Several conversations lately have centered on how to be an activist without being overwhelmed.
These are difficult times for those of us who believe in justice and equality, and there have been attacks on every front.
You can’t work on everything.
You can, however, choose one or two issues and devote yourself to that.
You can stand in solidarity with others who are working on different issues.
You can show up at rallies and demonstrations.
You can visit, call or write to legislators and insist on being heard. If they won’t see you when you visit, leave a letter. If they won’t take your calls, leave messages and then send e-mails and snail-mails.
So, your first job is to set your priorities.
What’s most important to you?
Remember that all of these issues need work and you should go to where your passion resides.
For me, it’s health care and women’s equality issues.
For some of my friends, it’s racial equality and voting rights, which I’m also passionate about. I will show up for rallies and I will write to legislators.
But I have learned all I can about my issues. I am the go-to person in my circle of resistors because I have read the Affordable Care Act and I know the statistics surrounding it.
I understand how women die when women’s health clinics are mis-labled deliberately by opponents of abortion, a procedure that takes up only 3 percent of clinic resources. These clinics are shut down because people don’t understand that they offer cancer screenings, health checks, contraception, information and more and that women die when they lose that access to health care.
Some of my friends have extensive knowledge of workers’ rights issues, education, environment … and I depend on them.
Make a list of policies you support and ask legislators where they stand on those policies. Know your legislators’ voting records. You have one state representative and state senator, one Congressional representative and two US senators. You should also know where your governor stands on these issues.
I have one friend who’s on a mission to make her representatives tired of hearing from her. She calls them about everything and reminds them she is a constituent and she’s not going away.
Once you have your list of policies you support, prioritize them. Pick your one or two issues if you haven’t already.
When you write, call or visit concerning these issues, use your own words. When we use form letters or sign online petitions, no one pays attention. If your issue means that much to you, take a few minutes to write what’s in your heart. If you need help expressing your feelings, ask a friend.
You do not have to be arrested to be effective. If you attend a rally or demonstration, take photos so that there is a record of the event and of the numbers attending.
I remember being at a rally in Washington, DC, with 5,000 people before the Affordable Care Act was passed, and Rick Sanchez in CNN reported, “Dozens of people showed up at a rally today …” But the video footage told the real story. It was dozens of people all right — hundreds of dozens of people.
When media misrepresent what’s happening, post your truth on social media, then write to the media outlet that lied. Call them out with letters to the editor and phone calls. Include your photos.
What’s going on today is the result of decades of increasing voter apathy. We can’t afford to sit back anymore, and millions of us are beginning to realize that.
We must care about what’s happening in our country, and we must work to make others care.
So, go ahead and take that first step. Decide what issue or issues you will call your own and get to work.
Seek out others who are doing the work and organize, even if it’s a half dozen people at a letter-writing party, you’re doing something that wasn’t being done before.
You can make a difference, you just have to decide to do it.