Helping others: Becoming more politically active

I was brought up knowing that I had God given gifts that a lot of people don’t have.  Because of those gifts, it is my responsibility to use them to Make the World a Better Place.  My parents are very politically active.  My sister has been progressively increasing her activity.  (Note:  her local planned parenthood and women’s shelters were both full up on volunteers when she called– a lot of people are feeling that call to activism.  There were still spots for driving women to get abortions, so she will be doing that.)

DH and I both have jobs that ultimately help other people.  My research is policy-driven.

But I’ve been falling down on the political sphere.  Much of this is because I hate politics.  Even the best politicians cannot do things that are politically infeasible even while economically the best option.  Some of this is fear– when I was younger I was brave but I’ve been beaten down too many times for speaking my piece.  Intolerant bullies are especially scary these days and those we should be able to trust to protect us often ignore threats against women and minorities until the threat has materialized into actual hurt.  Even speaking out anonymously carries the possibility of real danger.  A lot of this is just laziness.  I’m good at being dragged places, but not so good at going on my own.

I don’t know yet what to do.  I mean, I’ve done some things already– donated money to various groups, written my senators about the possibility of introducing legislation to limit executive action, written Paul Ryan to praise him for taking stands against racism and xenophobia and to ask him to keep it up.  But I don’t know what is best to do or what to do long-term.

Ideally I would pick one organization and get heavily involved in it such that I was making a strong difference there.  My state’s disorganized democratic party would be a really good place to start.  But… I have a job and I have a family.  That’s not going to happen.  My mom was on school board for many years and it kept her from doing research.

So I’m going to start small.

Every weekend until Trump is out of office DH and I are going to do *something* politically active.  We may donate to a charity (easy).  We may write or call a politician (somewhat harder).  We may join protest rallies (even harder).  We may do something more substantial if we can figure out what to do (campus democrats were extremely active 4 years ago, but they haven’t even updated their webpage in a year… maybe they need a new faculty sponsor?).  There’s a lot of good out there that can be done, and it’s our responsibility to find it and start doing some of it.  Even if we’re starting small.

Action item for today (fighting hate):  Call your state senators/congressperson and ask where they stand on the Bannon appointment.  Tell them he is unacceptable.  Bannon is an “alt-right” racist, misogynist, anti-semite from who Trump intends to appoint as chief strategist.  White nationalists are delighted.

How are you engaging politically?

25 Responses to “Helping others: Becoming more politically active”

  1. chacha1 Says:

    I’m not, yet. We were just getting to a place where we felt closer to financial security than we ever have, but my job situation has been tenuous for months. Until I know I’ll be employed next year I am not even making the donations I want to make. I want to join ACLU, NRDC, and AARP because of their power as lobbyists/influencers. I want to send chunks of money to Nature Conservancy and to Audubon. I want to subscribe to the SF Chronicle. Holding off on these and many other things because the emergency fund is for our personal emergencies, not for national emergencies. (oxygen mask theory)

    I am even going to suggest we have a New Years Day gathering at home rather than attend one of the two options for a dinner dance. A NYE dance is our thing – our first real date, 19 years ago – but I have a hard time getting excited about spending that money right now.

    My rep is Ted Lieu, who is a good guy, and my senators are cool. Our blue state government has already basically issued a statement saying “we will hold the line” and I am just so effing glad I live here. My sisters (bio sis and her wife) live in, gods help them, North Carolina.

  2. Rented life Says:

    Because of the election results my job went from secure to rocky. Because of my seniority status or lack thereof, I’m just saving every penny. I know other people will get whatever work is released first. I’m overworked, trying to prove useful to everyone on every team to help my odds. I can’t focus on donating time to anything.

    Because of the two companies I work for, I have to be mindful of protesting or anything that looks like lobbying. So I’ve been going personal–lending support to people impacted more than me (white, hetero, cis gender female), and really pushing on other white, hetero, cis gender people to think about privilege, to talk about meaningful allyship, and so on. I’ve angered some who think that if they voted for Hillary and wear a safety pin (which I was told is supposed to mean whatever she feels like it means). I’ve made others so down and think. I’ve asked the white men in my life to have convos with other men because it won’t be as easily dismissed. I’ve been encouraging everyone to do the work instead of asking marginalized groups what they should do. Some hard conversations are happening. For now that’s something.

    We are also donating a lot of our money earmarked for holidays. I’m making some gifts instead.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m thinking about asking for donations in lieu of presents this year (#2 already does this). I don’t know if DH’s family will bite though.

      • Rented life Says:

        My brother and I ask to do that every year. My parents won’t. But they complain about spending money on gifts. We don’t need gifts. The kid doesn’t need gifts. The items I ask for from hubby for Xmas amount to $20 total and it’s largely because I suck at remembering to order things online. The gift Is more a “please order because I forget” than anything else! (I can only find the pottery tools I want online.)

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        I’m only asking for donations as my wish list this year. They can’t very well tell me that I don’t want that, can they? (They might try.)

      • Rosa Says:

        what has happened in the past is that when I ask that, they do donations to the religious “equivalent” of what I asked for, which range from neutral to infuriating. But I’ve complained about the Christmas gift situation in the extended family at length, most people’s families are better about it I think.

  3. bethh Says:

    I called Paul Ryan’s office and left a voicemail about Bannon yesterday (and omg his vm options were a bit mind-bending/slanted – press 1 to hear about his stance on the 2nd amendment, press 2 to hear his stance on Obamacare, etc.). I also called McConnell’s office in Kentucky (or wherever his state is.. ) since his DC number wasn’t accepting messages. I got through to a human but since I’m not from his state I’m not sure he gives the tiniest bleep about my opinion.

    I also live in a blessed blue state (PNW) and we only have one republican representative, but I’ll call his office today.

    I’ve signed some online petitions though I doubt they do much good. I shared on my facebook page a script and a way to find phone numbers to contact senators & representatives about Bannon.

    I’ve been bad about sharing my wealth – I privately contribute to one cause, but haven’t done regular donations. I’m signing up for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and .. is there a good organization around election reform? We have vote by mail and it’s so wonderful. I think I also want to do something for the environment, and our local public radio station. I’ve subscribed to the NYT for a couple of years, and wonder if I should read the Washington Post for some balance? Not sure I can tolerate much more news consumption though.

    Marching isn’t really my thing, but I’m connecting with some local women who want to support each other in finding ways to be active. I feel like these are tiny tiny actions but maybe they’ll help. I’m a long way from feeling hopeful though.

    I’m also going to send HRC a thank you note.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      These are all great.

      Btw, since I wrote this post, I contacted Paul Ryan again to take back my thanks about not supporting racism since he seems to have decided to support it. I’m very disappointed in him.

      I don’t know if there’s a good central site around election reform. That’s a really good question. Not knowing the answers to these questions really shows me how inactive and inattentive I’ve been politically. It’s a true luxury to be able to trust one’s elected officials.

    • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

      I consulted a friend who is knowledgeable in these things and she confirmed that The Brennan Center for Justice is good for long term election reforms, and that more direct venues are the ACLU/Common Cause/Leage of Women Voters

  4. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I know people are still supposed to be calling about Steve Bannon today, but I did another round of leaving messages at my representatives’ regional offices about the proposed Muslim registry. OMG, it’s just like the campaign where they overwhelm us with things to complain about that they’re going to horrific things through no matter what. But starting with protecting inalienable rights is a high priority.

  5. Mel Says:

    Thank you for this. I think some people are immobile because they don’t even know where to begin. And you’ve given them concrete steps to take.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My sister has talked with her friend who works in the democratic office for her (large) city to ask them to start sending out a weekly newsletter with prioritized action items. He told her they were already working on it. Hopefully they’ll get something out soon. They’ve got some local runoffs to campaign for!

      If all cities could do that, if the DNC would coordinate with these state and city offices, if that could get pushed down to campus offices and local offices, then maybe some of this energy could get harnessed to make a change.

      But I’m not a politician or an organizer, so I’m not sure what’s already being done or what the difficulties are, but I do know that I have a lot of energy right now and I’m not sure what to do next.

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I’m working on earning extra money to donate to places that will help protect our rights. Our budget’s tight and I don’t know how badly our jobs could be affected (anywhere from not too much to A LOT) so this is how I make sure we can both contribute AND keep our oxygen masks on. Since my energy’s not good and my health is worse, sitting and doing is more possible and more effective than my getting up and out and doing, so I’m doing the best I can with what I have.

    Letters and calls, I can do. Supplying and organizing I can do. Protesting I cannot. And I’m very mindful that I need to not overdo it because that’ll take me out completely and again, we’re in this for the long run so I must be wise with my limited resources.

  7. Cloud Says:

    I did my first round of calls. I wrote a letter to Mike Pence, which is probably useless, but I figure we have to try. I’ll keep writing and calling, but now that I’ve expressed my immediate concerns, I’m going to allow myself a little time to process my own emotions. I need to be in a better place than I am if I’m going to keep acting usefully. I think our next big test is going to be cabinet appointments. I’m thinking about what I can do to support the effort to make sure they are qualified, reasonable people with some measure of independence, and not just Trump toadies. I don’t expect Democrats, of course. But I do expect better than what I’ve heard floated as possibilities so far. I am encouraged that Lindsey Graham and John McCain are pushing back already. I hope some more Republican senators will join them. If they don’t, we’re in bad shape.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      Right now I’m willing to settle for competent for most positions… which is pretty bad. But my first couple fears deal with national security, so…

      • Cloud Says:

        I want competent and some evidence of an internal moral compass that points to something other than just amassing more power.

        Apparently, Mitt Romney is being considered. People are wondering what he should be secretary of, and my honest answer is “anything he’ll take.” Although I do not agree with his politics, he has a lot of integrity, and that’s what we need.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        My second criterion is an internal moral compass… though I guess along with the first I also want them to not say, create a terrorist attack in order to clear martial law. So I guess some moral compass is required too.

        YES to Mitt Romney. Heck, I’d even be ok with Rick Perry for something not that important. Of course, I’d rather have Sarah Palin as president … not something I ever thought I’d say.

        If Trump were thinking, he’d put Hillary Clinton in as an advisor and let her take care of everything. Screw the Republican establishment.

  8. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    From Cloud’s twitter feed:

    202 225 5074 to call the house oversight committee to request a bipartisan review of Trump’s financials and apparent conflicts of interest. Their VM is full, but it sounds like people actually answer the phones during the day, so call during the day on Friday. Monday may be too late.

    • Cloud Says:

      I was just coming to post about this! I’ll be calling first thing tomorrow morning.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I left a message on Chaffetz’s UT office machine because I’m teaching/in meetings all day tomorrow.

        I’m definitely learning more about what government can and cannot do politically. (Of course, I already knew more than Trump did…)

  9. Rosa Says:

    some people I know made this, it seems really helpful – to nudge everyone to do a little more, and to take some of the cognitive load off those of us who can be paralyzed by not knowing what to do/what to do first. And it’s very pretty.

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