Sign the petition, and nothing will happen

Rep. John Ager is another of the representatives we elected from what was supposed to be a safe Republican district. We did not do it by signing online petitions, but by making phone calls and knocking on doors and getting out the vote. Here, John is speaking to the crowd of about 200 people at the March for Truth.

 

I don’t even keep count of how many times I’ve been asked to sign one or another online petition, as though it would make any difference at all in public policy.

Let me be honest here — I don’t ever sign them because they are meaningless. Government lawmakers and policymakers don’t give a damn about what we think. They care only about the people who fund their campaigns. That’s it.

Every time someone posts a petition on my timeline on Facebook, I explain that I don’t sign online petitions, and people argue that of course signing a meaningless petition is “taking action.”

No, it isn’t. Sitting at your computer and typing in your name and address is effortless, and the people in power know that. You risk nothing because you have done nothing. They know you’re not likely to get off your butt and take any real action.

A million signatures is one thing, but a million faxes, phone calls, e-mails or visits from real human beings shows them we mean business.

If you want to fill out a form that makes a difference, fill out a voter registration form, and follow it up by filling out a ballot. That’s what will make a difference.

Work to get a worthy candidate elected. Make phone calls, knock on doors. You can make phone calls after work, even for a half hour once a week. Get that candidate’s name out there.

I know this works because I live in the most gerrymandered district in the most gerrymandered state in the nation. In 2014, our Republican state representative was considered safer than anyone. He was going to be the next Speaker of the NC House.

But then something amazing happened. We, his constituents, got mad. Enough was enough. He refused to listen to us, hearing instead only the monied interests who had paid for his election.

I made calls, I showed up to knock on doors, and registered Republicans were happy to hear someone was running against him. People turned out to vote, and we sent that little weasel home.

That was in 2014. So, what happened to the seat in 2016? The Republicans couldn’t find anyone to oppose Brian Turner. He ran unopposed.

Across the county, Nathan Ramsey, a moderate Republican, was elected in 2012, and he was bullied into voting with the extreme right wing of the party.

Something good happened there, too: John Ager, a farmer who had never been in politics, decided to run. Again, his supporters worked hard and he won, both in 2014 and 2016. And no one ever signed an online petition saying his election would be a good thing.

These people who are trashing our Democracy think they’re safe. They don’t care what we want and no petition is going to change their behavior. The only way to make things better is to send them home, and you don’t do that with online petitions.

So, go ahead, sit at your desk and type in your name on meaningless petition after meaningless petition, and do you know what will change?

Not a damn thing, that’s what.

I know the petitions’ sponsors want you to think differently, but petitions are what they use to raise money. You sign their petition decrying the injustice du jour and then a screen pops up asking you to donate money, so — what? They can generate more petitions?

Get up off your butt and get out there. Attend a march, meet other human beings who share your interests and work with them to make change. Meet and talk to the candidates who are opposing those in power. Find out how you can help.

We don’t all have to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested. There are plenty of ways to be active without risking arrest. But we all need to find real ways to contribute because Democracy is participatory, and signing an online petition is not participating, it’s lazy.

 

 

We don’t have to just sit here. We can resist.

We can all take actions, large or small, to resist unjust public policies.

I know I’m not the only one who has felt immobilized by fear after the election. The thought of Trumplethinskin in the White House has kept me up at night and made me feel hopeless and helpless like never before.

I have reached out to friends and therapists, even a psychiatrist, Steven Buser, M.D., who also is co-author of the book, “A Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Age of Trump.” (Chiron Publications, $16.95)

“In 30 years of clinical practice, I have never seen this level of dread and anxiety in any election,” Buser said.

Dr. Kelly Johnson, a therapist and friend, told me she has seen a tremendous increase in the number of people who are experiencing “teariness,” anxiety and depression, as have her peers. In fact, she says, it’s not just patients — she and her peers are feeling it, too.

Most of us are afraid this man will keep his campaign promises.

Some of us — many of us — are survivors of sexual violence, and we are appalled that a confessed sexual predator who has no experience in government is moving into the White House.

How could confessing to grabbing women by the pussy not have been a game changer for voters?

For weeks, I have seen posts on Facebook and heard people talking about how we can stop him from taking power, and I have said all along I can’t buy into these false hopes. We are going to have to deal with this man, like it or not.

So, here are some tips I’m following:

  • Don’t watch TV news. Not any of it. Read your news from trusted sources online, such as The Guardian, BBC and Democracy Now. This man’s voice is a trigger for me and many others. You won’t hear or see him if you don’t watch or listen. Check the validity of your sources to make sure you’re not being pulled in by propaganda (aka “false news”).
  • Practice self-care. We’re in for a bumpy ride and we need to be in the best frame of mind to face it. So, get plenty of rest. Take walks outdoors. Take a yoga class. Meditate. Do some deep breathing exercises. Create — knit, paint, sculpt, make jewelry … Eat healthy, but do indulge in a favorite treat once a week or so.
  • Don’t turn to alcohol. A drink might seem to dull the senses for a time, but alcohol is a depressant, and if you’re feeling down already, it won’t help.
  • Find an issue and work on it. One issue, two at most, is what you need because you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Go to marches and rallies, if only to remind yourself that others feel the same way you do and to connect with them. If you don’t want to be involved in anything political right now, that’s OK; you can deliver Meals on Wheels or volunteer at an animal shelter or an after-school program.
  • Take action in some small way. Write to your members of Congress. That’s how we stopped them from gutting the ethics office. As much as Trumplethinskin thinks his tweet stopped them, it was, in reality, the actions of tens of thousands of citizens who called, e-mailed or showed up at their offices.
  • Reach out to friends. I started a group for women who have survived sexual violence and who were triggered by the election. It was supposed to be a one-time event, but we all agreed we’re going to need each other over the coming months.
  • Contribute to the effort to fight the injustices that are coming. Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women or the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  • If you think you need professional help, you probably do. Don’t hesitate to call a therapist or talk to your doctor or clergy person.
  • Most of all, don’t give up. There are more Americans who didn’t vote for this man than who did. He and his ilk may have power for now, but we can resist. In fact, we must.

 

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