6 months ago and the local group I belong to that is a local network for reaponding to acts of hate and intolerance.
I celebrate my mistakes as learning experiences.
What I will do different. I want to focus harder on a few local face to face groups rather than scattering my efforts. Lately I have come to realize as a non pushy person I really dislike the constant faxing to legislators. It just makes me feel uncomfortable. I may take a pause/rest from this until I feel more energetic. I also need to pare down my email list. I get so mamy subscriptions even just the titles tire me out.
I like THIS list though. It is very humane and positive
My New Year’s Resolution was more poetry in my life…it has helped tremendously. I love your idea of a poetic resistance meet up. Thank you for sharing that! I might have to find a way to incorporate that into my life too. 🙂
I so appreciate you thoughtful list, with actionable items. I am NOT a writer and having the correct verbiage to tell every congressman or congresswoman a short succinct message is not possible for me for every bill and every act of resistance. I APPRECIATE the fact that your list is so easy to follow and it gives me great satisfaction to be able to finish it each week and know that I have done something good. I think that maybe my small contribution along with everyone else’s will make a difference. (I still call my MOC after hours so I don’t have to speak to a live person – BUT I DO CALL!) . I look forward to sitting down on Sunday with my computer, postcards, pens, stamps and that bottomless cup of coffee and attacking the problems, one by one. Yes, I make donations – all very small but I know they add up in the long run. Thank you for pointing out issues that I may have missed.
THANK YOU and I am so glad I happened upon your list many months ago. It has done wonders for my soul. I am certainly more aware, learning bit by bit about the issues, taking much more interest in local politics and attending more meetings and rallies than ever before. Yes, it’s hard, but I am a product of the 60’s and I can’t let what we accomplished then go without a fight for our voices to be heard now!
Keep giving me things to do each week!
Thanks for this,Stephanie. I hadn’t thought about calling after hours, but that’s a great idea for those of us who aren’t so comfortable with “the phone thing.” I know that email and faxing are probably less effective than phoning, so this gives me a better way to do it. Yay!
I committed to an hour of activism each week using the checklist. That has been manageable for me. Often, I’d call instead of writing postcards or letters. This was especially effective, for me, when I was thanking someone. I think they’re so used to getting critical calls, they were surprised and please to get a call of thanks. I have asked periodically if the calls help, and the democrat representatives always said yes. It’s hard to know, but it empowered me.
I have so appreciated your vision for this weekly action list Jen. Echoing what many others have said, I have learned in the past year to pace myself and focus on the issues/topics that resonate most with me. I have a theory that if more and more of us do this we will be able to sustain our energy on those issues and positively inspire others to join in with their most resonant issues too. I have found this to be the case as I post a pic of my weekly appreciation post cards on facebook and hear a positive response from many old high school, college and family friends. I am not trying to desperately and frantically recruit them for a cause; my goal is to model that it is possible to be more engaged in supporting the health of our democracy without it needing to take over one’s life. Up until the election last year I was a regularly voting, semi-informed citizen and this past year I feel I’ve become a truly engaged citizen. I no longer discount the power my one voice and my actions have as I can see the ripple effects in both the sending and in receiving from others. I realize that taking action in more thoughtful ways, instead of stewing in a corner and feeling powerless, is what has kept me optimistic and moving forward. I try to balance reaching out to others online with working face to face in my community to build common ground.
Thank you so much for what you are doing and all of the effort you have put into this last year. Trump’s election was a huge wake-up call for me and I realized that he won because so many people like me are not actively engaged in their local communities. I live in Kentucky and landed here after 20 years in Chicago. I grew up in Brazil under a military dictatorship, so there have been many warning bells clanging in my head as the leadership of this country has moved towards dismantling almost everything I care about.
For the last 12 years, I have worked with artists and fair trade groups around the world online. What and why we make things that nobody really needs and our dependence on a buying public has always been an issue for me, especially in view of the immense waste and pollution that is choking up our oceans, wild life, air, etc. I feel that the art and maker community has made an impact by embracing creative re-use, keeping tons of waste out of landfills. But, these are issues that I have engaged with online, not locally.
I think the biggest shocker for me was really understanding that we, as a people, are split on a core understanding of what the government’s role should be in our lives. I like having federal control over our basic infrastructure, even if it has been bloated and inefficient. Now I understand that many of my more conservative friends seriously want minimal government. In theory, I can understand their position, but in practice, especially with the kind of leadership we have now, it means removing safety nets for the poor and for the environment and I see us moving towards becoming a third world country in the worst case scenario.
I have gotten involved a bit locally and plan on increasing that as I hope to take my online business to a physical place next year. This will create community and will allow me to have events. I started a group on Facebook which will soon have a website: Common Ground Creatives in Action. The group quickly grew to about 100 members with many living in other countries: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CommonGroundCreativesInAction/ It has not grown much since January as we made it a secret group to keep people safe. Our public page is slowly getting traction: https://www.facebook.com/CommonGroundCreativesInAction/
I decided that I had to focus on what I know and that I wanted to be about positive change through the arts. As you mentioned, this really is not about just Trump, but rather that we have some profound social issues that need to heal before we can progress as a society. The arts are a powerful tool for this. I share content that I find where the arts are being used to address issues on our public page and in our private group we discuss and share what is going on in our local communities and what we think about these issues. The interesting thing for me has been that many of the members are living in countries where similar problems are evolving, like Turkey, Greece, Spain, etc. And, quite a few are very knowledgeable about Syria, immigration issues, etc. Lots of education happening there.
I believe that it is essential for us to find safe spaces where we can talk to people who disagree with us ideologically in a respectful way. For a while, I made an effort to boldly ask a Republican to engage with me in a conversation about what they believed. It was interesting and I learned a lot. But, now I am weary, too. I am disappointed in the Democratic leadership, am tired of Bernie Sanders, and don’t really see a voice that makes me excited. At the same time, I feel great about the public mobilization around different issues, especially about mayors and governors who refuse to kowtow to the powers that be. I feel like we are at a tipping point with environmental issues, that green energy is finally at a place where it can replace oil and where all of these natural disasters are making climate change real for deniers.
These are tough times and they are global. White nationalism is big in other countries, too. It’s scary and yet I believe that we have the smarts, the resources and the vision to tackle this from a perspective of generosity, forgiveness, creativity and peace.
Again, thank you!
Rachel I appreciated this post, and learning that there are people in the world more-or-less like me who wonder why and how we can waste so much, while so many (millions) of other people suffer from lack of basic necessities. And, your statement “I am disappointed in the Democratic leadership, am tired of Bernie Sanders, and don’t really see a voice that makes me excited.” is 100% me also. In my state, we have a gubernatorial election in 2018, and lots of Dems are vying to defeat the current Republican governor, but so far none of them, IMO, seem to me to have what it will take to overturn a “popular” governor. I will check out your web site. I also appreciate your comments, and they echo others that I’ve seen, as someone who has lived under a military dictatorship. I just do not understand why the danger we are living through is not clear to everyone.
Thank you, Nancy. My mother is a Republican who voted for Clinton because she was horrified by Trump. She recently visited and said that her conservative Wisconsin church is starting to bemoan Trump. I don’t understand how anyone with a code of ethics can support him, but what I have realized is that the Obama administration also really alienated a lot of people who have some legitimate beefs (not JUST because he is Black…). Even though they might despise Trump as a person, they are excited about the chaos and are truly fed up with Washington. I see that as extremely dangerous and yet I sure wasn’t taking to the streets and protesting under Obama even though he made choices I find horrifying especially in regards to Central Asia and surveillance here in the US.
I didn’t mention how terrified I am about Trump and nuclear war. He seems to be bent on making it happen and I just feel nausea. No song nor dance will comfort me there…. Ugh.
1. I learned a good place to start remembering how our government works is in the children’s section of the local library. I have to admit, for most of my life I have coasted as far as civic action goes. Sure, I always voted and even read up on the judges and ballot issues. From time to time I’d donate a little money to help with a campaign. Now I take this message of President Dwight Eisenhower to heart, “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free men.”
2. My community is planning a Celebration of a Year of Civic Action November 11. We made a movie of all the events, parades, marches and rallies, town hall meetings, office visits, action groups and parades we’ve enjoyed this year. We’ll share an evening of visiting, political triva competition and celebrate with new and old friends. We learned to use Facebook, Mail Chimp, Twitter and each other for support, ideas, encouragement and we learned to write letters to the editor.
3. We must pace ourselves for the long run. In my groups we are teaching each other our new skills so we can take turns leading. We are focusing our attention. I learned that those of us who have the gift of time can participate in civic action more often and that every person can make a habit of civic action. For some it might be making one phone call a month and for others it might be a daily phone calls and/or emails to elected officials. I figured out I can email MoC from almost anywhere in the world. I learned to catch the name of the staff person who answers the phone and to thank them. I am learning how to have a conversation with my sister about healthcare when we have very different views. Finally, I learned we must take turns taking breaks. Our civic actions are making a difference and I am committed to this civic action “hobby” for the rest of my life. After all, if my new friend Elizabeth can march for truth at age 99, the least I can do is keep showing up.
Jen, I can’t tell you how valuable this list has been to me. I feel like I started out overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do (even though I’ve been relatively politically active most of my life), and your list helped me hone in on a strategy, understand the different pieces that were working together, and be able to take steps. Because this list has kept coming, I’ve felt like I always have a plan and that I’m not alone in my action, which has helped me find my voice and my strength as an even more engaged citizen.
With that said, while I love the fact that we’re taking time to reflect (I’m an educator, so I value that space SO MUCH), I also would like to tell you that I hope this doesn’t mean the end of the checklists in their current form. I see how much labor you are doing and making possible for others to do, and would like to put out the question if there’s a way that this community can help you with that labor to keep similar ideas happening moving forward.
To your questions:
1.) I’ve made calls, sent emails, and sent faxes every week (5 Calls tells me this, and that consecutive week count keeps me going). I’ve also written letters and sent postcards. While I’ve called my elected officials over the years, getting in regular contact with them has helped me grow my confidence in asking for what I believe is right. I feel like the biggest thing I learned from this experience (since all of my representatives have distinctly different views from mine) that there’s a lot of value in engaging the staffers that I talk to, especially the ones I talk to several times a week, in conversation, not just asking them to write down a tally. I don’t know if this is productive or annoying to them, but saying “no, but actually WHY has the representative not taken a stance on ______?” helps me understand how to be more effective in talking to my acquaintances who support the policy that I oppose or vice versa, and I’ve definitely had moments where I feel like the staffer had to really think about what I was asking instead of just write it down. That might be overly optimistic, but it feels important. Those moments were all borne out of extreme frustration with inaction, but helped me to establish a stronger strategy and remember that firmness is helpful but yelling is less so, even when it’s all I want to do.
2.) The biggest success is shutting down the ACA repeal effort. I know there were a ton of factors that went into this, but I can’t help but think if we could all mobilize around each issue in its own time in that way, that we could go even further. That was such a victory, even if it felt like it was short-lived in some ways. I’m the most inspired by some of the anti-racist groups that I’m working with. As a white woman, I’m learning from women of color and white allies (who help to make sure that women of color don’t get stuck with a bunch of unreasonable labor to educate white people like me) about the way that systemic racism works and is related to current White House policies. Their specific, ceaseless action has spurred me to action and changed the way I think. As is often the case, women of color aren’t receiving the attention they deserve for their tireless work, and I’m honored to be learning to fight with them.
3.) I’m working on acknowledging my privilege as a white middle-class woman in an ever-growing way, so as to make sure I’m advocating not just for things that affect me or people I know. I also hope to do more in-person work; while calling and writing is beneficial, sometimes I feel like I don’t have a sense of how well it’s working, and I think I need to find an in-person community action group. These checklists are a huge support; sometimes the concrete instructions are what it takes to pull me out of a cycle of feeling ineffectual, a simple but powerful reminder to come back to the table and do the thing.
I was sad to see the statement from Jen, “The problem is that the resistance that started with a bang last year is losing steam. Calls to elected officials are decreasing. People are weary. What we’ve been doing isn’t sustainable.” – Even though I too am guilty of making a fewer calls, etc. as time goes by. I feel that there are too many different groups doing too many things, and this contributes to both overwhelming people and also lack of effectiveness in some cases. I wish the various organizations could coordinate better and thus not pull at individuals in all directions.
I wholeheartedly agree. I receive way too many emails daily, hourly….
There are too many groups duplicating and reduplicating effort and all tapping the same limited base of donors and activists. IMHO, this is where political parties are supposed to come into play. Parties are a way to channel the efforts of different groups to produce meaningful social change. Even though we may not be happy with the Dems in every way, we need to work with them to capture political power or we will continue to see the issues we care about lose ground.
I try to call my congressman each day with my concerns of the day. I simplify now: (sample)
“No wall, no war, no tax cuts for wealthy.
Protect Dreamers, the environment, women’s reproductive rights, health care for elderly and poor.
Support mental health!”
It helps me sleep better at night – knowing that I’ve done what I can to help.
You made it possible for me, every week, to do things to support the values that I believe are the strengths of America. You focus my upset into specific words and taught me how to select words to express myself. I appreciate that you have also listed who needs thanks and provided addresses and phone numbers to use. I have never before communicated so often and clearly to my elected representatives.
You have allowed me to take time when needed to simply breath. When everything has felt bleakest you gave me specific actions that I could take to fight back against rising fear, hopelessness, and panic. I think my elected representatives are stronger for hearing our voices even when they do not win. They are strengthened to stand against the forces that could destroy this nation.
Yes, it is tiring. But if we quit we legitimize the actions of a minority who are not acting in the best interests of all their constituents but are only taking care of Big Donors Financial Interests. Please keep going and keep on helping us all re-create a just, kind, equal American dream and make this our lives and the reality for our children and grandchildren.
You are so right, Jennifer. I have been so angry over politics and the result of the 2016 election, and all of the fallout that has brought to my country. I have called my congress people, participated in phone banking, donated what little bits of money I could, watched news tv 18 hours a day for over a year, argued with family and friends trying to win them over to my viewpoint and have been afraid. I am very afraid at what is and what might happen to my country and our democracy. I am getting tired and losing steam. I still have my own values that I continue to hold dear – but I refuse to stop loving my family and friends no matter their opinions. LOVE is the only answer. I will listen and accept other opinions with love. But I will not give up my opinions or my right to say them and be heard.
I appreciate what you have been doing the past year with lists of currently pertinent data. I was clear from the beginning that I only had enough energy and emotional strength to deal with some issues and so have concentrated on environment, climate change, and health care. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I live in a state where my senators have been largely on the same page as i and my Congressman is consistently against my interests, so my calls go to to the Congressman.
What has happened as time has gone along is that the Republican agenda has been quietly promoted by Trump’s appointees in various departments. Those kind of actions aren’t ones that it’s easy to rally in protest against. Now we’re back to the long, dedicated process of lobbying, mobilizing interest groups, using the courts, and working to elect progressives. I have found it really valuable to be involved with local organizations in this work. It can feel really lonely and hopeless if you’re sitting at home with your computer.
I have started a political book club through a Democratic party office. It is going very well, especially for me, who never picked up a political book in my life. I thought about your blog, in which you said “The problem is bigger than Trump.” So, with the help of a friend, we went bigger- and set up a resource site for other people who might want to try leading such a book group- or even incorporate a political book into their regular book club. Please check out our site http://www.yourbrainonpolitics.org and maybe something like this is the way you can make a difference.
I too am tired. I am most hopeful, however, because my kids have learned (from watching me) that you can call, email, and write your representatives. You can pay attention and act when you need to, and once in a while you can take to the streets. That done, you ride your bicycle as much as you can and try to be kind. I think we all need to be hopeful and work to raise and educate the ones who can vote in 2020 and 2024 and beyond. May they grow up well and thoughtfully.
Thank you so much for this excellent post. I’ll definitely be taking these suggestions to heart. I just want to encourage everyone to double down and not give up. What we’re doing has made a difference and it will continue to as long as we keep striving.
The only activist group I am part of is ACLU’s People Power and our agenda is not to talk about these things. But if anyone who takes part in your blog, Jen, might want to read my responses, here they are.
1. Take stock of what you’ve learned this year. If you’re new to politics and social change, this last year has been a real-time civics course. You’re more knowledgeable about a lot of issues. What have you learned and come to understand?
I am not totally new to activism, but this year has certainly changed me. I sometimes acted in the past when I saw something happening in our government that made me outraged or struck me as morally wrong, like when Reagan gave aid to the contra death squads in El Salvador, for example, or our military’s producing of nuclear weapons. But I never saw the clarity and fragility of our institutions, especially the Constitution and democracy. I never thought that deeply about the context of those values in a world that has not and largely still does not hold or live by them. And I never imagined or contemplated the possibility that people could take power who wanted to destroy them, and then take action to destroy them. All the sayings and statements we had always heard, like “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” or “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” now echo in my mind and take on sharpness and truth in a whole new way. All those horrors seemed outside my personal sphere of daily life. Now that divide does not exist for me. “The personal is political.” I feel the terrible threat to people’s lives, to our planet, in a visceral way every day. Even though my relative privilege has so far shielded me from the kinds of destruction so many endure, like Black people, immigrants, indigenous people, poor people, I did live through Hurricane Sandy, and I understand what things I see in my daily life mean for real people around me, things like gentrification, deportation, hate, lack of health care. I am not able to feel as I did before last November that I put in my time in my youth being politically active, so now I can just live my own life. I am unable to live without doing all I can to push back against this attempt by this gang of thugs to destroy our democracy and our planet.
2. Pause to celebrate what we’ve done. We’ve opposed travel bans and advocated for heath care, donated to people in need, and shown up for each other. Americans of Conscience specifically reached out to Nestor, a young Dreamer in custody, and deluged him with encouraging cards—which he carried in a box to his release hearing. What stands out for you?
I am taking part in as many efforts as I can as I continue to work full time and live my life. What stands out for me is how many people are doing as I do, coming outside the sphere of their own personal lives to speak out and act to protect our democracy and our Constitutional values. A friend who works with me with the ACLU on their LetPeopleVote project never was political at all before. I did my best to support her as she recently went through the ordeal of cancer treatment and recovery. She has begun working with me now with the ACLU, she says, because she went through cancer. She says that her ordeal made her know that this is her one life she has to live, and that it makes a difference how she lives it. Though she is a shy, private person, she is standing up, stepping up with great courage to act for our country. This stands out for me.
3. Assess for changes. Reflect on whether the strategies we’re using are working. Notice what changes you want to make to your personal involvement.
So much activism is happening with technology, emails and texting, Facebook, Twitter. I looked at Facebook some before last year, not too often. I wasn’t on Twitter and did not want to be. I have gone on Twitter, and for a lot of this year I posted political things on Facebook, when petitions asked people to share, when I read an article or watched a show like Democracy Now that I thought was especially important. I receive texts from a number of organizations alerting me to protests, asking me to call legislators, and I respond to as many as I can. But more and more, while I don’t say people should stop this, I am coming to feel we should organize in groups face to face also. I am seeing these efforts being fragmented, duplicating steps over and over, not following up, lacking continuity. Maybe this is how this revolution will work but I am afraid it weakens our effectiveness. I am happy to be part of the new People Power action of the ACLU to protect voting rights, not only because it is so very crucial, but also because I am able to meet with a group of about twenty or so people. I am so grateful to be able to talk with others, to connect and share ideas and plan with real people. I am often not able to go to meetings of groups because they happen in the evenings, and I work in the evenings. A few groups now have offered meetings and activism trainings at a wide array of different days and times, so I am able to sign up for some. I think this is a great strategy. We need the support of real people who remember us, who we can get to know. I think we need to plan strategically together, and move forward with each step we take, not repeat small steps because we are not working in groups in real time face to face. I think we need to undertake some in-depth actions where we dig deeply into the ongoing structures that allow corruption and greed to unfold, and work together to identify ways to get in there to disrupt that business as usual, and change those structures. That’s what the ACLU is doing, I think, with voting and the right’s attempts to render it meaningless. That’s what the water protectors at Standing Rock are doing.
Like everyone else I have become much more politically aware and active this year, but Carolyn has hit the nail on the head for me when she says that people need to meet face-to-face in groups to feel many things—-supported, more powerful, significant, strength in numbers.
That doesn’t mean I won’t continue my individual actions like writing postcards for campaigns around the country and contacting my senators & representatives on issues I care about, but the physically meeting group effort has its own qualities and I believe will get us far.
A friend of mine who is a college philosophy instructor is my go-to person when I am navigating the political waters of academia. For several years, I would visit with him regularly to get strategy advice for managing toxic personalities in my own department. One day he suggested, “You need to stop playing defense and start playing offense; the way the set-up works now, they’ve got you caught up in defense, running in all directions, too busy to instigate positive change.” He was right, and after really hearing that and reversing my approach, a lot began to change in my department and my professional climate at work. My new freedom to innovate and cause positive change might lead me to overcommittment and exhaustion sometimes now, but the results are otherwise so positive…for all of us who are no longer being choked and held back by toxicicity. I think there’s something in that example for “US.” We’re dealing with the same kind of bullies that bombard us and wear us down by keeping us on the defense. I’m not sure where/how to start, but my friend’s advice might apply here too.
Anna, your analogy with your department politics seems almost perfect. A Washington Post opinion piece today said essentially the same thing specifically lamenting why the Democrats don’t have their own tax plan, rather than just defending against the Republicans’.
I think we have to go on “offense” and provide solutions. But it doesn’t seem that anyone in leadership positions (Democrats in Congress? Anyone?) seems to be able to do this.
I choose to appreciate all your kind words and encouragement this year. You make a difference. And, as you told us of the flying flock, your turn at the helm is so appreciated.
May the damage that has been done be undone. Let us all continue the good fight.
I have learned how good it feels to be part of a group of like-minded people. But in the last couple of months, I’ve been doing less and feeling isolated. I think that’s mostly because I’ve withdrawn, but I do feel a lack of resolve in general, especially with regard to opposing the budget. The budget process is much more complicated than the process of trying to repeal the ACA. So I think I want to learn more about dealing with more complicated issues.
And Jen, thank you so much. I don’t know what I would have done without your list.
Here’s a second comment. I would really like to volunteer at the local Planned Parenthood, which recently began offering medical abortions, and help people get IDs so they can vote.
Jen, I so appreciate the organized weekly lists and the connection that there are other people throughout the country involved in a resistance. For me, the lists have provided a way to be involved, informed, and positive. I am willing to stay involved no matter what tact is used in the future.
Concise actions organized a week at a time allows every schedule to stay involved.
I think pressure on elected and appointed officials is important. I also think providing accurate information about how proposed laws and new guidelines will affect individuals and society is very important. This information needs to be written in a way anyone can understand and in sources people trust. Thanks again.
Thank you, Jen, for your support, your guidance, and your sanity throughout this past, crazy, year! I am very grateful for what you have done.
I have to admit, that I , too, have slackened on my “activism” but not so much due to malaise, as to being super busy. I live in the mountains in Colorado and my main focus this summer has been wildfire mitigation on my property. (That means ME with a chainsaw, rake, wheelbarrow, Jeep & utiility trailer out cutting wood and clearing branches for days on end.) But even if I have not made as many calls to my elected officials (having wonky phone service hasn’t helped!), I have ALWAYS written and sent postcards every single week since I found your list. Sometimes as many as 25 or 30! I love that you have provided the language that I can use, I appreciate having the addresses right there, and I am grateful that a hand-written message can have as much impact (others say more) than a phone call.
In answer to your questions:
1. I have learned that I DO care about politics and how our country is run, and that getting involved—not as a candidate or big donor, but just as an individual, makes a difference. I appreciated President Obama because his decisions and policies aligned with what I wanted for our country, too. I am now ashamed of how much I hated George W. Bush (God, if I’d only known how bad it could get!!). But I know right from wrong, and I can see we are headed to a very bad place if Trump, etc. are allowed to take us there. I am 60; I was a child in the 60’s during the protests of the Vietnam war, the women’s rights movement, the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and I KNOW activism is what we need right now. And now it’s my turn.
But I am sad that I have had friends for years and never knew what their political persuasion was, and I didn’t care, and now I do. My husband’s family are all rapid Republicans and we just don’t mention politics. I am also just meeting new-to-me family (I was adopted and have found members of my birth family through DNA testing) who I understand are Republicans. I don’t know how to begin to address issues with them.
2. I am grateful for the many new people and experiences I have met and had this year. I have attended every march and often gone by myself, but I never felt alone. I am grateful to know that there are many other people who feel the same as I do and who are willing to stand up and be heard. I am grateful that there are more of “us”—those who did NOT vote for Trump and who do NOT want our country to be dragged backwards.
3. I am sad that of the 200 emails I receive each day, I’d say 80% of them are now asking for donations—constantly. At first, I was getting information from many elected officials and organizations in order to avoid “fake news”—(after reading Facebook faithfully during the election and being outraged by the audacity of Trump, etc….) Of course, I am a liberal and read and respond to groups that are aligned with my thoughts and values. But I don’t have funds to make donations, and I am now thinning the emails I’ll accept. I also signed every petition, answering ALL the questions every single time, whereas now I’ll respond to the main question, and then delete and move onto the next. I don’t travel often, but I was away from home for 4 days and wasn’t checking email, I returned home to 800 emails! This is unsustainable!
I made phone calls for two of the races to replace elected officials who were named to Trump’s cabinet. Both experiences were frustrating (many people had already received 6-8 calls already that DAY!) even though I was calling Democrats, they were annoyed by the call, and I felt the calls were hurting the effort rather than helping. I feel badly about not doing calls again, but I think my time is better spent calling my senators or writing to them, and other elected officials.
I am very uncomfortable with the misuse of the media by both sides, and I wish there was actually an unbiased news source (is it just my imagination, or were the network news programs I grew up with truly unbiased? It seemed so—even when we were watching footage of stretchers being carried out of the Vietnam jungle while eating dinner!). And I absolutely detest “fake news” and the “joy” Trump takes in it!
Though nearly a year has passed, I am still positively appalled by what is going on with our government and I still cannot understand how we got to this!? I know there are tons of new books that are attempting to explain it. I have bought a few new books on “how to fight Trump” and so on, but I can barely make myself open them, let alone read them!
Thank you for taking the time to read my comments. Again, I want to thank you for all you have done, and are doing!
We’ve had some victories. It’s hard to keep up the pace. But we can keep the pressure on! I’ve read a lot lately about how to engage the hard-core right, and arguing with them is not the way. Jennifer is right, love, discussion, keep the lines of communication open.
How DO you engage with the right? I don’t even know if it has to be “hard-core” right. I am wondering how to engage with some relatives who, let’s say, voted for Trump, are “not so sure about” human-caused climate change, watch/believe Fox News, etc.
So far I think we have an unwritten policy to not discuss politics. Since every time we’ve veered in that direction, everyone just gets irritated. I am pretty sure no one wants to have any real family rifts because of differing political views.
But when someone says, “tell your friends in other states to call their Congressman…” well, these relatives are “my friends in other states.”
Any advice, anyone?
I don’t have advice just yet, but will be offering an opportunity to learn and practice this skill in January. Very excited!
If you think you’re voice means nothing, try going to bed with a mosquito in your room. Just keep swimming. Just keep learning.
First, thank you Jen for all the thoughtful, compassionate, and important work you have done on our behalf this past year. I so respect your ability to think things through, to see situations from many perspectives, and to write clearly and compassionately and respect fully about what you see.
I am feeling it is time to move from resistance to vision. To telling stories of what could be. You are so good at this. Stories with no partisan edge, Visions that all of us share in common. We can change the language of the debate. We can change the focus of attention. We can aspire to more compassionate lives.
I love that you do not use name-calling or pejorative adjectives in your writing. I love the idea of writing and speaking in such a way that people wouldn’t identify me with any particular political party – but as a member of the human race.
Thank you so much for the list. I read it every week and take actions most weeks. Since the election I have started focusing on a few things instead of being all over the place. I re-joined a non-profit board and have dived head first into my local Swing Left. I stopped calling my senators and representative a lot because they are representing my voice. I am more focused and committed over the long haul. I dove into a lot of things at first while I figured out where was the place for me, and I think I’ve found it.
I’ve also come to understand that the real enemy is not Republicans, although I truly loathe most of them, but is anyone who divides the American people into smaller groups so that politicians and corporations can wield more power for themselves and their cronies. So a lot of my anger that I used to feel at people who voted for Trump (I still am very very upset but can’t change the past) I have funneled forward to finding what I do have in common and reaching out to more groups that don’t represent me but want me as, a middle-class privileged white person, watching their back.
Kristin, thank you for saying that you have come to understand that “the real enemy is not Republicans… but is anyone who divides the American people into smaller groups…” I so agree with what you’re saying here. We need a balance of liberal and conservative (whether you label that as Democrat / Republican or something else). The balance is needed to make this country a place we all want to live, to make it a powerful and positive citizen of the world. I feel we’re lacking that right now, the power has shifted too much to one side of the scale. Balance – we so need balance.
tank you Thank You Thank YOU
Jen, Do not think for a minute that our engagement has decreased just because our actions have slowed down. Changes are happening everywhere. GOP Senators, W Bush, gold star family, #metoo victims are speaking up and saying “No, this is not normal, this is wrong”. It’s all connected in the raising consciousness of us. I like your pivot to more positive actions. We can only fight evil with Love. I like reading the responses of others. I like the small, local groups meeting to connect, vent , and plan actions.
What I’ll be doing differently going forward, starting this week, is volunteering with Better Angels, a grass roots organization bringing liberals and conservatives into respectful conversations together for 7 hours at a time. We’ll need millions of these conversations to begin to knit us back together, to decide what common causes compel us to reach toward each other. We are all Americans. I think it’s past time to define anew how we want America to be and to work for all of us.
Linda, I haven’t heard of Better Angels. Can you tell us more? As I stated in a reply to Kristin’s post, I believe we need balance, both the liberal and the conservative voice is needed to move our country forward in a positive manner.
Even in the midst of this Trump Holocaust there is hope, because people like you are willing to stand up and make a difference.
Before this trump storm hit us, I used to trust that others would make things right. Now I know that if one is not part of the solution that is the problem. I am so happy to finally have a voice and all these means of sharing my newly found voice.
I’ve learned to pay attention to where I’m at emotionally and choose my level of engagement accordingly. You helped inspire me to see this work as part of my life — that it’s part of being a responsible global citizen. Many weeks, as suggested, I choose one or two actions for the week. I remind myself that I’m part of a much larger effort that does make a difference, even though I can’t see direct and immediate results. If my motivation is running low or I’m extra busy, I can still usually find one quick and easy action to take. I see it as staying in the game — staying “in shape” — maintaining good practice. But if I’m weary or discouraged, I back off my activism and increase my attention to the things that nurture optimism and hope, knowing I’ll “get back to it” as soon as I’m ready again. Your resources — both for activism and for renewal — are a huge help. Thank you!
Resisting Phase 2: I do what I can to support the immigrant community, and people who are leading the organizations that work with this community. I realized last week that the leaders are getting very burned out and exhibiting signs of helplessness. One of our great local executive directors said to me: “I realize that Trump can do whatever he wants and there is nothing we can do to stop him.” That was a huge warning sign for me. We need to keep these leaders going, any way we can. Here’s what I did: 1) found a local therapist to run a series of group therapy sessions for the exec director and her staff, 2) raised money to send local leaders and their staffs lunch next Friday with a note of gratitude. I’m working on more – we need to keep our front-line workers engaged, motivated, and healthy.
Each week I chose from the gratitude list and sent thank you notes, at the bare minimum. It felt more positive. My legislators are Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey so I don’t always call or write as they are out there on the front lines of most of this. But I do write them when I feel they need our support on certain issues. But recently I spent some time with ‘loved ones’ who espoused views that go along with conservative sound bites. I found myself deeply disturbed by my reaction to them. They are, after all, loved ones. But I felt their attitudes so menacing to my very core beliefs. Did it matter to them who I was and what I believed in? No, not really. As Jen has said, their fear was more powerful than their respect or love for me. And I had to look inward and realize that the same was true for me. So I needed to back up and evaluate how best to continue without becoming isolated from those I love and care about. But to stop resisting simply is not the answer. My mantra now will be to ask, “What have you read about that issue?” Most only hear the headline news stories. “Have you looked into that and found out some background about that issue?” But not to beat them over the head as a know it all. And then not to be judgemental about their lack of info on the issues. Just open the door a crack and let them know that there is more than just headlines to respond to.
When confronted about an issue recently, my husband spoke gently to our dear friend and said, “It’s okay for us to feel differently about this issue. You asked me my opinion and I told you. I have listened to your opinion. Now we know that we do not agree, but it does not mean that we are not still friends. You asked me my opinion as your friend… or were you looking for support to bolster your opinion? That is up to you to decide. ” It was courageous on the one hand and realistic on the other hand. He did not try to convince this friend of anything and did not succumb to being converted on the issue. But the friend then sought another issue to challenge him on. Now I realize this was the friend’s fear talking. The thing is that I know that he respects my husband very much. If he could get my husband’s approval he could feel less fear.
Thanks for the space to write about this.
Thank you Anna for the insights you provide above. It gave me some ideas for dealing with my “loved ones.”
Over the past year, I have become more politically aware than I ever imagined I would be. I’m an introvert, and also somewhat clumsy with speaking out, and have always been intimidated by people who speak forcefully, and sometimes belittle me. The change over the last year? I’m less afraid. I feel less alone. But I also see so many people around me who seem to feel that they have to keep up a feeling of anger and outrage in order to sustain the momentum. I can’t go that route, because it’s just not me. I’m an optimist. I have found many posts and several videos that express this message: listen, love everyone, respect everyone, try to walk around in their shoes and understand where they are coming from. Keep active, but keep the actions positive. Volunteer, help people fill out citizenship papers, profess a positive and accepting message. That’s me. When the activism list comes out, I copy the “Good News” items, look them up, and then send my thank you postcards to those people, regardless of party. And, by the way, I’m 67.
Carol, you sound a lot like me. I also do not feel it is “me” to operate from anger or outrage. I am coming more and more to believe that my action must be based in love.
Your checklist has been inspirational and one that I always felt kept the “torch” lit for others to follow. In the last six months I began to have doubts about all the various groups collecting and attempting to create a passionate wave of action. It seemed that #45 was ravaging us with his crazy behavior and sending people flocking to group dynamic just for some sense of relief to hear that others agreed with them. The current climate is forcing a form of tribalism that can be dangerous. I stepped back. I feel that there is a common truth that we are missing in our activism. This past weekend I participated in a Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund “Democracy School.” it was grounding and taught me that our entire system of laws is rigged to protect the minority (wealthy/corporate) from the majority (me and my activist friends) from successfully voicing what we WANT rather than accepting what we THINK the law will allow us to manifest. It is time for all of us to take a history lesson in how to change our basic legal system and use our energy for sustainable change.
In the past year I’ve learned that I am not powerless. I can take risks that I never felt confident taking before. I can inspire others to join me. I can join others in their quest for justice. I can know and share my strengths and skills, and encourage other people to do that, too. I can join with others to make something good happen. When I get weary I can, and must, take a break without giving up altogether, because the causes will still be there when I come back.
I have learned that it is fruitless to become distracted by 45’s big show. I have learned to look locally at what needs my attention and to begin working on that. Local issues are always part of bigger issues. For example, the water crisis in Flint, MI is part of a global environmental problem. What I do in my community about the environment is part of getting involved globally in environmental work.
I have learned to educate myself more deeply about issues . What are the facts? What are the myths? What concerns the opposition? What concerns those affected by the issue? Being better educated is empowering.
I have learned that it helps tremendously to support each other in the work of resistance and change-making. Sharing the struggle is energizing in and of itself.
What I want to celebrate this year is the passion of the resistance. People are tired, it’s true, but I don’t see people throwing in the towel, either. I see people looking for ways to stay engaged, connect with others, and refocus on preparing for the 2018 elections.
Going forward I want to find ways to dig in and keep fighting, not just to change Washington but to change the paradigm that got us where we are. For the first time in my life I am truly committed to being involved and my civic engagement is evolving. I am on a journey toward social justice with all of you.
What a timely column… yes, I am weary. Standing in front of my Tea-Party Republican Congressional Rep’s office one night a week has gotten old. Does it make a difference? I really don’t think so. His staff lock the doors when we show up to stand on the curb.
Things I have learned –
* I am NOT a marcher and demonstrator. I prefer actions I can do more quietly, or hands – on where I can see results.
* I AM an environmentalist. My actions there include working with local forest preserves and park districts educating, conserving seeds and plants, restoring grasslands and woodlands. Hands – on gives the heart hope.
Other things that I have been doing that have given me some hope –
* 5calls.org – I’m an introvert. I tend to make my calls when staff is out and I can leave a message. Or I use the info there to send postcards. At least I feel my voice is being heard somewhere.
* I have started doing Postcards to Voters with TonyTheDemocrat.org. It again is something that an introvert can feel comfortable doing.
* I read, I listen to the news, and often I despair. What do I do to counteract? I read poetry, I talk to friends, I garden.
Things I want to celebrate –
* People like you, Jennifer. People who care, who can take the lead, who can organize and stay motivated in spite of the way things are.
* Meeting people who are like-minded, who want to conserve, preserve nature. People who want to change the political system and do the right things for others.
What I want to do differently going forward:
* MORE! More work with environmentalists. More postcards. More phonecalls.
* Pace myself for the long haul, learn to persist without despair.
Thank you – your voice continues to make a difference
For the first time, my elected leaders are plugged into my contacts list on my phone. I’m getting better at phrasing the concerns and other messages I voice to political leaders. I’ve attended my first rallies and vigils. I don’t want to lose heart. Thank you for this place to share and learn.
Firstly, huge gratitude to you, Jen, for helping us participate in effective ways.
I especially like the action of sending thank you post cards to people who have helped support democratic process, and supportive postcards to folks like detained dreamers. This helps me feel connected on a broader scale.
The Postcards to Voters project has also been quite satisfying and connective.
I can’t do and know everything that is necessary to do and know in our current crisis, but have realized that every step makes a potential difference. Thank you for framing actions so gracefully.
Thank you Jen for all that you do! Since I live in CA and my Senators and Congress people are liberal Dems like myself, I have stopped notifying them as they want what we want. My favorite part of your newsletter is you “gratitude” list which I follow each week and send them postcards of “thanks”. I want to feel like there is hope and that is what happens when I send my postcards. What you do is give me the names and addresses and the specific way these people have made a difference. Without you, I would not have this information.
So you and your group DO make a difference and give me hope.
This year has renewed my hope that coordinated public action can change the course of politics, even in a situation where a single party holds all branches of government.
After struggling through Scott Walker and the Tea Party’s 2010 sweep of the (formerly blue) Wisconsin government, I emerged quite pessimistic about the people’s power to sway such politicians. Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans used their 2010 majority to ram through lots of unpopular and questionable legislation, helped by discriminatory voter ID laws and gerrymandering. Despite months of spectacular public protests and a strong recall effort against Walker, he ultimately won both the recall election and his subsequent scheduled election, stunning those of us in the liberal majority. We had thought we could surely stop his agenda, since Wisconsin is a traditionally blue state and we had made so much noise in protest of what he was doing. But we ultimately failed.
Moving to Oregon several years later and then witnessing the Trump election and the Women’s March, I felt pessimistic after those years in Wisconsin. Really, how much could we do if legislators ultimately weren’t going to listen to us and didn’t care about all our phone calls and protests?
But I was wrong. We have made an enormous difference. Through these phone calls, post cards, petitions, protests, and other unified actions, we have brought the Trump and Republican agenda largely to a halt–or at least dramatically slowed it down. It turns out that it is much harder to hijack the entire country than to hijack a single Midwestern state.
In the long run, we will all need to make deeper, broader changes bringing more civility and respect to political dialogue. Our country is too divided to make many sustainable changes–the current pendulum, back and forth in dramatic blue-to-red-to-blue swings, is unsustainable. But in the meantime, I am relieved and inspired seeing how little Trump and the Republicans have accomplished this year. It has been terrible, but not nearly as terrible as it would have been without all of our voices. We have made a difference, and we have to keep it going.
I have learned so much this past year. It has been frankly, an experience akin to loss of innocence. The truth of who and what America is as a nation and where I fit in (or don’t) has been revelatory. And, as stark as these revelations have been and continue to be, I have a hope that the country I love will emerge stronger than ever before. This is my hope, that with truth comes courage to expose injustice and help our communities.
After the first deluge of concerns (there were/are so many that warrant action) I have chose to put my efforts towards specific issues that I find most concerning. This way I can focus my attention on the details. I also maintain contact with my elected representatives as I see this as a way to ensure that my voice is acknowledged. I am learning how to convey my ideas respectfully and with conviction.
With the action checklist as my anchor, I have learned how and where to look for information. I have found my path and a commitment to follow it. Thanks Jenn.
As a 75-year-old woman, my response may be different from others. But I want to speak to my peers. After so many activist years, and passionate involvement in the Sanders campaign,this election did me in. But I couldn’t allow my cynicism to win. So I’ve changed my approach from out-front resistance to support of what others are doing. I am very pessimistic about this country, very. But I continue to e-mail and call my legislators, sign just about every petition, show up for meetings and demonstrations. I can no longer be the lead organizer. Nor can I offer false hope which I don’t feel. But the word “resist” describes me perfectly. I will continue to resist, every day, in whatever way I can. I hope others who are worn out will try to do the same. We have to believe that younger folks will take on the leadership required and put in the energy we no longer have. Having said all that, every morning I wake up with the will to do something. Whether I do much or little depends on the day. Hang in there! I don’t know if we can do it, but we must try.
I’ve learned from your site and from the Indivisible Guide how powerful calling members of congress can be–I wish I’d known that ten years ago! I’d long been disenchanted by the corporatism of democrats and, while I continued to vote and was excited for what I thought would be our first woman president, I felt an anarchist withdrawal from the whole process was the way to go, and that re-localization of resources and culture was the best way to affect change. I felt optimistic thinking that we would have a woman president with a democratic platform pushed further to the left thanks to Bernie Sanders’s movement, and I planned on getting involved with the green party at the local level, to help build them from the ground up.
All that went out the window when Trump was elected. Suddenly, I realized we need to strengthen our democracy before it was too late, if it wasn’t already too late. Trump would be the first president my then three-year-old daughter would remember. I was devastated.
I joined a local group of stay-at-home parents inspired by the election to take action, and we made calls and commiserated. I met wonderful people, and though our group has stopped meeting, I am stronger for knowing them and knowing that there are many of us with young children who are concerned about our democracy, climate and bigotry.
I called my Republican senator many times about many things, especially about Bannon, DeVos and health care. He did nothing. I called anyway, knowing that others were calling and at least it was being documented. Meanwhile, the healthcare situation for my family is falling apart.
I watched late night shows on Youtube take down the president, and it made me feel better, though there is another side to this, as well. The best thing that can be done to a tyrant like Trump is show him for the fool he is, but it can lead to complacency.
I became involved with a local progressive group that works to put progressive candidates in office on all levels.
As a low-income stay-at-home parent, musician and writer, I have little time and less money. I felt guilty about not being able to attend rallies or donate money. However, after reading George Lakoff’s DON’T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT: KNOW YOUR VALUES AND FRAME THE DEBATE, researching progressive movements form turn of the last century, and witnessing the impact of one fascist flier at a local university, I see the power of ideas. My commitment for 2018 is to continue making calls, and to also develop simple persuasive texts that frame progressive ideas and to make fliers and also spread the ideas online. I hope to re-form the parents’ group or another small group in order to magnify the impact of these messages and to work on your list together. I also plan on writing essays that give voice to,humanize and unite the working poor, including poor feminists and artists.
I feel the three most urgent issues are climate change, the health of our democracy, specifically ending gerrymandering and the electoral college, and fighting bigotry of all kinds.
I am not giving up. I will continue to make my calls each week, using the Jen Hoffman list and 5Calls (if they continue). My main priority, however, is my work with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. I am the state Membership Lead, and I will continue to focus on those efforts to stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby and to stand up for families and children in our country and work to protect them from gun violence. I do not want to live in a country where everyone is armed and shooting is considered the way to resolve personal and interpersonal problems. We are better than that!
Wow I so much appreciate reading this. I see the burnout in myself and in others. Whether it is from the sheer magnitude of the work (e.g., calling and marching and educating and etc.) or from the repetitious onslaught of horrendous attacks (e.g., to our healthcare to our public lands to our dignity, etc.) or because it all seems so hopeless at times…a word, a feeling, I keep hearing from people who are activists, from people who voted for this administration and people who campaigned against it, from young and old, is “overwhelm”. Truthfully I think this — “overwhelm” — is part of the plan. The blitzkrieg. AND all of this highlights why it is so very important to step back and regenerate our moral and psychic and emotional and physical energies and then double down, return for the hardcore all-out work — and another rest period — or pace ourselves and keep working every day until there is no more work to be done. The arc of this is very long, started long before most of us started working on it, and will continue. I hope your writing will reach people and energize them….
I love you’re Action Checklist! It has been an inspiration. As for reflections and suggestions to stave off burnout and keep civic activism flowing, I have some thoughts to share.
I work for a grassroots environmental organization, and I’ve seen what makes the difference between a bright flare of civic action followed by a sharp, deflated withdrawal and a steady, growing movement that perseveres. The former supplants daily life with a bunch of new things you must do – call your reps, write letters, get active! It can be invigorating at first, but often I see people burned out, depleted, exhausted, and feeling divorced and divided from those that don’t agree with them and unable to enjoy the fun parts of life that don’t end in action.
The latter makes use of relationships and groups of like minded people to build civic action into our daily lives. Connecting with all sorts of people on the basis of improving our community, regional, and national politics gives you mutual support and helps build a local culture of deeply understanding one another, even those you don’t agree with, and of local issues and processes. We need to build our skillset in translating our values into political ideas and actions, and that is best done in community – whether that is a chapter of Indivisible or another group, or just a happy hour for like minded people to talk, lament, and strategize together. When our civic lives are lived in community it is so much easier. Make it social, make it fun, and you’ll want to keep on trucking!
Your checklist has been a reminder that there are others – many others that want a kinder, more inclusive politics to rise up. And the next step is to find each other in our communities to multiply our impact and support one another for the long haul.
I like everyone that is using this list gets tired at times. I think it is good to step back and relax and breathe on occasion. At times I question, are we doing anything to make a real difference? What I do know is if we sit back and do nothing, then we have no right to complain. Jen I appreciate all the time and research you do to send us our list every week. The Dalai Lama has a saying that when I get discouraged I say to myself.. “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”.
Our local Vermont community has been organizing monthly since the Women’s March, and we are picking up steam. We brought in a national organizer (and local friend) to help us develop purpose, efficiency, clarity and organization as we were becoming overwhelmed by the scope and depth of current problems, and were very scattered in our approach. Her suggestions helped us to develop the following guidelines:
1. Pick 1 topic that you can address at the local level.
Rational: All our energy will be laser focused on a single issue, and we can see real progress if we can affect change locally. The goal is to build people power by generating enthusiasm for the issue and by getting a WIN! We want to see legislation and policy change in our town or state government, and a win will garner more support and more people power, until we have actual political power.
2. Pick a topic that will attract support and appeal to many Vermonter
3. Pick a topic that has specific actions attached to it (i.e.- legislation, policy creation) and can be successfully won in the current political climate- Obviously different in Vermont than in Texas, but the idea is to build on success through concrete action. People will join if they think that their time will be worth the while.
We all came to the first meeting saying “What can we do in a progressive state like Vermont’, and the answer we heard is that we have a unique opportunity to be bold and visionary in what we ask for, and by doing so model what is possible for other states. I think in a conservative state your ‘ask’ is very different, but your goal of success is the same. Build the movement one person at a time. Act locally. Change locally. Empower as many as possible.
By the way the 3 topics that we have narrowed our discussion down to are:
1. Carbon pricing in Vermont-
2. Primary Care only universal health care- Everyone is covered for primary care services through a 1.5% payroll tax
3. $ in politics- Less sure how this can be approached through specific action.
Many have lamented that our actions are not sticking it to the man (read ‘Trump’), but in truth we are battling the much larger forces of a plutocracy, and chipping away at that power base, whether it be through an attack on the fossil fuel industry or the insurance industry or the corruption that lies at the heart of this power structure.
And we are reaching out to other affinity, indivisibility, huddle, and political action groups in our area to say that we are a growing political force that others can call on to support their actions, and that we hope will support us in our actions. We want to tear down the silos and build people power!
Thanks to all for every action you take. It all makes a difference.
I receive so many emails asking me for this or that but your list has served as a grounded point of focus and I’m grateful for it.
I had been sporadically active maybe once or twice a year prior to last November but now I take action every week in one way or another. I’ve learned to read the news and stay engaged in social media during the week but to take weekends off (unless there’s a specific action I will take, like phone banking). And I’ve learned that being active is EMPOWERING. My mantra is, “this is a marathon, it’s okay to take breaks.”
At the same time, as I’ve read news of the Administration dismantling environmental laws, working against civil rights and the basic rule of law, I’ve been disheartened to find so many people around me talking, but taking NO action (and I live in a very liberal city). So, I’m continuing to gently prod friends and colleagues to join me. I just invited my left-leaning colleagues to a lunch in which we’ll all share our resources for action and discuss what we can do to keep going. I’ve learned that working with a group helps me to stay focused, engaged and energized. And taking action helps to combat depression about the state of affairs.
Keep it up! It’s working!
I am one of many women who is relatively new to activism, inspired by 45’s election. I really struggled with where to start, and what to say when I contacted my Congresspeople. Jen, your weekly checklist has been perfect for guiding me in my goal to be heard and make a difference. I would like to share a suggestion that a friend gave me, to set aside 30-50 minutes, one day/week for my calls and postcard writing. This keeps me sane and balanced, rather than allowing myself to be immersed in this often discouraging work daily. This has been a big help for me.
The number one thing I have learned this year is to do A THING, any thing. I may be too tired to do all of the things on a list, but I can fax or call a senator. And to be in community with people who share my values, because I am a better me when I am in community.
Elect decent, ethical people who are willing to listen to and talk with others, regardless of their party affiliation. We need to encourage and support candidates who fit this bill. Educate those eligible to vote, and encourage anyone who is unregistered to register and vote.
Jen, First of all I want to thank you for your thoughtfulness and incredibly hard work. It is so appreciated! This has been a rough year. From the shock of the election and waking up every day to think is this really happening to wearing down to waking up and thinking, oh god, what are they doing now?!? The Women’s March was a ray of hope and energizing for me and so many of us. We can’t march every day, though, so your action list has been very helpful. I am part of a group of 4 friends that meet every Monday for an hour and do as much as we can of your list and also update each other on other local actions there may be. We used the 5calls info for the last couple of weeks but we have missed you! We are using Resistbot because it is efficient for contacting our reps and we are writing postcards, too. When there are Federal comment periods we follow your links and submit comments. I think this kitchen table group has been very good for keeping us going and staving off burnout and exhaustion. I recommend it! We thought of starting a larger group which would also be good but this small group keeps us highly committed and is more manageable for the long haul. I hope that our actions have had an effect. My reps are Democrats so they are on our side but contacting them seems valuable in stiffening the spine and not letting them waver. It is frustrating that the Republicans in power don’t listen to the rest of us. I think we have to find ways to keep it up. This administration isn’t getting any better. We have to fight like hell to keep from becoming some variation of Nazi Germany. The image of that 10 year old girl being detained by ICE in her hospital bed haunts me. We have to keep going.
I want to thank all of you for the civility and thoughtfulness of your responses! I read a lot and usually check the comments to see what other insights other readers might contribute, but usually it ends up being an endless barrage of insults and intolerance, from all sides. I think that if we break issues down into small bits, we would find that we agree on some things, disagree on others and might change opinions over time with more discussion and information. But, most people seem to just want to vomit poison, not to engage, discuss or learn. It’s been refreshing to come to a space of reflection and gentleness. There is a lot of sadness here, but hope, too. May we all find joy and support as we move forward.
I live in a deeply conservative state, which has voted overwhelmingly republican for the 17 years I’ve been here. The town I live in is the only Democrat blip on the entire state’s radar. There’s no way that the votes from our town can sway the outcome of a gubernatorial race. What I decided to do, an idea I got from other like-minded people around here, is to register Republican, so my vote will actually count for something in this area. This way I can at least work to elect moderates. Voting Democrat here is just throwing my vote away.
What made it easier is that I am not in love with the Democrat party as such. I feel they’ve dropped the ball hugely during the election and subsequently. I think it will be more effective to try to transform the Republican party from within, to tell the truth. And until I move to another state where my vote might mean something as a Democrat, I’ll keep voting Republican, and vote for the most moderate, sensible candidates I can. And when I call my MOC here in this state, I really feel it has more impact to be able to say I’m a Republican – they don’t care what their Democratic constituents think, since Dems are so in the minority here.
As for the rest, I do what I can, mostly for environmental and health care related issues. Because of contributions I’ve made, my inbox is overwhelmingly flooded with begging emails. I’ve started to just delete these, because I’ve found they ask you to sign a petition, and then it turns out that they really just want you to make a contribution. I don’t think I’ve gotten a single request to sign a petition in the last 7 months that was not yoked to a subsequent request to contribute. So I’ve become jaded about these and a lot of my time is spent just deleting them, though I haven’t gotten to the point where I simply identify them as spam. These organizations – Daily Kos, I’m talking to you! – view me as a warm body with money in my pocket, not as a person whose voice contributes to the impact of their statement.
Your action list is one of the few things that I feel is really useful, and though I don’t act on it every single week, it has been hugely helpful. Thanks so much for your crucial work.
I live in a very Blue state with awesome Senators. Between Nov 2016 and March 2017, I called as many other MoCs as humanly possible, regardless if they represented my state or not. It just felt good and necessary to voice my opinion and take action. And it even felt good to occupy a Republican staff member’s time and make them listen to my 3-4 sentence statements!
I also wrote thank you letters of support and encouragement to any MoC who spoke up, or voted in ways that resisted the Trump agenda.
I don’t have a lot of money to donate, so these calls and letters are my only way to voice my opinion.
I would like to see more actions for those of us who have Blue state senators and reps. What else can we do?
I’m so grateful for this group, and for Jen’s wonderful suggestions.
I keep myself sane by 1. committing to just 3 tasks per week, and 2. focusing on the “acts of gratitude” as much as the action items, because reminding myself of all the good things happening by writing those thank you postcards helps me stay optimistic.
I also try to think like a historian rather than a citizen. Sometimes social changes take a LOONG time. But eventually the arc does bend in the right direction. This might mean that I don’t see the positive change in my lifetime, but I take comfort that it will happen.
Finally, I look at our country’s demographics. The USA is only going to get more diverse. No matter how many petulant 70 year old white men rail against it, the force is not stoppable – we are getting “browner.” This in itself will help drive change.
While I’ve always been outspoken, much of it may have been my opinion. I’ve delved deeper into the facts of things, where my source of information comes from, trying to look at an issue from more than one perspective to see if it really holds water. This has made me more efficient at getting to the heart of the matter and voicing my (still) opinion in a very fact-based, reliably-sourced manner.
In the past, the most contact I’d had with my members of Congress was to fill in the bubble on my ballot. I am now faxing them via Resistbot weekly – sometimes more than weekly. I pride myself on the pile of faxes these guys have waiting for them Monday morning. Sometimes, I picture my representatives receiving a pile of papers from their staff and rolling their eyes. Am I really making a difference? I can’t tell. I don’t know. But I can’t do nothing. I have to balance that with talking about politics with the “right” people sometimes. I wonder why some aren’t more passionate about what is happening in this country – why more aren’t angry with the injustices and the BS. Why are so many willing to take this administration’s blatant lies at face value? I don’t know that, either. Maybe they don’t feel they can do anything or that their voice matters. I try to encourage those who may feel weary and as if their prolonged efforts haven’t changed the world yet – because I feel that way myself at times. I want action! I want to see this administration go down in flames! I wanted it months ago! So many times it seems that the wealthy and powerful get away with anything – and this is certainly an example of that fear. I have to remind myself that the wheels of progress move slowly and in order to make any charges stick to this group of wealthy and powerful, data must be carefully and strategically obtained and applied.
So I keep doing my little bit hoping somehow it strikes a chord with someone who can actually make a difference. I keep hoping that there will be justice for this administration, all the while, remembering that politics are a game of chess. Maybe I keep my expectations low so I’m not as disappointed when nothing happens to these a-holes and they go about life as usual.
When Trump was elected and began signing this executive order and that executive order and there was the chant that what he was doing was unconstitutional, it inspired me to take a course on the Constitution. What does it really say in there? How was it most likely applied back when it was written and how is it applied now? It’s really a remarkable document and I would encourage everyone to dive into something similar.
Jennifer, I appreciate your leadership and your concise scripting. While I wanted to say something, I often was tongue-tied when it came to actually saying it. The scripting made it easy and now I can take a few moments to gather what I want to say and do it on my own. I prefer to work in the background and Resistbot has been a very effective tool for me!
The January Women’s March was the first time I became politically engaged and I’ve been in high gear ever since – rallied by sites such as your’s Jen. I feel best about teaming with TonyTheDemocrat.org (Postcards for Voters)
and over the past six weeks have handwritten ~ 700 postcards to registered Dems whose votes are critical in races where there is a chance to flip a seat from Reb to Dem. I eagerly await Nov 7th’s election results and hope to see positive results from the effort of thousands of people engaged in this project.
Being part of the Women’s March/Resistance movement has felt powerful and channeled my anger at the current Washington Administration into something constructive.
I’m new to this website & action list, but I’d like to share where I see myself and other activists now. I’ve worked on a number of social justice issues, focusing of late on restoring our democracy; participating in many kinds of actions, especially writing LTEs.
Where we are—tiring, frustrated, wondering what if any action can have a real impact; the usual tactics don’t seem to work—calling/writing reps, marches, LTE’s, etc. Feeling that no one (in power) is listening to us! (the catch-22 of restoring democracy—we’ve lost much of the power needed to influence policy).
It’s becoming apparent that We need new, imaginative, impactful tactics and actions—perhaps beyond politics—eg economic action such as corporate boycotts, or tax action. Traditional actions appear impotent.
Nevertheless, getting more progressives into office in ’17 and ’18 is huge and essential to stop the repub oligarchs. Let’s work for bold progressives! (like Jim Keady in NJ).
I feel that activists and organizations need to unify to support a few common actions that will have impact—strength in numbers/unity. How to do this??
And, we need to influence the narratives more—to counter the widespread extremist right-wing propaganda that causes many voters to vote for repubs against their own interests.
— UU Social Justice Activist
I am so grateful to you, Jen, for what you’ve done this year for me. I want to give back to you AND I want to do a better job of reaching out in a positive way to the folks who are — despite the odds — doing the right thing. I don’t think we need to give up on resistance, though. Unless, for example, we can get Citizens United overturned, we will be continuously engaged in resistance to whatever candidate the American oligarchs fancy. And I think we need to work with data scientists in order to understand the role of social media in disinformation campaigns and to protect citizens from being manipulated again by those campaigns. These two ideas are interrelated, obviously. Could we partner with Zeynep Tufekci somehow? https://www.ted.com/talks/zeynep_tufekci_we_re_building_a_dystopia_just_to_make_people_click_on_ads
I admit to feeling tired at the end of a year of a lot of activity. I’ve been very active in my Indivisible group, drafting calls for our members. I’ve been to numerous demonstrations and rallies, written letters to the editor, and even buttonholed my congressman at a public event. I don’t feel I can keep this up. I want a normal life again, I admit it.
And yet, I don’t feel I can abandon involvement. Going forward, I plan to keep on with involvement in the Democratic party at the local level. I’ve done canvassing several times (we have local and gubernatorial elections next week) and I’m sure I’ll be involved in 2018. I think we have to start thinking seriously about working through the Democratic party, warts and all. This is the system we have, and the Dems have to start regaining power or we’re toast. Also, I’ve become involved in a group that is about fostering dialogue with “the other side,” learning to engage in a respectful way to reach mutual understanding with ordinary people. Otherwise we will fall apart as a country.
Resistance isn’t a long-term strategy. We have to be for something, not just against something. That’s why I’d like to make this my plan going forward. And hopefully, fitting into something resembling a normal life, so I can keep it up.
This last year I have learned perseverance. Your weekly emails have been a life-saver. I would get so discouraged and think, I don’t know what to do now! Then I would sit back, breathe! Then get to work on my list. I have always been semi-informed, a regular voter and have participated in protest marches over the years. My husband and I know that we cannot sit quiet while this mess of an administration continues to carve away at what 44 other leaders have worked to build in this country. My neighbors should not be afraid to exist, worship and love whomever they choose. I am not done by any means. If Mueller is fired, I am in the streets, if people in that investigation are pardoned, in the streets, and every time a white supremacist shows their nasty faces anywhere near me, I am shutting that down.
This has been a stunning year, but not in a good way.
I have really appreciated Jen’s list and frequently sit in front of it on the computer and make calls.
This year I have also focussed on tempering shock and anger and taking next steps. The call for compassion is well timed.
I have an Indivisible monthly support group that meets for a pot luck, support, and letting others know what each of us is doing.
And now I have decided to focus on one issue that is very important to me. 2 racial justice groups-one with a plan of action.
I am still asking how to most effectively work.
Thanks, Jen. Your work has been outstandingly helpful.
I know that calling my members of Congress from Idaho is just not going anywhere…they are not listening at all. I feel that they have no desire to change course and are unwilling to stand up against Trump on any issues at all. Instead, I feel like these are some specific things we could be doing: 1) calling those Senators who have turned on Trump and get them to hear our pleas, hear about our support for their actions, and ask them to take further action to thwart Trump’s efforts, 2) focusing on the Senate because there is a smaller number of Republicans we would need to influence to block horrible bills, 3) flood Speaker Ryan’s and Majority Leader McConnell’s offices with calls since they need to know that we believe their leadership that is promoting such extreme partisanship and their willingness to bow to Trump are threatening our democracy, and 4) find out which GOP members in the House voted against the budget/tax reform and why, so we can target those who have similar concerns as ours and support their efforts against specific cuts.
I also agree with others who have said that we need to focus on getting people to vote! From now until the 2018 election, we need to make an organized effort to get people registered and give them information about what’s been going on so they feel compelled to take action. I am so disappointed about the number of people I have found who simply either ‘don’t care’ or ‘don’t want to get involved’. I want to say to them, “If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention!” How do we reach out to those people?
1. I’ve learned anew that we all need to be involved and speaking out to have democracy; that politics is complicated and rarely straightforward; that making calls and going to rallies isn’t as onerous as I thought it would be and can be fun and empowering; that we all need to actively educate ourselves about government and the issues so we can speak with clarity and know what we’re talking about; that our “representatives” are not representing us for the most part but pleasing their funders. I’m sure I could go on. I’ve learned so much.
2. I’m deeply grateful for YOU Jen and your faithful letters helping us find our way into activism; for the ACLU fighting in the courts for our civil liberties; for the women’s march which was such an amazing experience of connection with thousands of other activist people in Denver; for my own consistent activism in the face of deep sorrow, fear and anger; for so much learning!
3. In my district in Colorado, our Congressman and one of our Senators are funded by the Kochs and are freedom caucus people. My experience is that writing to them or calling them results in letters where they explain their opposing view to me but do not even try to represent me. I’m wondering if continuing to call them even makes sense. But it’s clear that many if not all of the people in Congress are paid for and are beholden to their money masters. I don’t know how, but it seems that we need to address the money masters, to figure out how to disempower them or stop their influence. Campaign reform would be great but I’m not optimistic about that at the moment. Maybe addressing the funders is unrealistic. But it’s clear they are calling the shots in many cases and our “reps” are following orders.
Our Indivisibility group in our county is active and keeps us updated on activities and that seems crucial to continue. I do think rallies and sheer numbers of protesters is effective with big issues, however this is my conjecture and not based on data.
My own sense of how I might be more useful is in developing listening groups to try to bridge the divide between parties, neighbors and families. Divide and conquer seems to be the way of the Trump administration and of Russia and one of our priorities should be plans to bring people together.
I do get discouraged and depressed. My main remedies are to take a short break from news/activism, sleep, seek out beauty, exercise, get outside, meditate and look for the ways these times can wake me up. Usually this works. Occasionally it takes awhile and I just have to sit with it.
I’ve learned lots from becoming engaged on the national and the local level since the election. For example, I now have a political action email list of about 150 people and I’m happy to be able to offer people very specific actions to take, thanks to your email newsletter, Jen, as well as Daily Action, Indivisible and Unrigging the Vote, to mention a few others. I’m horrified, I have to admit, at how little we really can control… that environmental rules of decades can be swept away with the stroke of a pen. Gary Kasparov put it this way: “America is finding out the hard way that much of its government is based on tradition and the honor system, and not explicit laws.”
I’ve learned a great deal about our local representatives and have become involved in some local issues as well. I’m a writer and a networker and I’ve marched a good deal, but shy away from confrontational meetings. I’m a good listener, but literally, do not know one person who voted for Trump so wonder how to connect with people from the other side. My representatives all vote the way I want them to, so although I continue to call and support them, I wonder if there isn’t something more effective that I can do.
Jen I just emailed you a response because I couldn’t cut and paste.
Decidedly more downbeat than the others.
1. What I’ve learned: Although in a general sense quite politically aware I’ve lived out of the country for 30 years and had lost touch with a lot of things. My take aways include how very important the local/state races are. That there are many more progressives in my red state than I would have thought, and they are now quite active. That I really want to continue working for justice and equality for all. That I lose my focus with social media, so deleted Twitter and favor email (culling constantly).
2. What stands out for me? The passion of people in my state who have found their voice. The many people like Jen, who share their information and provide a framework for moving our desperation to action.
3. Changes: I’ve found that putting extraordinary pressure on myself to “convince” my very red MOC to convert to progressive politics is paralyzing. Also, that I need a very specific plan with time set aside to make calls, etc, or it just doesn’t get done. The podcast “how you can save the world: sustainable living and social activism” where Jen was interviewed was so very helpful in this sense. Your very clear, instructions (with no caps) helps tremendously. That running a farm by myself in Mexico while trying to be politically active in Arkansas is difficult, I feel isolated and I continually ask myself if I want to move back to my red state and become much more involved. I really would like to be in a group.
Thank you Jen and everyone who is participating.
I was very impressed with your statement from the heart. My response is that whatever we do must be done joyously. If we act with joy, a sense of fun, we automatically erase fear. We must invest in, not the outcome, but the process. Standing up for good is a way of life. Be what you want to see in the world.
Responding late to this reflection invitation (I took your advice to conserve energy during a busy week!), I find that so many others have shared my own thoughts and experiences so eloquently already – a huge thank you to you all, especially Jen. Your weekly e-mail is the most valuable support in a long-haul resistance (every week, “sparkle markers” makes me smile without fail!); second to that is the monthly Indivisible meeting I attend, and third, my now-year-long “hobby” of spending an hour each evening acting on the deluge of daily e-mails. I was lucky enough to become a citizen a couple of years ago, and never thought, when urged at the ceremony to become involved in my community and country, that it would be like this. I am honored, however, to be able to contribute my time and energy (plus a little cash), and to learn in an interactive way what democracy truly means. I’m thrilled that the checks and balances system appears to be working….
In response to a comment below, I’m actually heartened to see so many groups all working independently for the same cause – if one falls by the wayside, there are many more to keep going, and all those little mosquitoes in different rooms make a big noise (thanks to another writer below for the analogy!) I like to think that the phone-calls to representatives are down not because we are losing energy but because we are using it in other ways (plus, it’s now impossible to leave a voice-mail and many of us are at work when the lines are open). I’ve gone from rushing to every rally and march and joining every group to being more selective and more self-sustainable.
Sometimes I laugh out loud with glee in the car on the way to work, hearing good news on my local NPR station (starting with the striking down of trump’s first travel ban all those months ago and going on at regular intervals, with the hope of a huge Mueller sundae with a cherry on top to come). I find it very cathartic to enjoy regular doses of humor from SNL, Trevor Noah, Seth Myers, to name but a few. Your weekly “Good News” section, “Acts of Gratitude” and upbeat, empathetic writing keep me motivated and hopeful, and I thank you wholeheartedly for keeping our spirits up!
Jennifer – I am so grateful for you, all you have done and have inspired others to do. Your thoughtful ways are most appreciated, especially how you suggest that we reflect… rest, take care of ourselves. Such an important message now. You are such a gift to the world. Take good care of yourself, we need you! Blessings and love, Maureen
Hi, Jen. I just wanted to thank you for all you have done for us this year. I have been faithfully using your checklist just about every week since I discovered it last spring, and it really makes me feel better about the dismal political environment to know that I am at least doing some constructive things to resist the negative changes we hear about every day. And, your good news section helps me keep the faith also, so thank you for that as well. I know that some weeks I have less time to act than others, but I try to catch up in the good weeks and I really, really, value becoming more informed and having a chance to make a difference by learning who to contact and what to tell them through your checklist.
On a different note, I have always been environmentally active by calling and writing about various issues I hear about through Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, Audubon, and Earthjustice. But, being more involved through your checklist also motivated me to get involved with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a group which is trying to influence more Congressional representatives to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House. The purpose of the caucus is to come up with plans to address climate change which could be supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and it has 60 members so far. CCL is working very locally to convince mayors, city councils, donors, etc. to influence their representatives to join the caucus (grasstops), and I am in a group that is working on and hoping to meet with the mayor of Warrenville, IL to influence Randy Hultgren to join. CCL favors a carbon fee with dividend bill, and we hope that one or more versions (from both sides of the aisle) may be brought up by the caucus this fall. You may want to let your followers know that CCL is a concrete way they can work towards fighting climate change in a very local and concrete way. It has 450 chapters all over the world and you can check it out at https://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-ccl/chapters/
Anyway, THANK YOU AGAIN for the checklist and for sharing it again this week. I am excited to get going again!!
Thanks for this opportunity to reflect, Jenn:
1. I have learned about my own white privilege and how implicit bias in our institutions sustains inequities in our country. I have learned more about the Civil Rights Movement and have the deepest respect for the tenacity and courage shown by so many.
I have become a news reader and participant in democracy in ways that are entirely new to me. I really see now that democracy isn’t just voting in elections, but an ongoing process of being informed and active. I have chosen postcard-writing as my primary way of participating.
2. Well, I want to celebrate your activism list, which really streamlines being involved- I so appreciate all the hours you must spend for the benefit of all of us. I want to celebrate those rare politicians that have shown integrity : Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski. And of course the ongoing voices of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I want to celebrate all the small-not-in-the-news efforts of many to choose connection over division- perhaps invisible victories that in sum add up to a lot. Thank you for this community!
3. My email inbox had become a ‘fire hose’ of activism emails that felt truly overwhelming. I’ve done some drastic pruning to reduce memberships to those that I actually can read and support. I am seeing the wisdom of others that although “it all” feels indivisibly important, I can only be in this long term if I focus my energy in a smaller sphere- just what that will be is still evolving.
1. What have you learned this past year? – Turning my “nonprofit” from 4 people limping along with a desire to make change, into a full-fledged 501(c)3 fiscally sponsored nonprofit that is my full time job with a dozen highly engaged volunteer leaders who are actually MAKING change, I have learned that it’s ok to ask for help (including money) and that it’s ok to say no to other things (none of us can do everything). I’ve learned that out of bad – Trump’s treatment of transgender people and the fear it’s caused – can come good. People are turning their fear into ACTION, getting in their cars and on their phones and computers and pulling out their checkbooks and making things BETTER for trans people.
2. What do you want to celebrate from this year? – Nonbinary rights in CA, WA, OR, DC, NY, HI, MA… moving forward when people think that in these times we can only hold ground or move backwards. Liberal politicians who support LGBTQIA rights, and even those few Republicans who voted in favor of SB-179 in California.
3. What do you want to do differently going forward? – I need to get better at asking for money for my organization. There are people like me who can put their days and nights and time and expertise in to making change, but there are other people with 60+ hour a week paying jobs who want the opportunity to make change too but don’t have any time, and they can make change by sending money to my organization. Giving them that opportunity is a gift to them, not the scary phone call from me that I fear it is.
Jennifer–you are our hero! I work with a group of about 40 women in Massachusetts who attended the Women’s March in January. We get together every month and write postcards for an hour based on your list. Lots of us also try to use the action list to do work each week. We find getting together monthly helps keep us motivated and connected in this difficult time. Our monthly meeting includes a regular sharing of what we did in the past month that we think was useful or concerning, then we talk about any upcoming events that we might want to participate in and we write postcards based on your list. We are now planning to have a night in December where the many artists and crafts people in our group sell something we’ve created (along with baked goods) in a holiday sale with proceeds going to good causes. We’re also looking to start a book group so we can educate ourselves on issues. You have no idea how many of us love you and depend on this weekly to keep us going.
This past year has been a rollercoaster of emotions and activity for me in my community. I’ve learned that allowing the catastrophic behavior and messaging out of the White House is not good for me to react to. It isn’t profitable to run from one meeting to another on the many topics that are of extreme importance right now, like climate change, environment, homelessness, pay equality, human trafficking, etc. I have learned that there has to be a more responsible way to energize activism that makes more sense. We have to STOP and LISTEN to what is happening around us and plan better to find a long term sustainable answer. In the meantime, I’m finding more ways to show up for my community. I love doing documentary film, Meaningful Movies Tacoma, each month and it is gratifying to engage my community in a good discussion of issues that we are all concerned about. I see people choose to engage. That makes my heart sing.
the biggest thing I’ve learned this year is that the concept of democracy is not meant to be static. It grows as we grow and is meant to be tweaked, touched, felt, and nurtured. As democracy grows so will we and that means we all must participate in its healthy growth. I’d never seen democracy as an energetic form and realizing that has changed my perceptions greatly.
I have watched myself and people I know and don’t know figure out what we want and need and go get it. I’m extremely proud of how we’ve stood up to some pretty nasty forces and not backed down AND not acted in kind.
I need to set up a better support system for myself. This year has been draining on me, to say the least. I have taken time off, but I haven’t always disconnected as well as I should have. From this time forward it will be better!
First and foremost Jen, thank you for your greatly appreciated leadership and great work. You provide a very user friendly method to participate in the resistance to the Trump administration, as well as a great education and sharing of wisdom. By participating , I feel accomplished, fulfilled and effective in standing up for what I believe in and I have greater hope that we will succeed in turning the government around and back to more proggressive and democratic ideals.
This year I have called and written my MOC ‘s regularly, attended town halls, spoken at Town Halls, written to newspapers, magazines and journals to correct misleading, distorted or flat out innacurate news, marched in DC in the women’s march, in NYC at the march for Truth and in Westport, Ct in the march for democracy.
I read a lot of business journals , newspapers, magazines and watch news where I see a good amount of distortion, misrepresentation, and many right wing opinions expressed as fact. I write these sources to correc5 them. I am a corporate banker with 40 years experience and have had much formal training in economics and finance – Bank management training and undergraduate and graduate business degrees.
Many business articles and economics articles by right leaning writers/ news people present opinions as fact, the readers/viewers accept them as the experts and may not question the “facts”. This really troubles me , so I do what I can to counter this.
We can celebrate the numbers of people involved in the resistance to the Trump administration and the new interest in learning about our government and how to influence for our desired outcomes.
I follow your weekly action plans and I belong to an indivisible group and receive their material. I also receive Move on materials and Think Progress materials, but I find you guidelines to be the most user friendly and encompassing of all I want to do.
Thanks again for all you do!
Jen– I really like the good news section of your weekly action check-list. Since people do get weary and discouraged often, understandably, they need periodic lifts of news showing that their actions to resist and to restore democracy are having an impact. This is huge– good news is fuel to keep us going.
Thank you very much.
I want to thank you so much for putting these lists together. They are SO, SO HELPFUL. I get overwhelmed by the news, and don’t always know who to call, or what the bill number is, so to have a list breaking it down by subject, giving scripts and specifics, and even when legislators are voting is incredible. It is honestly priceless to have this, so thank you. What have I learned this year so far? Patience and persistence. What do I celebrate? PERSISTENCE. It has never been my strong suit – I tend to peter out. But I have made calls every week but one since this new administration started. I think going forward what I’d like to do differently is not to be so emotional about it – yes, it is awful, and there’s so much to fight, and it gets disheartening really easily. I tend to get depressed reading the news – so I’d love to approach it with a lighter heart, especially knowing there are so many others like me, fighting a little bit each week. Thanks to you, Jen, and also to all the others who keep on fighting!
I’ve learned so much about what being a thoughtful advocate for change looks like (and about behaviors and attitudes I need to avoid. I want to celebrate the community aspect of this checklist and the many ways it’s helped me stay connected and informed. I want to focus more on intersectionality and environmental issues moving forward
The biggest lesson I have learned this year is that I can’t be passive or apathetic, but have to be active and engaged in the democratic process.
That being said, I too have struggled with pacing myself so I can stay in it for the long haul. I have learned to give myself days off from the news, to be cautious of websites and organizations that focus on drama and fear mongering, and to allow myself to appreciate the progress that is being made. It’s not easy, but I don’t want to give up.
Thank you for providing a simple way to contact our representatives with scripts. A phone call is the best way to let them know what people are concerned about and your weekly list makes those important calls easier to make. Plus I feel like I am part of a bigger voice.
I’ve learned it’s way too easy to accept the “new normal”. The demands of everyday life, and the simple and understandable desire to enjoy the pleasures of life and not be bummed out all the time, lead us to accept the gradual degradation of our society and our freedoms.
On the other hand, I’ve been impressed with how well our judicial branch of the government has protected us against Trump’s worst abuses. I have a newfound respect for lawyers. I am grateful for Oregon’s excellent senators and my representative Earl Blumenauer. I am pleased with the results of Tuesday’s election and hope it bodes well for 2018. Trump’s “base” finally seems to be eroding–just a little bit.
Going forward, however, I think we will need to focus on more aggressive action. Too many people are scared of actions such as marches, civil disobedience, boycotts, etc. Alt right nuts with guns and troublemaking anarchists (plus the nebulous and I think largely fictitious Antifa) strike understandable fear in people. But we have to transcend that fear and get out there. Marches by dozens don’t do much. Marches by dozens of thousands do. While Mueller continues his valuable investigative work, we can’t wait for him to bring a bulletproof case before pushing for impeachment. Collusion with the Russians is far from Trump’s only crime. I also wish ardent Clinton supporters would admit the mistakes of the 2016 campaign so we can move forward with a united , humbler, more empathetic Democratic party that is no longer corrupted by corporate ties and is less dependent on identity politics and focuses more on a quality life for all.
I’ve learned to use my voice in a way I never thought possible. I’ve learned that people who come together can do amazing things. I’ve learned more about the kind of person I want to be and the kind of change I want to see happen in the world. Thank you for all you do. It’s incredibly important work. And if you know of any writer/meditation/yoga retreats in Oregon that you recommend, please let me know. I’m in need.
You might want to check out the offerings at Breitenbush Hot Springs. It’s one of my favorite places in the world… and there’s always a lot of yoga options! Yay for self care! 🙂
Thank you! I’ve heard of them, of course, but wanted to know more about them before I pulled the trigger. I could really use the peace right now, but not left to my own devices peace–because then I’ll just obsess. HA!