This week, I went from feeling incredibly hopeful and positive to feeling so worn out and anxiety ridden in a matter of days. Dramatic changes like this aren't uncommon in depression, but this time I feel like it's not just a me thing. On Saturday I participated in my local Women's March. It was glorious. Twice as many people showed up as they were expecting and it was very heartwarming. It was so positive to see people from all walks of life marching together, supporting one another.
And then it ended just as quickly as it had began.
Now I can handle people trying to discount or diminish something I believe in. We have different views and variety is the spice of life. What I can't handle is flat out lying. We were straight up lied to by the current administration, and that shows no signs of changing.
The outrage on all sides was palpable. People were mad because they thought women do have equal rights and nothing has been done to them to cause such an outpouring. Other people were mad that the women's march didn't go far enough to include minorities or that news coverage focused too much on men participating.
Cue the flood of facebook articles and angry posts.
It seems everyone took to their preferred social media to make their outrage known. For the past 4 days my feed has been absolutely flooded with the same few articles and people's outrage. Most of the articles and statements that were made I agree with.
Here's my problem:
Posting your opinion or a link to something you agree with on your social media account doesn't do anything.
Seriously, it doesn't. You're posting to family and friends. Chances are at least half of those people already agree with you. So instead of educating or informing, you're just whipping yourselves into a frenzy, each person fueling the next. Yes, we need to stay informed. Yes, we need to keep track of this extremely facist behavior our new government has adopted. But only about 4 of my hundreds of friends has actually posted any type of call to action.
If you want to make a difference, and I suspect that you do, you have to get involved. What do I mean by get involved? I mean perform an actionable task that accomplishes a specific goal. Don't like the EPA gag order? Me neither - who did you call about it? Oh, you didn't? You just posted your anger on your page? Ask yourself, how does that help? Did it do anything to change it? No. It made you feel better and allowed you to commiserate with other like minded individuals. That's fine - really, it can be very cathartic. I do it often. It's time we do more.
One lesson I think we all have learned from this past election cycle is that we have to step up and do more. Voting and speaking our opinions on our chosen platform doesn't do enough. We must reach out to change minds and hearts. It's time to step it up folks. Put your money and your actions where your mouth is. I'm even going to make it easy for you.
Here's a list of things you can do. They're easy and there are plenty of resources out there to help you get these things done. I am by no means a professional volunteer or political activist. I have been trying to read and gather info on what works best and what doesn't.
1. Give Money.I've chosen to donate to Planned Parenthood and Iowa Public radio. Even $5 a month goes a long way for organizations like these, especially when so many people chip in. Pick your favorites and set up a recurring transfer. Give up a couple of lattes or lunches a month and find the money. They need it more than you do.
Yes, it needs to be a phone call. Online petitions get ignored. We were so comfortable signing whitehouse.gov petitions because we knew they'd get addressed. We can't count on that anymore. I won't be surprised when the petitions site gets taken down.
2. Call your representatives.
Read Indivisible. It's free and written by former congressional staffers on what works and what doesn't. It's going to help you make those calls.
Find them and add them to your phone. You only have to do it once and it makes it super easy to pick up the phone again in the future. Call both offices in DC and in your state. For your state officials, call their local office and the office in the state capital.
3. Take Action.I don't care what your cause is. Pick one or two you can devote your time to. Whatever floats your boat probably has an action committee that has laid out steps for you to get involved. The Women's March is promoting a 10 Actions in 100 Days campaign. Planned Parenthood Action Fund has a newsletter you can join (Pink Out/PowerUp!) that gives you at least one small task you can do that will make a difference. They give you all the tools you need, you just have to do it. The Safety Pin box looks like a great option and I love that they have different levels of subscription. I'm also super excited to see what the LoveArmy comes up with.
4. Get Local.The next few years are going to be all about local politics. Get involved at the state and county (or even city) levels and see what you can do. Almost every party has different options on how you can get involved. All you have to do is ask. I found the Iowa Democratic Women's Caucus on Facebook. It was easy. Leadership is already in place and volunteers are always needed. Just find your local group and ask what they need help with. Again, don't just join the group and repost stuff. Volunteer!
Getting more involved locally also means you get in at the ground level. You're helping pick the next batch of candidates. They all gotta start somewhere, why not help pick the new ones? We have to run better candidates, which means we have to be better about getting involved.
5. Talk to people.That means face to face. And it means people that don't already agree with you. Be civil and really attempt to listen. Don't hide behind your computer or phone. Take a chance and really engage with people. You may change their mind; they may change your mind. Chances are, you'll be able to find common ground. If more of us do that, then we have a clear path to move forward in a way that isn't so polarizing. There's a reason why politicians get out and do the grassroots ground game: talking to people works. And they'll talk if you show you're going to listen. We need to remember that you can have a discussion or disagreement without it getting heated and unfriendly.
Easier said than done, right? If we're going to make it, we have to work together. We have to keep hope alive. Dig down deep and figure out what keeps you going. Treat people who disagree with you with respect. Yes, even if they're jerks. They go low, we go high. That's our mantra. We need the stamina to make it through whatever the next four years brings us. Negative energy isn't going to get us through that long of a haul. Have you ever seen someone run a marathon out of anger? Reasonably sure it doesn't happen. Sure, it gives you a surge of energy at the start and gets your blood boiling. But it's not sustainable. Channel your anger into change. It's the only way we can make a difference.
6. Stay positive.
I am by no means an expert on this topic and will be doing these things right along with you.
What did I miss? What are you going to do? How are you making our country and our world a better place? Seriously, I want actionable ideas.