Indivisible

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I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to HATE hearing phrases like:

There ARE actions we can all take to create the change we want.

What I find equally annoying are my own bromides. Statements such as:

Just remember, WE ARE THE MAJORITY. There are 2.85 million more voters in this country that DID NOT VOTE FOR TRUMP than DID vote for him.

Really, Chair?

Please, someone make me – and them – STOP.

It’s not that I don’t believe these to be truisms, along with many others. It’s just that these days I am royally pissed off, scared and sometimes foaming at the mouth (Note: Believe me, folks, it’s true). Mostly, that my country is about to be led by someone who for the last year and a half I’ve considered a racist lunatic and who, with each passing day, makes statements, speeches, tweets and actions that only confirm those feelings tenfold.

Me, 90% of the time

Me, 90% of the time

It takes a certain kind of person to endure this kind of pressure with a combination of action, dignity and grace. People like Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) who said this week what the majority of us in the country are all thinking – that Trump is not a legitimate president because his election was illegitimate.

There is convincing evidence Russia significantly interfered with the election process, Rep. Lewis explained.   He and others also added that based on conversations with the FBI and others there is also apparently widespread suspicion and isolated pieces of mounting proof that members of Trump’s campaign, and perhaps the candidate himself, were willing and/or active participants in this swindle.

Courtesy of a Zurich based German language newspaper. #nailedit

Courtesy of a Zurich based German language newspaper. #nailedit

So for those many reasons, Rep. Lewis then announced he will not attend Trump’s inauguration in less than week. Nor will, following his announcement, a growing list of other members of Congress, who are pressing for an internal and/or external investigation into the election and Trump. One that they will likely get – in detail.

See, that’s exactly how action happens. Unvarnished, calm truths – elucidated by a few facts and plausible theories – followed up with a plan to resist, protest and create the change you want based on those truths.

Of course, Rep. Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King at Selma in the 1960s fighting segregation, got his head beaten in by police, and nearly lost his life doing it. He’s bold, courageous and well trained.

trump712

Or as some put it “all talk.” #eyeroll #enough

But what’s the average passive scare-dy cat like me – and perhaps you — to do?

This brings us to INDIVISIBLE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE for RESISTING THE TRUMP AGENDA.  

Required reading #doit

Required reading #doit

It’s readable, smart and snappy and was written by former congressional staffers who wanted to chart out step-by-step, to us ordinary folks, the best ways to make Congress listen . You can read and/or download the breezy 26 page pamphlet here: indivisibleguide.com.

Think of it as Advocacy/Politics/Change for Dummies.

Indivisible has only been posted a matter of weeks and already there are Indivisible GROUPS springing up all over the country that use the short, printed guide as a jumping off point primer on how to get lawmakers to stop crazy people from hijacking the country you love.

How to become your own version of Mr. Smith

How to become your own version of Mr. Smith

No, I’m not apologizing for my words. I’m speaking to you – not to those who disagree with me or to those on the fence who I want to persuade. I have to be more polite to them to affect change. At least publicly. Which doesn’t mean I can’t be passionate, strong-minded and direct in their presence. Or scream, yell and curse when they’re not around.

See, that’s what I learned at one of the advocacy groups inspired by Indivisible I accidentally attended this weekend. Some weeks before a friend of mine saw one of my feverish political posts (Note: Or rants, or pick your applicable verb) on Facebook and realized my verve had potential but my methods could use some, um…honing (?) to get me to the next level. So he invited me to join him in a Saturday afternoon of “advocacy training” at someone’s house led by a professional.

Right. At first I didn’t want to go even though I realized I should. Then I considered the alternative – more foam. So I decided to join him. And then the day before the event – where I would be required to walk into a room full of all these strangers – my personal news oracle, Rachel Maddow, actually had one of the founders of the Indivisible Guide on her TV show reporting on the very type of event I had unknowingly agreed to attend the following day.

Jees, this sounds so smart, I thought. I should get involved in that but probably won’t. Little did I know I already had committed to do so and was about to.

I say all this not to pat myself on the back to encourage all of you to take a small step out of your comfort zone into unknown territory. You can still foam, or drink, or tune out and do nothing the rest of your time. But if you allow yourself, there is also room to create some sort of active plan to counteract all of your worst (or on some days, best) instincts.

In no particular order, here is some of what I re-learned, learned for the first time, or was astounded by in the course of my training:

— Did you know you get some of the best results talking to your member of Congress? They (okay, their office) will answer ALL constituent calls and log them. But be precise and direct. This is far more effective than emails or other correspondence, which are largely ignored.   And their local phone numbers are easily found on the web.

Real people, folks!

Real people, folks! #imaginethat

— ASK for a staffer in your rep’s office that handles the issue you are calling about.   These people are almost as important as your rep because they write all the legislation and do the grunt work. Also, ask for the scheduler in the office and when you’re ready you can get a meeting on the books with the staffer and eventually the rep. Go with up to four people, armed with a personal story on your “issue.” Prepare a few thoughts, facts and questions. Know your rep’s stance. But remember, you don’t have to be an expert. It’s more about forging an ongoing relationship with them on an issue(s) you care about. And note: NEVER mention you contributed money to their campaign. That sounds like you want quid pro quo. It’s much more powerful to be a constituent with friends in their district because that means you can en masse vote them out of office.

— If your rep AGREES with all your positions CALL THEM ANYWAY. They need to know you have their back and can use your ideas. In fact, they welcome it, particularly now when the going is tough. Also, attend any town halls they have in your district. You can find these out signing up for their newsletters.

Be part of the political human pyramid!

Be part of the political human pyramid!

— If you go to sites like majorityleader.gov or senate.gov you will get a calendar for a FULL YEAR that will tell you when you rep (actually, all of them) will be in your district and state and when they will be in Washington, DC working. Schedule calls and meetings accordingly. You can also go to congress.gov and check on what bills are in what committees and on which subjects.  Check out committees your specific rep is on and contact them about the issue.

— Become part of a local organization fighting for your cause because there is more strength in numbers. This doesn’t mean you turn your life over. You go to an event or two and do what you can in the beginning. Here are some sources and ideas:

Common Cause — I am particularly interested in investigating Trump and the election. This group is on the case and effective in holding elected officials accountable. They are also BI-PARTISAN. Commoncause.org

Citizen’s Climate Lobby – An effective group if you are particularly concerned with climate change. Citizensclimatelobby.org

Funny, but missing the point ;-)

Funny, but missing the point 😉

Facebook Groups:

— If you are a white person who is particularly concerned with racism towards non-whites try White People For Black Lives.

— If you want a simple task to do everyday that will make some difference join the group Rise When We Fall. They offer options and action plans. You can also get daily emails from them. Risewhenwefall.org

— Sign up for a google news alert about the activities or any Congress member of issue you want to know about. You can choose how often you get them. It’s a summary of the latest developments and a way to stay informed.

— If you want to take a step towards a Trump impeachment, demand your reps and others support a bi-partisan independent investigation into Russian/Trump activities in the 2016 presidential election. If there is an investigation done solely within the Senate, a distinct possibility, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the power to keep specific evidence, testimony and findings secret and you will NEVER KNOW the FULL STORY.

— If you are overwhelmed with issues and can’t choose one, you are not alone. Know most of us feel this way. Go to charity navigator and peruse many worthy causes. It is a guide on what organizations do and how to donate time or money. Spend some personal time soul searching and realize you cannot do it all. And that whatever you don’t choose, someone else somewhere will choose.

When it feels like this... remember you are not alone!

When it feels like this… remember you are not alone!

Finally, the woman who ran our workshop wisely pointed out that although often it’s quoted that all politics are local, what that really means is all politics is personal. She then hesitatingly offered us the quote often attributed to Russian leader Joseph Stalin (Note: Appropriate in the age of Trump) – the death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.

Meaning –- this stuff is all personal and if you relate what is meaningful to you and yours it will carry more weight than you realize.

Though if Russian orthodoxy makes you uncomfortable at this point in time – and why wouldn’t it – think instead about what Mother Theresa once said:

If I look at the mass I will never act.

And then, yeah, act. Which in turn might bring you, just a little bit of hope.

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Turning Back Time

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We all came to America in different ships – but we are all in the same boat now

– Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) outside the Capitol Building last week to a mostly young crowd supporting a Democratic-led sit-in demanding a vote on gun legislation

John Lewis has been a congressman for almost 30 years but is still best known to most Americans as one of the young protégés of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In that realm, he is also renowned as the young Black man whose skull was brutally fractured by nightstick-wielding Alabama state troopers during the 1965 March on Selma when he, Dr. King, and hundreds of others merely decided to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in non-violent demonstration in order to integrate the South.

Living legend

Living legend

Now 76-years old and bald, one entire side of Rep. Lewis’ head still very clearly bears the bold, visible scars of that fateful day. So as he encouraged demonstrators to never give up on their goals it is also unsurprising that a veteran lawmaker like himself would admonish them to also not give in to their anger over 200 mass shootings since 2006 (the latest of which was responsible for a record body count of 49 inside an Orlando gay nightclub) despite absolutely ZERO modifications of laws that allowed those gunmen to purchase their often quite sophisticated military grade weapons.

The way of peace is the way of love, Rep. Lewis shouted out towards the crowd as he went on to further share with them what he said Dr. King related to him all of those decades ago.

Hate is too heavy a burden to bear, so we need to lay it down – it is better to love.

And to even that he then added this 21st century addendum.

So with all of you working together — we can turn our nation around. It doesn’t matter if you’re Black or White, Latino American, Asian American, Native American, Straight or Gay – we are all Americans.

My head is still spinning over this....

My head is still spinning over this….

I am hesitant to say a few unexpected tears welled in my eyes as Rep. Lewis spoke. As a gay guy of a certain age I have not yet grown used to national leaders openly including us in the multi-layered cloth of identities in this country. Yeah, I know it’s been at least a couple of years but I’m not sure you ever relax about this sort of thing when more of your life has been spent battling inequality than basking in the rewards of the opposite. In this way, I can only begin to imagine how he must feel as the purveyor of this message after what he has managed to live through.

By the way, I know his above quotes to be accurate because I watched him say them on live television during the many multi-hours of coverage this 2016 demonstration received and then sped it back using my Direct TV rewind button in order to write it down exactly and remember it. That’s yet another way the world has changed for the better since the 1960s. Not only do you get to see government and civil disobedience live and unedited, you have the opportunity to record it permanently in case you forget it, don’t pay attention in the first place or if anyone doubts you.

I have the power!

I have the power!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the sixties, seventies, fifties and even forties for several reasons this week. No, they don’t all have to do with the passage of Brexit and the anti-immigration wave not only blowing throughout England but back on to and throughout this country via our current Republican presidential nominee. They also have to do with my home TV viewing habits via one of our own fave channels – at least in this household — Turner Classic Movies.

This month TCM’s been showing musicals from the 1960s and I was seduced into too many off hours of diversion in the last few weeks somehow – mostly recently several days ago by the film versions of The Music Man (1962) and Bye Bye Birdie (1963). Now don’t get me wrong, neither of these are great films but they are infinitely watchable and entertaining. So evocative are they of another time and place and naiveté that doesn’t exist anymore that it becomes impossible to turn away.

Saturated with glee

Saturated with glee

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to imagine that there is a town still as rosy as Sweet Apple, Ohio where all teenage girls looked like Ann-Margret; with fathers who had the gay sensibilities of Paul Lynde (Note: But you didn’t have to talk about them) and where the country’s biggest problem was just how on earth we could all handle the departure into the military of our own #1 word famous swivel-hipped pop star? (Note: And one with no discernible bloodshed because we clearly were fighting no discernible war).

Well, the only thing that could be better is viewing a kind-hearted con man re-energize one of our small towns citizen by citizen and, through his deeds (and unbeknownst to himself until the end), finding that he does have a soul underneath it all. So much so that he decides to leave his life of capitalistic crime, fall in love with and marry the local spinster librarian, and spend the rest of his life as a mere private citizen in the very town that at the beginning of the story he was determined to massively rip off?

Oh sweet Americana

Oh sweet Americana

Those are the thumbnail plots of Bye Bye Birdie and The Music Man and a pretty good representation of where we were sociologically in the early 1960s. No wonder such a significant portion of white America, not to mention white England, are nostalgic for the past and want to take our country(ies) back….there????

Yes. Make no mistake about it. That’s where they want to be. To a place that, well, never existed.

Because you can’t return to Sweet Apple, Ohio without returning to a time when Rep. Lewis types not only did not serve in Congress but would get their skulls bashed in or worse in some (many?) places if they dared to eat at the same lunch counter with you. And to return to the kind of Europe that Brexit proponents are suggesting – a time where citizens of one country were not free to emigrate and work in another nearby European country as legal citizens – means also going back to a place in history not that far removed from our most horrific example of nationalistic pride and anti-other/immigration gone amuck – Nazi Germany.   You just don’t get to say that brown and black and yellow and every shade in between of people are taking your jobs and your opportunities so you’re going to outlaw them from coming any where near you without also owning the idea that you are opening the door of advocacy for a time you would most likely publicly eschew.

Sounds about right

Sounds about right

This appears to be the dilemma now. Do we trudge forward in love as Rep. Lewis suggests? Or do we go back to the real time – not the fantasy of it – that Brexit, Trump, and the brewing worldwide nativism movements suggest?

As much as I like a good or even decently nostalgic movie musical – I’ll choose to follow a battle-scarred leader like Rep. Lewis any time of the day, week or year.

I mean what could happen, right?