Don’t Get Mad, Get Involved!
It seems that every week we’re hit with another national or global crisis. It’s enough to make you stop keeping up with the news at all. I know lots of people who have just opted out of the news lately because it’s hard to get hit over and over with news that’s deeply troubling to our understanding of who we are as citizens and sometimes to who we are as humans.
It’s easy to give up hope. I mean, it’s an option. We can say we’re all doomed and hide away for years. I prefer to take the nobler path and chase after hope. But when I feel kind of powerless, it’s hard to put that anger and frustration to good use.
I was talking with a friend recently about all the ways I channel those feelings. She was surprised that there were so many productive ways to help. She asked me to share on my blog the ways I’ve found that help me keep my piece of mind and (I hope) help our society move toward love and compassion. Here are some things I came up with….
+ register someone to vote
I was taking a government class in 2012 at my local community college. Our final assignment was to help someone register to vote. I realized that though I had registered pretty much the instant I turned 18, I had spent years and years assuming everybody else had. It turned out that, for one reason or another, not everyone in my community had registered. I guess that surprise is my privilege speaking. It can be really hard to register sometimes! Many states offer voter registration with a driver’s license renewal, but not every state has this option. Sometimes it requires more time and research than a lot of people have the time or inclination to pursue. If you’re a voter, I highly recommend you ask around to the people you love if they are registered voters (yes, even if you think their politics are rubbish). If they’re not, offer to help them out. Doing a simple search for your state name and “register to vote” turns up just about any information you need. You can also click on this link to find more information: Register to Vote
If you haven’t registered to vote yet, it’s not too late! If you moved recently and aren’t sure, it’s worth checking out your voter status.
+ vote in every election
Yes, every one. This year, I was blessed enough to have a babysitter to watch my son while I headed out to vote in November. Not everybody has this option. But voting generally occurs only once a year. They’re open early, they’re open late. It’s so, so worth it to make arrangements to vote in each and every election. And you can bring your kids! Please don’t let that keep you away from the polls.
The reason I recommend voting in every election is that even the “off years” still produce results that trickle their way up to the federal government. If there’s a person who totally agrees with everything you do politically ends up running for town constable, don’t you want to propel that person forward as far as they would like to go? Each election builds up to getting a candidate ready for office in the federal government. It’s great having allies in all areas of government. Many townships and counties also have ballot initiatives that affect your daily life, so it’s also important to vote when you don’t have any particular feelings about the candidates. Plus, it’s helpful to just get in the routine of voting every year to keep up the habit for the “big elections.”
+ bake sales
A few years ago, my friends and family and I disagreed with a particular candidate’s run for office. We decided to partner with a national political action committee (PAC) to fundraise. That PAC offered a lot of suggestions for ways to raise money, and one of those was to have a bake sale. How fun! We camped out in front of my brother-in-law’s house, made signs, and sold cakes and cookies on a very busy Saturday afternoon in a college town. We raised way more money than I ever would have thought! And we got a fun shoutout in that PAC’s newsletter in the fall. Of course, donating is incredibly important. Whether you donate to a cause, a candidate, or a lobbying organization, putting your money where your mouth is helps push our democratic process forward. But why not make it fun? Host a party, dinner, or bake sale to fundraise for the things you feel strongly about.
+ contact your representatives
I think a lot of people feel better when they pen a letter to the editor and it ends up being published. Or they have a comment approved in a national news piece. But is that the most helpful use of our time? It’s fun and satisfying, sure, but we’re going to make a much bigger impact if we reach out to the people in our country who can have a much larger effect on our lives. It’s really easy to find our senators and representatives online. Once you find their names, it’s easy to find a “contact me” on each of their websites. I write to my congresspeople on a fairly regular basis. It’s especially helpful if a particular bill is going to vote, and you reach out before the issue is decided. Your congresspeople really do want to hear from you! I’ve also heard a rumor that if you actually fax your congresspeople, it forces them to pay more attention because it’s a physical reminder of their constituent. Worth a try, right? Find your senator or find your representative using these links.
+ run for office
The last time I ran for office, it was for president of my college History Honor Society. And by “ran” I mean nobody else was interested. I’m not going to pretend to know how you can run for office or how to succeed at your campaign. But I do know that whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you think, and believe, and do, we need you! Please consider researching a group like She Should Run and running for office. Representation matters!
+ buy responsibly
I did a series two weeks ago about fast fashion and ways to reduce your environmental impact of the clothing you buy (or don’t). There are a million different ways to buy responsibly and make your voice heard. Boycotts tend to get all the news and are a flashy way to make your voice heard, but there are a million daily purchases that can support the causes you love. You can purchase items that offer “buy one, give one” programs to help the needy, like Tom’s and L. You can purchase items that support specific causes, like products where some part of the proceeds supports cancer research. You can also stop buying things daily that don’t fit with your politics and ethics. If you are concerned about working conditions in other countries, it’s easy to find items made in the US and/or things that are made by certified ethical companies and avoid buying things that are made in unsustainable ways. Your money can have a big impact on the world around you in even the simplest ways.
+ you do you
There are a million public ways to get involved these days: marches, social media outreach, boycotts, giving speeches. But what if this loudspeaker approach just isn’t you? Is it worth being publicly outspoken if it’s inauthentic to who you are? Should you change your actions to reflect a more public political atmosphere? These are all questions I’ve asked myself over and over again. I’m getting to a point in my life, though, where I think it it’s not my style and it’s not authentic, it’s not going to make much of a difference. If I can consistently stand for my beliefs in a way that is authentic to me, I will have far more long-lasting impact than I would in a more show-y way. I spend with my heart, I publish on this blog, I vote with my conscience, I support candidates I believe in, I volunteer, I serve in my church and community… I hope me justifying my position here will save some time if you’re questioning your own. You are as effective as you are authentic. When you read stories about brave people in the past, whether during war time or peace time, pay attention to the people who are behind the scenes. If you’re more of a shrinking violet when it comes to standing behind your beliefs, know there are a million supporting cast members behind every moment in history. Someone had to be a practice audience when Winston Churchill gave his famous speeches, right? And I’m sure a good copywriter kept Uncle Tom’s Cabin from being thrown in the dustbin of history. Celebrate what makes you unique! If being loud and proud and going to marches is your thing: wonderful! If not, find your inspiration and your movement elsewhere. We need your contribution, whatever it might look like.
+ provide resources to others
So here you go! Ha! If any of this was helpful, please pass it along. If you have other resources you love, please share them in the comments below. It’s a great feeling when your actions follow your beliefs and support the things you most care about. Spread the love!