Yesterday I got a message from a friend saying “We have never been active politically and really don’t know where to start. Would you have some advice for newbies that think Trump will screw our country up!”
At first I laughed because I don’t really think of myself as an expert activist – who am I to speak on this big, big topic? Shouldn’t we ask someone who knows what they’re doing? But then I got to thinking. I’ve noticed that in the last year or so several people have stopped me – here or there – to say “Thank you for the things you post on Facebook. They mean a lot to me. I’ve learned so much.” Well, I’m learning too, and I love to share – so let’s do this together.
I am also an eternal optimist. I still believe that democracy will work if we do. So in the months leading up to the presidential election, and certainly since, I have made it my business to do as much as I can to make my voice heard, with a little extra enthusiasm thrown in to speak up for those who can’t.
Okay, we know we need to make our voices heard, but how? Well, we contact our representatives – that’s what they’re there for, after all.
Luckily, I live in a place where my representatives share many of my views, but I still call. At a recent Town Hall meeting given by Senator Ron Wyden I asked one of his staff members if we should bother, especially when we’re certain the Senator agrees with us. Her answer was “Yes!” The reps tally the calls they’ve had on a particular issue and use those numbers to substantiate their arguments. Apparently calling is far and away the best strategy. Everything I’ve read says don’t bother signing on-line petitions and that phone calls are far more effective than email or snail mail.
But how do we reach the right people on the right issues at the right time? There are several new apps out there that say they can help sort this out; I’ve checked out a few of them. Many are dense and cumbersome. A couple of days ago I discovered a site called “5 Calls” and I think its the best so far. The premise is that each of us can find five minutes a day to make five phone calls. Once you sign up (you give your zip code and list your areas of concern) you can check the site every day to see the five calls recommended for you. Theist lists the breaking issues and who to call. They even provide a short script which you can read verbatim – or just speak your mind.
In practice it takes a little longer than five minutes, but not much. The lines are often busy or the mailbox is full. I have occasionally gotten a real person, but usually its voice mail. If I can’t get through right away, I just hit redial until I do. Or I give up and move on to the next item on the list, then circle back. I haven’t tried calling late at night yet, but I imagine it might be easier to get through.
There are other ways to learn about actions to take as well. I get a text from “Daily Action” and that’s got lots of info, also with names and phone numbers. It takes a little bit more time – but if you can, go for it!
I really believe that these phone calls are the most effective way to get our voices heard. And here’s a bonus – it makes me feel better! Some days, particularly since the inauguration, I become completely overwhelmed with the constant new headlines – each one seems more outrageous than the last. Making calls helps to counter those feelings, at least for me.
I still have hope that somehow reason will prevail and we’ll be able to get this ship back on course. Sometimes, when I get completely overwhelmed with fear and anger I turn everything off and go here – a few minutes of quiet headspace will usually make all the difference.
There is so much more to say, but I’ve decided to split it into two (or maybe more) parts. Next I’ll write about some of the people I follow to learn as much as I can, and to help interpret whats really going on behind the headlines.
I hope this is helpful. Please let me know!