Thursday, January 26, 2017

Organizing After January 20: The Best Tools I've Found So Far


This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

We are all citizen-activists now.

How have the last few days been for you? For me, it's been a struggle to keep up with it all, and figure out what to do and what actions to take.

Here are some guidelines I'm trying to remember:

1. You don't have to do everything. 

2. Something is better than nothing. 

3. Take breaks. The goal isn't political action all the time, or in all your free time. Self-care is necessary. Getting sucked into a news anxiety hole to the point where you're paralyzed is unhelpful. In How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind on Medium, Mirah Curzer points out that taking breaks can actually help prevent you from adapting to all this as the new normal. 

4. The best defense is a good offense. In A 10-Point Plan from Waging Nonviolence, George Lakey points out that desperately trying to maintain status quo is a poor negotation strategy when the other side is demanding the moon. We should, instead, try to make progress in the right direction, instead of simply struggling against the wrong. For example, instead of trying to protect ACA, we could be demanding Medicare coverage for all. I'm trying to get out of a defensive mindset and focus on my asks for Senators, etc. on things I want, not simply things I don't want. But, again...

5. You don't have to do everything. I, personally, don't have to fight on every front. To prevent burnout, we each need to pick the front(s) that matter most to us and go there.

So, how do we decide what and how much to do, and how to focus our efforts when we do? Here are some resources I've found recently that help keep it organized. 

Started just after the election, this is a document from former congressional staffers that explains which actions are most politicially useful (e.g. calling, not tweeting; going to town hall meetings; etc.) The idea is to take the lessons that made the Tea Party so powerful and harness it for progressives. There's also now a part of the website where you can search for an in-person meetup group near you.

A super-simple organized set of issues you can currently call your reps about, including phone scripts and phone numbers (it provides your senators' and representatives' numbers based on your zip code; no other information is required from you). This is a huge help if you want to call your reps, but you're daunted by the time it takes to organize the phone numbers, what issues are before the House vs the Senate, whether it's too late, etc. and especially if you have trouble coming up with the words to say on the phone.

I just found this, but I think this is basically an email list providing actions you can take, such as calls to make or demonstrations to attend. The idea is that you commit to spending 1 day a month (or whatever you can make time for), and you pick whichever action you feel you can take. I also like the idea of being part of a peaceful "guard." I hope there are badges. 

That's what I've got so far! If you have any resources you're finding especially helpful these days (not just overwhelming), please feel free to share. 

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