I posted this on Facebook this morning but I’m re-posting here because some people couldn’t read it. I usually keep politics out of this blog, but this is about more than just politics. It’s about keeping the faith.
OK, I am officially outing myself as old. I was born in 1960. My husband is even older—he was raised in the South and remembers seeing “white” and “colored” bathrooms. I remember a friend of mine giving me a tour of Indianapolis in 1980, driving me around a golf course and saying “If they see us, they’ll throw us out. This is a whites-only golf course.” (I’m white, my friend is black.) Loving vs. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court asserted the right to mixed-race marriages, was decided when I was in third grade.
Things change. Twenty years ago, I would not have dreamed that same-sex marriage would be allowed, even commonplace. But here we are.
This past few weeks have been terrible, with the Supreme Court striking down the Voting Rights Act, repressive abortion regulations being passed in Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina, the House of Representatives dumping food stamps from the farm bill, and now the George Zimmerman verdict, which, while it may have been correct on the legal merits, is obviously a miscarriage of justice.
So what do we do? Yell, scream, leave the country?
No. Stand your ground. Here are five things you can do in the next week to fight back.
1. Register to vote, if you haven’t already.
2. Send a letter to your local elected officials. If you live in a state that has a Stand Your Ground law or laws that interfere with women’s medical choices, let them know that you find this unacceptable. Write your Congressman and senator and tell them that it is essential to fully fund SNAP. If enough people speak up, they will listen.
3. Make a donation, however small, to a progressive organization: Battleground Texas, Planned Parenthood, Common Cause, NAACP.
4. Get involved. Join an organization, one of the ones named above, or maybe your local League of Women Voters, which fights for fair elections and voting rights for everyone.
5. Talk. Write. Post on social media. Attitudes change slowly, but they do change, and a big part of that is hearing other people articulate the better way. Be respectful—you won’t change any minds by yelling or name-calling. You might change someone’s mind by pointing out an angle they haven’t considered before or telling a story that humanizes the issue. When I was growing up, gays were “queer” and you could smoke anywhere. Social norming has turned both those issues around. Make it work for you.
And here are a couple of things you can do in the next few months:
1. Make plans now to vote in the next election. People tend to skip non-presidential elections, but state and local officials actually have a much greater influence over your every day life.
2. Work to empower other people. Volunteer to help with voter registrations or drive voters to the polls on election day. If you can take Election Day off, look into being a poll worker—they are often in short supply.
3. Repeat 2-5 above. Write, donate, work, talk.
4. Most important, keep love in your heart. Bad laws such as Stand Your Ground and abortion restrictions are born of hate and contempt. You only have to listen to the people espousing them to hear the venom. Be the opposite. Be generous and open-hearted. If nothing else, you’ll have a better time and make more friends. But hopefully you will also help swing the pendulum, however imperceptibly, away from these hate-filled laws.
Don’t let your anger fizzle out without a result. Turn it into action.