I need an Activism Pep-Talk

It is really hard staying active for longer than two years.  Especially after working overtime and way out of (my) one’s comfort zone prior to an election.  Last year from January to the end of December I gave myself a rule that I would do one political action every day and if I didn’t make a phone call or write a letter or campaign or register people to vote or protest, I would donate $25 to a political cause.  This past semester I was overloaded with service and behind on research and teaching a prep I hadn’t taught in a decade and I gave myself a break.  I was tired and everything was so overwhelming.  I didn’t stop completely– I probably averaged one action a week, give or take.  But it’s been hard.

I’m not the only one, I know.  My regular twitter feeds have toned down the encouragement to protest (wandsci a notable exception!). Our local indivisible group has dissolved. My activism page is out of date.

My favorite actions newsletter stopped sometime last winter.  I haven’t found one that I like as much.  I could just go to 5calls everyday but it’s challenging to remember to do that and to get up the energy to do it.

There’s just fewer nudges in my life and less stuff making it easy to just do something.  It’s hard to get up the willpower to get over the bigger hurdles.

But it is important that we not give up.  This is a pivotal time in history.  We are in a constitutional crisis with the executive branch denying the congressional branch its powers and the senate refusing to step up to try to enforce them.  Record numbers of truly evil people who do not believe in the personhood of women or minorities are getting confirmed as judges, meaning that we will not be able to trust our judicial system to save us.  Voting rights are being stripped.  Children are dying.  States are positioning themselves to overturn Roe vs. Wade with some of the most restrictive anti-woman legislation in half a century.  We Cannot Give Up.  We Must Fight.

We need to put pressure on our elected officials at all levels.   Locally.  At the state level.  At the federal level.  We cannot let things stand.

Whenever we get complacent, they take more of our rights away.  They try more things.  When we fight back, they ease off.

So, summer is starting.  It’s time to devote some time to activism again.  This summer, starting today, I am going to try to go back to doing something every weekday, whether it be a call to my state legislators or my members of congress or writing postcards to voters or donating to Raices Texas where they’re working diligently to keep families from separation or swingleft or indivisible to take the senate and the presidency in the next election or organizations that help keep people being allowed to vote like fair fight in Georgia where a stolen election emboldened the Republican party to criminalize a woman’s right to her own body.  I don’t think a person needs to do something every day, but I find it easier to do a little bit every day rather than doing a bunch all at once.  My DH would do his actions early in the week to get them over with, back when we were getting a weekly newsletter.

I need help.  I need to feel like I’m not alone.

Help me.

What can we do?  What do you do?  What works for you?  How can we move forward and fight?  Is anyone else trying to be politically active this summer? 

31 Responses to “I need an Activism Pep-Talk”

  1. Matthew D Healy Says:

    My History Professor father died recently, age 92. Many times in recent years he said the last time the US was this deeply divided was the 1860s, and you know what happened then. In his memory let’s continue working to educate our fellow citizens. I have never cared more about a Presidential election than I do about 2020. The political left isn’t ALWAYS right: NIMBY restrictions on building housing in rich cities and the opposition to certain technology (such as nukes and GMOs) are foolish. But leftist idiocy pales in comparison to GOP science denial.

    Ceterum censeo Donaldum esse delendam

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Here’s a good one from an indivisible letter this morning:
    Demand that Barr be held in contempt of Congress

    (Credit to Celeste Pewter https://twitter.com/Celeste_pewter for this action)

    A quick recap of the constitutional crisis: House Judiciary voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt. As retaliation for Judiciary’s vote the DOJ urged Trump to assert executive privilege over the Mueller report/related documents—which he did.

    Call your rep https://www.house.gov/representatives and insist that they vote Yes when the contempt resolutions comes to a floor vote. You can say:

    Barr should be held in contempt if he fails to meet the deadline set by Chairman Schiff and House Intelligence for turning over an unredacted version of the Mueller Report and related documents to Congress.
    For all WH staff and cabinet members to be held in contempt and subject to measures like inherent contempt if they ignore subpoenas, and
    I also want [elected] to know, I want [electeds] to continue to discuss Barr resigning and/or being impeached. He’s proven repeatedly that his interests are serving Trump, and not the DOJ or the American people. Enough is enough.

  3. jjiraffe Says:

    Activism is critical especially now, I totally agree. I’ve had disturbing conversations with several friends recently, many of whom have fallen into despair and/or say they are watching MSNBC in all their free time, feeling paralyzed.

    I also feel like in recent conversations online (in op-eds like this one: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/04/opinion/sunday/men-parenting.html) women are losing sight of the bigger issues by focusing on things like how couples split household chores and the division of labor. Household labor is part of a bigger societal issue and is partly due to things like lack of a proper maternity leave and subsidized childcare in the US– isn’t that what we should be fighting for??

    Maybe these things aren’t achievable in our deeply patriarchal society because of evangelical religion’s influence and such, but does that mean we shouldn’t try?

    Please keep spreading the word. I for one use your prompts often to take action.

  4. bogart Says:

    Me too. Thank you for this post. I have just set 5 calls as one of the pages that opens automatically in my browser, to remind myself to do this (more) regularly.

    Possibly counter-intuitive, but I have unsubscribed to a bunch of emails (many of which I never, ahem, subscribed to in the first place) calling for activism, and no longer read your weekend link posts regularly, because I find I need to focus my energy, and outrage, and that too many requests/reminders are counterproductive to that effort.

    I also remind myself of small changes I made following the 2016 election that persist today, like putting a big chunk of what of my Roth is in cash (and equivalents) into a local immigrant-population-serving CU, and buying all my gasoline at an immigrant-owned local business. Not, obviously, that these are big things, but that even when I feel like I am doing and have done nothing and might as well just crawl into a hole … I am actually following through on modest changes in habits that, hopefully, have modest positive impacts.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      What a great idea to have 5calls open.

      Focusing is good! It is easy to get overwhelmed and just not do anything. That’s why I liked that newsletter I used to get so much. I haven’t found one that I agree with as much so I have to put forth more effort both finding and filtering.

      Habits are good! For me, I avoid gas stations that regularly advertise for evil Republicans during election seasons. Unfortunately that’s most of them.

  5. rose Says:

    Your links page on Saturdays has been helpful for keeping my spirits up and actions happening. I call. I write.
    Please keep working for a better future … because the other side isn’t quitting.

  6. Debbie M Says:

    The short answer to what I do is sign petitions and to how I motivate myself is to get through my e-mails. Once you sign one petition, that organization sends additional petitions, and I think they share our names with similar petitions. So now it takes me about an hour a day to get through my e-mails and sign all the petitions and delete all the requests for money. Sunday has only half as many e-mails as the other days.

    But I’ve heard that certain types of comments are ignored if they identical to other ones. So when possible I try to edit to reflect my specific concerns and/or to try to appeal to ideals that I feel the person receiving my petition or e-mail has. Sometimes it’s all I can do to refrain from swearing and threats and did I mention name calling, and so I don’t make any changes. But some things I do are write that we rely on them to protect the public interest/national treasures from companies focusing on short-term profits. I talk about actions that make the market system work and that make it fail. I talk about how facilitating fossil fuel extraction is unacceptable now that we know about climate change. I talk about how it’s not their job to protect failing industries or industries that should be failing; just the people in them. I remind them that certain things would be wrong if the other party did it; it’s equally wrong if they do it. I say we rely on them to be a check on the other branches of government.

    But I’ve also heard that petitions and e-mails are useless, which is disheartening. Plus the whole situation pisses me off. They should be using science, or at least statistically unbiased surveys, to help them decide what to do rather than just sitting around listening to squeaky wheels. But then I’ve also heard that the real way to have influence is to make them nervous, as if they are at risk of suffering from a French Revolution. That’s kind of sickening to me.

    So I sometimes call. Some times I march. I sometimes compose my own e-mail from scratch. I once brought postcards and stamps (and the president’s address) to craft night, where my friends eagerly wrote some (or took one to write later), but this was in response to a specific national postcard-writing event, and I haven’t done it since.

    Online, I thank people for open-mindedness. I bring up situations to make it easier to understand why people feel certain ways. I occasionally share articles. But my friends are all already on board. I’ve always donated 10% of my take-home income, about one-third each to fight poverty, environmental destruction, and abuse, but I recently added the category of equality issues (which sadly dilutes the other three).

    Our education system is broken–so many people don’t want to think. Our economy is broken–so many people work crazy hours and raise kids and they don’t have the energy to protest. I don’t know how to fix that. I don’t have good people skills and I don’t know what’s so horrifying about civil rights. I especially don’t understand why the right is denying climate change instead of proposing right-wing solutions. It’s all very depressing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve also heard that online petitions and emails are discounted because they’re too easy to do. I guess they want to hear from people who care enough to do something unpleasant like using the phone or leaving the house. :/ (Both of which I hate doing, but do anyway. :( ) Though they also pay attention to letters because stamps aren’t free, and those don’t require leaving the house. I got a big stack of postcards from amazon and a huge number of postcard stamps from the post-office. I need to be better about Postcards to Voters like wandsci has been. There’s a lot of good local races out there that just need good people to be reminded to vote when it’s not a presidential election.

      Thank you for calling and marching and writing and donating! It is all very depressing and we do have to be voices for people who can’t make their voices heard for whatever reason. It’s important to use our privilege on behalf of those who don’t have it, especially when others are using theirs to crush those same people.

      I feel less depressed knowing that I’m not alone in doing actions.

      • Debbie M Says:

        We have a craft re-use store where I got a bunch of post cards fairly cheaply. And then I got 100 postcard stamps at an office supply place. (Even better would be getting a stack of blank post cards at the post office for the price of the postage, but they didn’t have any when I checked.) I don’t want to call or write voters because I feel harassed when people do it to me. (It must help, though, or there wouldn’t be drives. So you go!)

        But I can certainly send some postcards to some of the people I’m sending petitions and emails to.

        And I agree that hearing that other people are taking action is highly motivating rather than making me feel like I’m off the hook. Thank you!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The post-cards from postcards to voters aren’t so bad, they’re more like reminders that there’s going to be an election combined with a little advertising for a (usually local) candidate. They don’t have people’s names on them; you’re supposed to write “VIP Voter” for the name. Less obnoxious than the mail from local realtors or state farm agents.

        Here’s the post office’s current pre-stamped cards: https://store.usps.com/store/product/cards-envelopes/azulillo-stamped-card-S_250004 I don’t know what s&h is if you order them off the site though.

        Thank you! :D

      • Debbie M Says:


        I admit I’ve never received semi-generic voter reminder postcards and it’s the millions of begging phone calls I really don’t like.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        And texts! I hate the texts.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    Separate comment for this link, in case it looks like spam. Jennifer Lawrence explains, in 12.5 minutes, that working at the local level really can make a difference: . (The beginning is super depressing, though.)

  8. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Sometimes I get paralyzed by the sheer vastness of the evils they’re working. But small things like supporting grassroots activists, creators, and RAICES etc get me going again.

    This was one Twitter thread that really helped me recently: https://twitter.com/prisonculture/status/1127345116811862017?s=19

  9. Thoughts on “Bad Husbands,” Activism and What We Can All Do That Matters | Too Many Fish to Fry Says:

    […] This campaign, focused on winning back key legislative chambers in 9 critical states in 2020 Send postcards to votes Make 5 calls Check out Grumpy Rumblings […]

  10. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    There are a lot of choices today and if Lindsey graham is your senator you should definitely call on him to resign for witness tampering with Donald trump jr.

    But here’s the action I picked today: https://5calls.org/issue/wendy-vitter-district-judge

  11. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    My sister says I should do a post on state legislatures and the Indivisible and other groups focusing on those. If you have any suggestions for groups or where to find information, let me know!

  12. Just a little (link) love: the politest usurper edition « A Gai Shan Life Says:

    […] activism is exhausting. For those of you who care about the world as it feels like it’s disintegrating around us, […]

  13. Cloud Says:

    I feel bad I didn’t see this earlier! My week has been… hectic.

    I ended up taking several months off from being at all politically active at the start of the year. But I’m back at it now! Mostly, I am writing postcards and donating to places that I think are gearing up in a smart way for the 2020 elections. I have contacted my rep a couple of times and left a comment for Speaker Pelosi once. It is looking like I’ll need to start doing more pushing on my rep. He’s a Dem, but a centrist one so I have to keep an eye on him.

    It IS exhausting to keep active. I have a post brewing about how unenthusiastic I am about the fact that Biden is looking like a front runner, given his history. But if he’s our nominee, I’ll dig deep and find a way to fight hard to elect him because the stakes are so high. For right now, it helps if I ignore the presidential primary and focus on other things.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thank you for being active! And for sharing your activity!!

      I’m perfectly happy to let the democrats shake out during the primaries. There is zilch I can do before then and a rotting corpse would be preferable to Trump. There is so much other important stuff to focus on!

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