Politics. I don’t talk about it on this site much. Sure, I’ve mentioned it here a time or two, but I’m very aware that is not why people come to Apt34. But politics is also impossible to escape. You can’t escape the headlines. You can’t escape the commentary on Facebook (unless you delete the app I guess), but most importantly, you cannot escape how it affects your daily life. Because it does. So today we’re going to talk about it. Our Real Moms group decided together that those who wanted to should tackle this topic as part of our Real Talk / Real Mom series. After what the presidential election put our nation through, I think we could all benefit from a group therapy sesh! So today we’re each sharing our personal stories and takeaways as it relates to the election. Because if politics is anything, it’s personal. But I want to be clear. My goal today is not to preach. Nor to proselytize. Nor cast blame. That’s not what this post is about.
While I’ve never attempted to hide my own political views (if you follow me on Twitter you should be well aware of my leanings!), my hope is that this post is helpful to anyone, regardless of your political allegiance. I don’t know if I’ll achieve that. I’ve received criticism from some readers for expressing my political views – saying this site is a place for inspiration. On the flip side, I’ve also been accused of being shallow and out of touch by not tackling this topic head on. I realize you cannot make everyone happy, nor should you try, but the current state of our nation makes it impossible for me to stay quiet. So here we go.
I’ve yet to fully process my thoughts and feelings since Nov 8. It will probably take me weeks, if not months. As a white woman with means, I benefit from that privilege. This is not the case for millions of others. I have to go on record to say that I consider the misogynist, homophobic, racist, xenophobic rhetoric used by the president-elect’s campaign incredibly sad. It is divisive, manipulative and corrosive. Even dangerous. It is a stain on our national political history. But I also understand why people voted the way they did. Our government is broken. It’s done little to serve the interests of regular people for decades. You can lay blame in all kinds of directions for this dysfunction. But no matter the root of the problem, it is one of the major reasons the Trump messaging appealed.
But the reasons behind the election’s outcome are not what post is about either.
Few people know this, but I spent the first 10 years of my career working in politics, from the national to the local level. So rather than get into ideological debates, I want to write about what you can actually do to make a difference. It can often feel like one person doesn’t have much power. It can feel like our voice is small and doesn’t carry much weight. It is easy to feel lost, despondent and ineffective. But that is far from the truth. No matter your political leanings there are a lot of things you, as a single individual, can do to make a very real impact on the world around you. This post is about a brighter future and how we might attain it. I’ve created the following political activism checklist – I’m considering it my own daily reminder – because we’ve now seen the repercussions of complacency first hand.
Teach your children the importance of right and wrong. Tolerance. Acceptance. Equality. A rejection of violence against women. That black lives matter. That love is love. And explain why. It starts with our kids. We can teach them to be better citizens of this world than we are.
Be informed. Perhaps the most depressing thing about the 2016 Presidential election was its reality show-like quality. The dialogue felt more like a he-said, she-said episode of the Bachelorette than a discussion of substantive policies that would help our country. It’s not always fun to do the work of being informed, but taking things at face value means you often miss the larger picture. There is nothing simple about governing. If the answer feels easy, you should probably question it. How do you do that? Read multiple news sources. Reject fake news (this list of questionable news outlets is a great source). Really listen to the other side’s perspective. When you share your opinion back it up with substantive facts. I think if we all do the work of returning to civil political debate and educated political discourse, our society at large will benefit. If you want to really dive into our post-truth nation, this piece is really interesting.
Broaden your horizons. Human nature dictates that we surround ourselves with the familiar. People, who look, think and act like we do. But that’s been a direct contributor to the current state of affairs. It’s too easy to deny someone else’s reality when you know nothing about it. So make a point to walk in someone else’s shoes. Travel. Even if it’s just to the playground in the neighborhood across town. Read about different perspectives (I like this book and this book). It’s also been proven that social media and technology addiction decrease empathy in children. And likely in all of us. But empathy is exactly what we need right now so try harder to connect in real life.
Make your voice heard. Tweets, Facebook posts and kvetching with your friends is all well and good, but to impact real change you have to make the people in power hear you. The most effective way to do this is to actually show up at their doorstep. Visit their offices, be it in the nation’s capital or the local office in your home town. When you’re face to face it’s pretty hard to be ignored. The next best thing is to pick up the phone. Our national representatives actually do have real live people answering their phones (I used to be one of them) and they take note of the issues their constituents are calling about. Call about political appointments. Call about specific issues (like marriage equality, health care, education). Call about specific legislation You can also write letters or emails, but those do get more lost in the shuffle. Email and mail backlogs are massive. If you need your representatives’ phone numbers click here.
Get involved. As I said earlier politics is personal. And it’s not a spectator sport. You have to get in on the ground level to really make an impact. This can happen in a myriad of ways. When it comes to impacting what your elected officials do and think, show up at their Town Hall meetings. Talk about the issues that matter to you most. If you really care about the environment, attend hearings about local land use issues. If you care about education, sit in on the next School Board Meeting. Or look for ways to impact your local communities. Volunteer for a nonprofit that supports an issue you care about passionately. Better yet join their board. Or organize a fundraiser, a petition drive or demonstration.
Put your $ where your mouth is. If you cannot give your time, but you care deeply, consider giving some of your dollars. Nonprofits in particular always struggle for resources and there are a lot of nonprofits who are going to be putting in overtime hours of the next few years. You can also donate in the name of someone else – an excellent holiday gift! This is a great list of nonprofits to consider.
Impact 2018. You don’t have to wait for the next presidential election to affect national politics. The 2018 mid-terms is where we reelect our Representatives and members of the Senate. Right now Republicans control both houses. Most of our Representatives and Senators are incumbents. It will be interesting to see how they react to the new political realities. Will they stand by issues we care about? You can do a lot to impact the 2018 elections. You can volunteer in local campaign offices. You can doorbell. Phone bank. Put a sign in your yard. Talk to neighbors. Donate money if you don’t have time. And don’t forget to VOTE.
Don’t fall silent. Regardless of your beliefs, it’s impossible to deny that 2016 instigated vitriol I’ve certainly never seen in my lifetime. It feels familiar to our parents’ generation and the revolutionary 1960’s they lived though. We cannot turn a blind eye. We cannot go backwards. Human decency does not belong to one side of the isle or the other. So speak out when you see injustice. Speak out when you see someone’s rights being violated. Speak out when you see discrimination, mistreatment or bigotry. We owe it to our children to fight for that pie-in-the-sky ideal – that we are all indeed equal and can have equal opportunity for success. I have a feeling that if we stopped watching as much reality tv and instead paid a little more attention to real life we might not have gotten to this place.
So that’s my checklist. These are the things I’m commiting to do in a proactive, intentional, shout it from the rooftops kind of way. I hope one or two ideas might have inspired you. To check out everyone else’s take on where we go from here, head to their posts. I certainly can’t wait to read them.
For our Real Talk/ Real Moms archive CLICK HERE.
We will now go back to regularly scheduled programming.
image via here