A challenge: Do this single radical, democratic act 95

You know the guy…

There’s a man in my life. His name isn’t important, but when I describe him, you’ll probably think of someone you know like him. He’s white. He’s conservative. He watches FOX News. And when he talks about politics, his face reddens and the blood vessels bulge on the side of his neck and forehead. He sucks all the air out of a room and isn’t interested in anyone else’s views. Anyone who disagrees is an idiot.

Depending on where you are in the political spectrum, your emotional reaction to a man like this falls somewhere between an eye roll and seething fury.

There’s another man in my life. You might know one like him too. He’s also white. He signs all the MoveOn petitions, rails about the corporate influence in politics, and “held his nose” to vote for Hillary. He’s not, he assured me, anti-woman. Just against that particular one. He isn’t curious about other views, he interrupts women when when they talk, and anyone who disagrees with him is, well, an idiot.

We are all afraid of something

Now. Before you judge me as anti-man, listen to what I know with all my heart: both of these people are afraid. Their gender isn’t the common denominator. They’re both afraid, and all they want is to be heard.

That’s what all of us want. We want our fears to be acknowledged and valued.

Behind our issues and opinions, we’re every last one of us afraid—of being invisible, uncounted, irrelevant, vulnerable.

  • Every single person who’s furious that Bernie got shafted.
  • Every single person who wanted a president who would shake things up.
  • Every single person who felt devastated that the first woman president was denied her rightful title.
  • Every person of color who saw all this coming from miles away.
  • Every single conservative baffled about what has happened to their party.

We are afraid. And we’re afraid that we don’t matter.

Fear is underneath all our political motivations

That fear is real. And it’s okay to be afraid.

  • Mr. conservative white guy sees the world changing, and that can feel scary.
  • Mr. progressive dude sees powerful women taking their rightful place, and that can feel scary.
  • Women and people of color and immigrants see a country that lacks basic justice veering toward extremes, which is undeniably scary.
  • Trump voters don’t think the system has their back, and that can feel scary.

The fear is real. We don’t feel safe.

And when safety seems in short supply, we think someone else has to lose in order for us to win. In our fear, we power grab. Red over blue. Blue over red. Men over women. Women over men. Let’s get all the power so we can lord it over those assholes once and for all. Because, by God, if the ship is sinking, I’m getting me and mine into the life raft, and all the rest of y’all can drown over there on the other side of the aisle. Or the urban/rural divide, or the poverty line, or whatever. We grab for safety because we’re too scared to see or seriously consider other options.

Win-lose is human nature—especially when we’re afraid. But this mindset is not democratic. In fact, it’s the opposite. No matter how much we dislike someone, seeing any person as disposable is unethical and flirts dangerously with tyranny.

(And, by the way, mistrusting your neighbor is exactly what Russia wants us to do. By hating each other, we help its agenda and play right into their hands.)

What’s broken

Safety doesn’t come from taking freedoms away from others—not in a democracy. It doesn’t come from lording my rights over yours. Nor from insulting you behind your back—or to your face.

Certainly it doesn’t come from yanking away the reins of control and doing what “my side” wants without your consent or participation. That’s what tyrants do, not democratically-elected representatives or their constituents.

What heals

In a broken relationship between two people, the only way toward healing is for one person to hold out the olive branch of reconciliation. In our beautiful, broken country, someone has to start. And anyone can do it.

You and I have the ability to help anyone who is afraid feel a little safer. We have the power to de-escalate the tension. 

If we are to bring democracy back online, the only way is through love.

Looking back at the last year, we have ample evidence that abuse of power, disrespect, resentment, and deliberately leaving people out is not working. We don’t need to continue this experiment. Choosing to love our neighbor is a more radical, democratic, and potentially transformational act.

A challenge to you

As we approach the anniversary of the fateful 2016 election, the time has come for us to turn toward each other and say: “You do matter. In our democracy, your voice matters. I care about your well-being, even when I disagree. By talking respectfully, I believe we can find a way to meet your needs and my needs at the same time. Are you willing to try?” This is the olive branch.

In the year ahead, I challenge you to have braver, less predictable conversations with fellow citizens. Instead of writing off your neighbor, call to mind how afraid they are. Take the risk of loving them instead of loathing them. Invite them to talk about solutions as you hang out together in the uncomfortable gray areas of respectful disagreement.

Because if your neighbor’s house were on fire, you would help. If their child died, you would grieve with them. If they lost everything, you’d find a way offer support. Because that’s what Americans do. We look out for each other. It’s time to stop waiting for catastrophes to reach out. Let’s be braver. Let’s start building rebellious bridges one at a time.

Let’s start with you and me

Dear reader, I want you to know…

Your voice matters. Your reasons for feeling afraid matter deeply. As a fellow American, I see you, I hear you, and I appreciate your voice—even if I don’t always agree. I still value and respect you, and I care about your well-being.

I believe that we can find a way to meet your needs and my needs at the same time. I want to share ideas, talk respectfully, and find common ground. Are you willing to try with me?

It might not be easy, but we’re worth it.

And then take it on the road

Imagine what might be possible if we shared this message with our neighbor. Scared, struggling people need to hear it. Like a pebble in a pond, the ripples could go far.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I believe in democracy. I believe in us.

Are you up for the challenge?

Let’s get free together.

95 thoughts on “A challenge: Do this single radical, democratic act

  • Kathleen Combs

    Many thanks for your email Jen. I needed it today. It’s so hard not to feel deflated and defeated.

    Change can be frightening. But can be an opportunity to advance as well.

    I’m keeping the faith that better days are coming. It’s so important to come from a place that embraces compassion, strength and understanding. Lots of work, but worth it.

  • Tricia Knoll

    I’m afraid the earth itself will revolt. I’m afraid of the void when the dreamers are sent south or flee north. I’m afraid of being without a voice when so many people suffer in new ways. I think the conversations might begin as you say with what are you most afraid of?

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Absolutely. Starting with one’s fears and–instead of arguing or negating them–offering compassion for what it’s like to feel that way. Doing this can be healing and build bridges.

      It is scary to consider the earth’s fate. And our treatment of immigrants. And feeling like you don’t have a voice to oppose suffering. These fears are very real and say so much about what you value and hold as important. Thank you so much for sharing them, Tricia.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Agreed. <3 "Listen and breathe" is so simple and succinct. We'll probably fail at both sometimes, but will succeed too if we try.

  • Laura Brauner

    You are right, fear is what controls us and moves us to action or inaction. Being right is not the goal. Being just, understanding, compassionate, and open is. How we can move forward and make changes that are important to us is the challenge; and I am working toward that end.

    Thank you for being willing to share your thoughts and experiences.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Thank you too, Laura. Reading your words brings encouragement and strength. Let’s keep working.

  • Barbara Jung

    Thank you Jennifer for your post. I know that it is the truth and I do try
    to live by that. However, I am not saying it is easy. I have friends and family
    posting for outrageous things that threaten my planet and my well being.
    There seems to be no respect for anyone not like themselves.
    I am working on this but it is not easy.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Choosing love and openness is definitely not easy. It is simple, but not always easy to do. Especially when we feel under personal attack, it sends us into flight, fight, or freeze mode. Our snake brain takes over, and we downshift into survival. If we take it one person at a time, it becomes a little simpler and less fraught. Person to person is where love and connection can be kindled… with respect and mutual consideration. Your efforts are worthy ones.

  • Anne Parlier

    This example of love and optimism is political activism at its best. Thank you for saying what I feel and how I try to operate in my life. It is difficult to love those with whom you disagree, but we must honor the humanity in all of us. We are all in this together.

  • jeanne powrie

    Yes i have met these people. They are in my family and they are deeply afraid. One of the things i do with people, even those i do not know is ask them to support something that is important and personal for me. Years ago, and i still do, i said ” I would appreciate it if you could support me. I would like you to allow me to marry another woman. Can you do that?” I got a couple of deep silences but more usually i got “oh my aunt lived with another woman for 38 years, i understand” When i got a reply that marriage is sacred, I agreed. What followed was a discussion about how the other person, if opposed, would feel if i deprived them of marriage and sharing social security in old age. On one occasssion i asked a man from whom i was going to buy hearing aides which cost $6000. When he stayed staunch in his refusal i politely handed him back the hearing aides and told him i would no longer suffer because of his refusal and i walked out. Just start with one small heartfelt area and stay with it. Most importantly know that if someone disagrees it has nothing to do with you. The subjects here are many. Worry with others about the impact of computers on our lives and the resulting ‘productivity’ that results in fewer jobs. Corporate farming. Lack of resource based jobs like fishing, timber and farming. Pick one. Empathize and ask “how is this making your life better?

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      I love reading about your own experiences with this journey, Jeanne. Thank you so much for sharing them. It is especially courageous to advocate for issues that are so personal, and to do it in a way that others can hear and empathize is admirable.

  • Sandra Jacobson

    Simply stated: such a well thought-out way of saying what so many of us are feeling. Thank you for speaking out without ranting and raving and offering solutions. Bravo.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      You’re so welcome, Sandra. Ranting and raving makes me tired and weary (and seems rather unproductive), so I’m learning to avoid it. 🙂

  • Sherry Schiebel

    I dearly love my country. But since Trump became a non-presidential president, I hate living in the world of hated and fear which he creates with every word and action.

    The GOP has never been the party of the people. It answers only to big business and most of money. But there used to be checks and balances. And now the Supreme Court has become the worst enemy this country has ever know.

    We have laws being enacted that discriminate against almost every segment of society. None of us is safe, now that Trumpe has created the voter suppression group to hunt down and destroy all who oppose him and his GOP yoyo men. We are being prevented from voting our for our choices and when we do, the Electoral College steal our voice. Trump was not elected by the voters, but by the electoral college. When we begged the Supreme Court to restore the peoples voice by making Citizens United illegal, they voted against the will and the needs of the people of this country.

    When are we going to get rid of this virus called the GOP, Big Money and Trump so we can live again in freedom.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      It’s really scary, isn’t it? I think about these things all the time, and it’s really and deeply scary to see such strategic and deliberate actions to silence people, to take away our rights, to concentrate power to only the few and rich.

      In response to your question, I would say that the virus isn’t one group or person, but in a mindset of some that devalues people and democracy. I’d be genuinely curious to know your thoughts about how to integrate the Americans who seek to take away our power. Since eradicating them is impossible, how do you think can we make them our allies?

  • Janet Warner

    The Indivisible group I belong to, Wheeler Peak Progressives, has started having the program part of some of meetings open to the community. Last Saturday we had a talk from someone from the League of Woman Voters. When our Senator visited we opened the event up to everyone. We want to be a group that brings all parties together to put the best legislation forward for the benefit of all. Baby steps for sure, but we feel we are a force for good.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      How great is that, Janet! I’d love to know more about the reception this is getting and how the conversations go! Do you see anything shifting or changing as a result of this inclusiveness?

  • Faye B. Morrison

    Thanks, Jennifer. Your thoughts and opinions are well thought out and valuable. I appreciate them–and can share them with my conservative houseguest!

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      You’re so welcome, Faye. I’d be really curious to know how that conversation goes!

  • Ann Fontaine

    Your message would be more meaningfull to me if you called the president by name. I think using Drumpf or 45 or whatever is a sign of fear. Like Harry Potter “he who shall not be named”– gives away your power. Use the person’s real name – take your power back. Also anyone who might be reading you and thinking “she has some good points” — will be totally turned off and stop listening.


    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      It was accidental and has been updated, Ann. I use an app that changes his name automatically (for personal reasons), but it was an oversight not to change it. My apologies.

  • Linda D Campbell

    Yes, fear is the common denominator…these are scary times for all. We need to take care of ourselves so that we are not afraid. Love is the only cure. Thanks for this great column!

  • Lisa Moore

    I will offer an olive branch at every opportunity. I too am afraid…this is a good place to start the conversation. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Gay Maise

    Thank you for saying what I feel so eloquently. Hopefully, we can start a dialog that can address our fears.

  • Scott Maxwell

    Wow, this was spot on Jennifer, thanks so much. I work in a field where I get to all to lots of folks about money and in those conversations the state of the nation features prominently. I try to help folks relax about it, laugh a bit and talk about what they are afraid of. It seems like I often get to remind them (us!) that we are a nation of good folks, that we have a robust system of checks and balances and that most people want pretty much the same thing in the end.

    It’s fun to roll our eyes and make jokes about whichever person fills the role of perceived adversary in our lives but it is important to remind ourselves that we are all in this together and in the end we’re all after the same things, security and opportunity for our families, good healthcare, enough to eat, a livable clean world, etc.Thanks for the great reminder and call to action!

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      So much more unites us than divides if we slow down (as you are) and take the time to really listen. Thanks for the comment!

  • James Alley

    Good stuff, Jenifer. It is what your postings have been all about. Reaching out, listening to others, and trying to see the real concerns behind what can seem like blanket or unreasonable statements, offer us perhaps the only real chance today for us Americans to reach beyond our differences and work together for our common good. .

  • E MacNabb

    Thank you for this wonderfully wise email! You’re right about the fear. I’m so glad to be on your email list. –E.

  • Edie Bush

    your message was well thought out and so vital in our scary world today. It made me realize that i can talk to those friends and family who have opposing views if i remain calm and have a one on one conversation and know that I likely will not be able to change any minds.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment, Edie! Those sounds like good ways to proceed. I especially like what you say about not changing minds. I think hearts are a lot easier to change. <3

  • Lyn Radosevich

    –so beautifully seen and said. This is truly our challenge- to come from a place of Love in a time of fear. Thank you, Lyn Radosevich

  • a kukulan

    Thank you Jennifer. After reading your piece here, I feel better able to articulate what’s happening in our country as people in fear, as I feel too. We’ve heard at our progressive church that love is the opposite of fear.

  • Florence

    Honestly, I’m not there yet. It is all I can do to be civil to the people who will knowingly harm me, the earth, and the defenseless.
    Every week I print out your action list and do my best to do as many postcards, emails, and phone calls as I can. That’s what I can do. I’m just not at a point where I want to engage in deep discussion.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      I hear you, Florence. It’s okay not to be there. It is taxing to be making calls, writing cards, and staying on top of every bit of breaking news. Especially when it seems like some would dismiss our needs and our very humanity, not wanting to give more than civility is a way of protecting yourself. Boundaries are really important. It’s okay to have limits.

      No buts. Please take good care of yourself and–this is important–take a good break from activism from time to time to replenish. Your well-being matters.

    • Puck

      I’m with you, Florence. Using my limited spoons to deal with compassion in the world as best I can is about the most I can do; reaching out to those who would harm me is beyond me right now. So often I feel despair more than anything else because it feels like the little we do is not enough, but if nothing else the community I am building is one of mutual support.

  • Maggie Mooha

    This makes complete sense to me and is in line with my Unitarian/Universalist values. It’s time to reach out.

  • Beverly Doyle

    What this blog said to me is that I perhaps need to change my attitude toward others who think differently than I do. I don’t need to assume that anyone who supports Trump must be ignorant, stupid, red-neck, bigoted, etc. or they wouldn’t support him. Maybe they see (or at least saw) him as someone who would shake up the Congress that has been so incapable of functioning for the past 8 (or more) years, and I agree that something needs to change in Congress. Legislators have had many “tools” taken away, including earmarks, with which they used to get things done . . . the “Bridge-to-Nowhere” in exchange for “who-knows-what,” for example. They can’t do that any more, at least not as easily. The gerrymandering of House districts in many states has brought people into Congress who represent relatively extreme points of view IMO, and since keeping their seats in Congress is more important than anything else, they refuse to compromise on much of anything. The people they represent, interestingly, seem to believe that no one has taken THEIR views or represented THEM in Congress for a long time, so compromise is not something they value. What they seem to have forgotten (or chosen to ignore, or never understood) is that their refusal to compromise, by threatening to “primary” their representatives who “give in” on anything they value, is actually making the ability of Congress to function virtually impossible.

    Being heard is always important. Getting your way – demanding that you get your way – is unhelpful and counter-productive. But perhaps they feel that they have had so little power for so long (50-60 years, I’m thinking), they are not willing to see that they are shooting themselves in the foot. And I believe that because neither major political party has actually paid any attention to the “average American” for at least 30 years, during which time the dream of passing on to your children a life better than your own has been dashed, those “average Americans” are rebelling against both parties. Unfortunately, they are listening to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Steve Bannon, rather than Bernie Sanders, the “socialist.” And while their family fortunes have been slowing going down the drain, they have started looking for who to blame, and have become like the fluffy little yellow chicks in my 9th grade science class that pecked the 3 fluffy little black chicks to death over the weekend . . . because they were different. So these angry, “average Americans” are taking out their anger on minorities of any kind . . . anyone who is different and therefore scary (LGBTQ), or who might compete for their puny-paying jobs (immigrants) or might threaten their faith in their God (Muslims), etc. I don’t have a whole lot of answers, but I believe they are headed in the wrong direction. Our immigration system DOES need a lot of fixing, but not the way Trump is doing it. I can agree with the problems they identify, but not with their proposed solutions. For me, “socialism” is not a 4-letter word, and “capitalism” taken to the nth degree is pure, evil greed.

    I still believe, however, that we must figure out a way to get “big money” out of control of politics – corporate money, billionaire money, PACs, unions, all need to be curbed so that they have less influence, far less than they have now. Until we overturn “Citizens United” and substitute new voting rights laws . . . and learn how to protect our voting systems from outside influence . . . I believe that our interesting experiment in democracy is doomed to a slow, perhaps, but inevitable failure. Others believe, of course, that we have been heading for that horrid world of socialism for far too long, which is failure in their eyes Can’t win either way . . . so we MUST compromise, find the middle ground that we all can “live with” even if it doesn’t excite us. Find basic agreement on what the problem is. Then find solutions that might actually be acceptable to the vast majority of us, even if they are not our first choice. Taking post-census redistricting out of the hands of the politicians might be a step in the right direction.

    Thanks for making me think a little harder than usual!

  • J Tapp

    Wonderful post, thanks Jen!
    Someone recently described the stress and pressure of period we’re in now as akin to the pressure in a birth canal, with the hopeful thought that what we are birthing is a paradigm shift for how we relate and reformulate our society. I think she maybe was just stoned, but it was a lovely image to hold on to.
    LOVE. That is certainly a force worth out effort. So I’ll hold onto that as well!

  • JA Humbert

    You are a real inspiration. Thank you. We must all be courageous in talking to folks with whom we disagree.

  • don dalen

    Thank you for your insightful message. I agree there is a lot of fear, real or imagined, being felt in America today. I also believe this is a desirable effect for many working in and around Washington today. Divide and conquer is an old tactic but one still used very successfully in the media as well. We are not given news at night, Americans are advertised to. Most people in this society have very little or very distorted views because that is what we are fed. A steady diet of the same old Associated Press approved, homogenized and very filtered advertisement. It’s all about money isn’t it. This makes us a nation that believes in the abstract, it says so right on the dollar, In God We Trust. It really should say in Money We Trust. As you may or may not know abstraction is a very left brain, or masculine trait. So I agree with you that men are afraid but so are women because it’s not really about men vs. women, it’s about money, the universal left-brain abstraction that has everyone running in circles.

  • Jeffrey Stratton

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of this entreaty, my fear is that it is a little too “Pollyanna-ish”. This may be cynicism, but the forces that divide us have a strong financial interest in doing so.I admit that I had a difficult time understanding this fear that conservatives felt. I by nature, don’t experience these fears especially this fear of the “other”. My natural curiosity draws me to them. I want to meet them, learn as much as I can about them. Their customs, their language, their religion, their hopes, their dreams. Born in a very diverse major city and living in it’s suburbs, thus has all o wed me to make many friends and increase my knowledge and understanding of the world and people in innumerable ways. My life is so much richer for these friendships and experiences that my fear is to contemplate my life without them!

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Jeffrey. Is optimism enough? If I am honest, it’s my own fear.

      Here’s what I dp know: people need a *will* to change before they can *make* a change. If we want to grow a movement that weakens the influence of money in politics (for example), there has to be a collective will to change it. We grow that by building bridges with others who share this concern through respectful conversation–a lost skill in the US. Once the will is there, the way is easy.

      Is listening and curiosity about others foundational essential for lasting, democratic solutions? I think it is–and it sounds like you do too. I’ll be writing a lot more about this in the coming months. I hope you’ll stick around for the discussion.

  • Faraway Friend

    This hits to my heart today and applies on more levels than you realise.
    Thank you.
    I may have to print this out and stick on my wall to re-read in the months and years to come-I feel the message will always be valid.
    Thanks for inspiring 🙂

  • Kit Plunkett

    Dear Jennifer,
    I think your commentary is right on the money. Fear is a powerful motivator and it seems as though fear-mongering has been on the rise for the past 5 administrations. However, it has occurred to me that we’re all missing a piece to explain this fear. This thought came to me last night after witnessing a random act of violence in a suburb of Boston: There is a tremendous amount of rage that accompanies this fear. And, I think this rage cuts across all degrees of wealth, color, social class and infects every area of our country.
    What we as a people need is a leader who appeals to our “better angels” in order to put this rage to rest.
    Best wishes,

  • Sandra Morris

    Thank you for this articulate and thoughtful message. I agree with you whole heartedly and pray we may actually see this come to pass in our confused and lonely country.

  • Joanna

    Thanks for such a beautiful reminder that we are all in this together, irrespective of political party or persuasion. At the end of the day, we need to value our fellow human beings and meet them where they are at, instead of where we wish they would be. We can meet them there, and find something in common. You inspire me to get back to the difficult conversations with the goal of spreading civility.

  • Tirtza Pearl

    Thank you or your thoughts. I agree and have always tried to listen to both sides. Please keep helping us know how to keep up the fight against the devisivness in our country. We must keep #45 in check.

  • Susan Gilchrist

    I recently attended a very moving discussion facilitated by an artist who has created a series of paintings in response to the events of this year. Her series is called “And”. At the end of the discussion, she thanked us for being vulnerable and asked us if we would be willing to share what next step we are committed to.

    A group of friends and I have purchased the rights to show a documentary called “Big Sonia” in our area. It is about a 90 year old Holocaust survivor who gives talks at prisons and schools about her experiences. Her belief is that we can change and that each person can have a major impact on our community. The parallels with our time are not spelled out but are there. What I believed is most important, though, is to tell stories about heroes and celebrate each effort, no matter how humble,to make the world a better place.

    This is my commitment for the next six months.

  • Alice Young

    Thank you, Jen, for having the courage to share these insightful comments. I have learned so much from you this year.

    I have doodled and mailed 100+ cards. I mailed letters to every member of the Electoral College. I faxed, mailed, and called my Members of Congress and Governor.

    At some point, I acted on a whim and posted my doodled cards on Facebook. I received a few positive comments. A relative called my husband to complain about my political views, telling him to get his little woman in line.

    Thankfully, he laughed and hung up.

    I was stunned when former classmates told me at our reunion that they read everything I post. But they didn’t feel comfortable “liking” because they were afraid of coworkers. Family members. Wow.

    They asked me to not stop. Thanked me.

    So what I’ve learned, Jen, from you, is that I have s voice I never knew I had. And I can be strong when others can’t.

    I’m now trying to post on FB about uplifted, healing issues.

    I ruffled some feathers of MoC and I’m glad.

    Now I need to encourage others to take care of themselves so that they can continue to help others.

    Take care of yourself, Jen. You are amazing. Thank you.

  • Karen Lozow

    As one activist – I get tired and I am afraid it doesn’t matter enough .Then I realize that I reach more people than I would be able to treat in a week , and I am heartened .Who knows what they will chose to do in response to my efforts ? I see lots of people becoming stronger for good ,and more activists too . I see all kinds of people running for office ,demanding equality for all and also access to our democracy too .I am encouraged .

  • Helen Follis

    Thank you, Jen. This is the only way. I have so appreciated your wisdom and guidance through the heartache of this year. I look forward to fighting on. And I’m 67 years old!
    When I was teaching, I worked hard to help my students show kindness to others. The need is just as great for grownups and for myself.
    Thank you for everything and for taking a break. It helped.

  • Jo Chambers

    Dear Jen,
    You’ve been my inspiration since the election. I’ve appreciated your openness with sharing your struggles and health issues. Your journey teaches and reminds me that our resistance is from our hearts and souls. Our sadness, rage, repulsion, disbelief, hope, and grief transforms us into activists performing brave and persistent duties that we never dreamed of doing. Because of you, Jen, today I finished calling every Democrat in the House and encouarged them to support Congressman Al Green’s articles of impeachment. (When I asked his staff what to do last week to help, they said to call all House Democrats). When I hear calls are decreasing, I amp up and call more. Activism decreases my anxiety. Thank you Jen!

  • Helen Heckwolf

    Thank you so much for lifting up my spirit, I won’t be afraid. Yes, I’m a dreamer too!

  • Rebecca Wecks

    This is beautiful! This is sustainable. Even forgetting politics, this is how I want to live my life. Thank you!!

  • Kay Strickland

    I have been giving attention to this very subject. Between this blog post and the suggestions in your email this week, I think I can summon the energy for a deep dive into how I best move forward with passion and compassion. Thank you so much for your work.
    PS. Sharing this link with my facebook buddies.

  • Jane Harper

    Thank you for offering a path to move forward and heal. Love always prevails…I choose love.

  • Carla Pyle

    Thank you, Jen, for all you have done in this past year – the hope and the inspiration I have taken from your weekly emails, as well as the suggested actions that have motivated me to pull myself out of feelings of hopeless, helpless and, yes, fear. This invitation is timely. Love and empathy are emotions that every human being should be able to feel. I have to be honest that I have avoided conversations with those I cannot find agreement with, but now having you shine a light into those dark places, I see that this avoidance is a manifestation of my own fear. Reflecting on this, I see that asking the right questions could lead to a deeper understanding, and hopefully, mutual respect.

  • Patty G.

    Please get a copy of ON TYRANNY (Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century) by Timothy Snyder; my friend sent it to me and it is pretty scary how many times we have read/referred/referenced this small gem over this year. When the talking is too loud, the news is too much, and the mind needs a quiet sensible place, grab this book and read! For those who don’t know history, we are bound to repeat it; this book connects past and present – learn from written experience . . . .

  • Yael Petretti

    Dear Jen,

    I could not agree more. The challenge you describe is precisely the practice of Compassionate Listening! Please see http://www.compassionatelistening.org. We are about two dozen facilitators who work with all kinds of folks to help them listen to one another, especially when it’s hard. To humanize the “other.” I have been trying to find groups (large and small) of people who are willing to give another person the chance to speak about his/her own fears and experiences in the conflict. Not to argue about who’s right and who’s wrong – that never works. Only making your “opponent” feel safe enough with you to speak about them. This requires a day or two of training to get the “tools” of Compassionate Listening and a lifetime to practice it. There just isn’t any other way!

  • Marsha J Williams

    Jennifer – far and away the responses to both of your invitations to comment this week have been from women. At the very least that tells me we need to reach out more to men. Maybe it means the progressive movement cannot be successful until men are involved equally with women. In my own case I can do that with my millenial sons but not very well with my baby-boomer husband. He & I are very estranged politically. His fear of losing his gun rights over-rides everything else when we get to the bottom line.

  • Ellen

    When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like like oppression. Privileged people must also learn to listen.

  • Delphi

    With all due respect, no. You are comparing fear based on racism and sexism to the kind of fear that I have experienced as a female watching the first woman candidate burned at the stake and people on the right AND left stepping over her body to line up with more wood. The kind of fear that comes from realizing that the left does not actually have women’s backs as a blatant opportunist launches immediately into Brand Building mode the day after the election (oh no wait sorry, Our Revolution dropped November 1st), barely acknowledging one of the greatest American travesties that has occurred in this country since Nixon, and possibly greater. I have been gaslighted, mocked, raged at, and dismissed as a Hillary voter by the Right, but nothing has hurt as much as seeing the sexism and arrogance from supposed allies. The Right and the Left have been deeply invested in burying the Russia story b/c it interferes with their blatant hate and blame of Hillary. Every olive branch I have ever held out has been scorched out of my hand. This idea of holding a space for people is noble, but ultimately, it is “emotional work” that is expected of women and rarely returned. Offering an olive branch to abusers, to put it bluntly, results in further abuse. In fact, the most “loving” action may be rock-solid boundaries. These male behaviors, from both the men you describes, are intensely toxic, a kind of violence that cuts deep. I have learned to keep my head down, bolster my true allies, and fight harder. But forgiveness will be a long time coming, especially when I suspect it will never be asked for. Hey, how about that indictment news, btw? Now let’s get back to bashing Hillary for not disarming Trump’s racism with single-payer. It takes time to heal. If you hear bitterness in my voice and spirit, it’s hard earned. You and Van Jones can go on with the Love Army and more power to you. People also learn through consequences. And for a lot of assholes, that’s in fact the only way they learn. I’m going to stick to my style of love for a while.

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      I hear your anger and pain, and want you to know I respect you and your opinion. I couldn’t agree more with you that rock-solid boundaries and compassionate allies are essential, and abuse of any kind deserves nothing in return. Especially when in pain, the best thing one can do is to make caring for oneself the greatest priority. I commend you for doing just that. Peace.

      • Delphi

        Thanks Jenn. I respect your ability to reach out when you can. Different strokes 🙂 Thank you for all the work that you do, your weekly updates is included in my local action update every week in my town for people who want to act nationally as well. It is much appreciated.

  • C.M.

    I don’t know why it’s surprised me but it has- my biggest problem is the apathy among the people I know. I can’t stand it. I can understand the craziest of the crackpots before I can tolerate people who just don’t give a shit and think only about themselves. This category includes the majority of women that I work with in education. To be fair, most teachers know better than to put their views one way or another out there for students, but I don’t even see people upholding democracy (voting) as something worth fighting for. The election put the brakes on most of my semi friendships and has reduced most of the conversation to vague pleasantries at work.

  • Kim Luxhoj

    I couldn’t agree more. “Love Trumps Hate”… wasn’t that Hillary’s call to arms? I sometimes feel deflated, especially when I talk with my Republican friends. However, several of them are adjusting their thinking, especially since tax ‘reform’ would take away the SALT deduction. As NJ residents, they now feel they need ‘to do something.’ I refer them to your site and 5 Calls if they want to engage.

    I have other Republican friends who are die-hard Trump supporters. To them, I’ve simply said I won’t let our differences divide us as that’s what the Russians and other adversaries want. So, we’ve made an unspoken agreemment not to discuss politics. It isn’t work losing a friend over policies, I believe, will eventually sort themselves out.

    As for me… I’ve joined our local Democratic Club and have become a viable member, canvassing, and making phone calls to get Dems out to vote. I also follow you and 5 Calls closely; think think several staff members for my representatives know my voice when I call.

    So thank you for enlightening me and encouraging me to get involved. Please keep up the good work. We all need you.

    Kim Luxhoj

  • Bucky

    Thank you for your well stated goal this year: for each of us to step into conversations with those who have different perspectives than we do, [family members included]. when realizing their fear and my fear which often is not personal. I realize I am going to practice what I have done with other difficult conversations. I find myself taking a gulp/deep breath and practice a sentence/a question, walking with energy around the house and repeating the questions that can roll off my tongue, which will give me courage and allow me to be more empathetic and conversational. Yay for your inspiration!

  • Linda Hughes

    Yes, I’m up for the challenge! Thank you for the months of help & inspiration. I live in Northern New Mexico in a community that is predominately trump land. After he took office my sister & I got on an airplane and flew to Washington, DC to participate in the Women’s March On Washington. It was a game changer for me a political neophyte & arm-chair activist.

    At 60-years old, I returned to my small community of 1,200 and formed a grassroots advocacy group. Our first meeting held on January 28 at a friend’s home had a turnout of 30 people! We all looked at each other and said things like: “You? You’re a liberal?” “You? You voted for Hillary?””You? Because you were military, I thought you voted for him!” We came out of the closet at that first meeting. We discovered kindred spirits! We found out we weren’t alone anymore!

    Well our group the Wheeler Peak Progressives (WPP) has grown to 131 members and we are a chapter of Indivisible!! We meet monthly with an action-oriented business meeting & program. Last month we had a speaker from the League of Women Voters; next month we’re having a panel discussion with four area pastors entitled “Politics & the Pulpit.” We also meet each month for a casual, let our hair down Breakfast Social , as well as monthly Wine Socials. The WPP manages a secret Facebook page & online calendar of events. Additionally, we have a Weekly Action Email using material from YOU, the ACLU, 5-Calls, No Labels, and dozens of advocacy groups! We have visited our Members of Congress at our state capitol and we even held a Meet & Greet with our U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich attracting 100 people!!

    I have learned more about our government, politics and beyond than I ever would have expected. You should hear the conversations my husband I have each morning & over an evening cocktail!

    Our core group of volunteers are working their asses off! But our meeting numbers have declined to 20-25 and I suspect calls or letters to our Members of Congress have declined as well. I am exhausted. I (and we) cannot sustain this. I’m crying as I write this as I feel I am letting our followers down.

    I was heartened by your recent Americans of Conscience piece and see me in you and in your hard work. I, too, am looking for another way to continue to make a difference.

    Please don’t write back as I know you are swamped. But just know I am forever grateful for all you’ve done.

  • Diana Scheel

    Jen…beautiful and eloquent. Thank you
    I have no problem with what you said in this piece. I have a problem getting engaged. I am retired and live in urban Portland. I don’t know how to engage with people I assume do not agree with me. I am involved in a local church but not in this way. I take minutes for a committee and we all have similar values. Our neighborhood earthquake preparedness group, again, all feel about the same way in terms of values, etc. Except for one women who voted for Trump and I already routinely engage her as a fellow neighbor and citizen. Rallies are not where these conversations can happen with any hope of a positive outcome.
    I can give what I can in terms of donations, but that is not what you are asking.
    Any suggestions??

    • Diana Scheel

      Dear Jen,
      I know you are super busy but I was hoping for a response from you re: my question in this posting.
      Diana Scheel

  • Sallie C Welte


    I have long wanted to send you an “act of gratitude ” note but didn’t know where to send it.Please accept this electronic “THANK YOU” for your thoughtful guidance this year.. We all knew we were in for a long haul but didn’t fully understand how difficult living through it would be. You and FCNL have been my guides.
    With love,

  • Lance Barker

    Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your writing, your mind, your conscience. This piece really challenged me and made me think. As a member of the resistance, I find myself being disgusted and angry — much more than I want to be.

    I aspire to this.

    Thank you.

  • Judy

    I understand this fear. And the anger. I lived in Northeast Tennessee from 2005 to 2015.

    I felt an undercurrent of anger in the community. People moving there did not mix with people born there; two different cultures. It was like there were three waves of Northerners moving there and telling the locals feeling they were told their culture was “wrong.”

    The first was the Civil War, the second wave was Vivil rights for blacks, and the third is “why don’t you gave the basic stuff I had up north.”

    I remember one woman posting on Facebook that she didn’t like NASCAR, and a local said “Don’t you like my culture?” She replied, “ I just don’t like car racing.”

    I couldn’t belive the fierce anger that appeared when East Tennessee State University changed the public radio format so that the bluegrass type music programming was gone in the afternoon (it was moved to online or HD radio). They made news programming all day.

    The anger was surprising and nasty. That anger manifested itself in the last presidential election.

    So I understand trying to calm people down. But I remember EVERY place (including doctors offices) having Fox News on. And all it did was anger people more.

    I see angry posts that seem grared to bait me into an argument. If I say, “I disagree with you, but I will fight for you to speak your opinion,” that seems to end it.

    I appreciate your posts so very much. I have never been politically active before. I have found my voice from it, though. I have gotten active locally by getting on our local Neighborhood Council Executive Board to give my voice to this very Conservative area (I now live near the Reagan library).

    Thank you a thousand times for your posts

  • Ileen O'Leary

    Thank you for starting this dialogue, and for the energy you put into this effort of educating and organizing information on points of resistance. I have noticed I am less inclined to call or email because it feels as if does little good.
    And I agree that we do need to listen to opposing views and have tried to do with friends who are Trump supporters. In most cases they believe the fake news and find many excuses for Trump’s behavior. They seem unwilling to listen, and discount anything that they disagree with.
    I promise to keep trying, and hope you will continue to share your perspective. Ileen

  • Faye B. Morrison

    I certainly understand and empathize with what Diana Scheel is saying. It’s about where I find myself.

  • Mary Stearns

    This is an excellent message today. One year after this election causes me anguish for our democracy.

Comments are closed.