If you’re not a corporation or a fairly wealthy individual, you’re likely pissed off about the latest tax reform legislation that made it through the Senate in a middle-of-the-night vote—with 500 new pages that no one had time to read.
Join the club, because I’m angry, too.
But being angry about any piece of legislation can only get us so far. Sure, it feels good to vent with like-minded people, but what we need right now is decisive action.
In the last year, average citizens who may have taken little interest in the workings of the government have started to take their civic responsibilities seriously. And do you want to know the perfect recipe for creating an activist?
You take a situation that should have been a huge leap forward for our country (electing the first female President of the United States) and instead take a huge step backward (putting an incompetent, reality show celebrity in the White House instead).
Then you have the new administration start targeting the rights of various groups of people. They take aim at Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive services far beyond abortions for low-income individuals and families. Then, they take aim at LGBTQ rights. Then they fan the flame of racism, encouraging and emboldening hate groups to begin publicly demonstrating.
You take all of these ingredients, and you combine it with legislation geared to benefit corporate donors, lobbyists, the wealthy, banks, and big business at the expense of the people who need it the most.
And voilà, you’ve created a perfect storm for folks to go from average citizens to inspired activists.
I’m one of those people who used to be a little too complacent. I didn’t care if I missed a local election—it never felt like it impacted me all that much anyway. My complacency has long gone out the window, and now I’ve joined the ranks of other Americans who are determined that our voices will not be drowned out by hatred, bigotry, or self-interest.
For others who are coming to realize that we can, in fact, make a difference but don’t quite know how, here are five things we can do when our government—once again—pisses us off:
- Contact your representatives. Know who they are. Follow them on social media. Comment on their posts. Call or write letters. If you don’t have a lot of time or need a daily reminder, check out Resistbot on Facebook. They will fax your letters each day to the representatives of your choice. They’ll even send you a daily reminder of what bills are coming up for review that might be of concern.
- Participate in letter writing campaigns. I’ve been writing postcards to voters in Alabama to remind them of an upcoming election. We don’t have to limit our civic activities to our own state, particularly when the outcome of another state’s election can impact voting power in the Senate or House of Representatives. We can purchase postcards and stamps and get in on a letter writing campaign to spread the word about the candidate we feel will best represent us all.
- Spread awareness. It’s so easy to want to scroll past the tough stories, but it’s important that we bring to light the injustices that we see. It’s more than just clicking “share.” It’s engaging in conversations about the problems we see and talking about ways that we can address them in our communities. In my community, we held a vigil for Heather Heyer, and we talked about ways to combat racism.
- Put your money where your mouth is. If we are angry about social injustice, perhaps we donate to the ACLU. Even if all we give is a dollar, it counts. Just think what a difference we could make if everyone who felt strongly about a particular issue gave a dollar! If we can’t afford to contribute financially, we can take action by hosting a food drive for struggling families who are getting screwed by cuts to public assistance programs.
- Be a peaceful protester. We can get involved in local activist groups and find ways to peacefully protest what’s going on. We may choose to participate in marches, or maybe we stop spending our money at businesses that don’t hold the same values we do. We can speak up at family or church gatherings when someone perpetuates racism or misogyny. We can refuse to be silent about the injustices that we see around us. Whatever we choose, we need to find a way to get involved and support one another.
Our civic duty doesn’t end when we cast our vote. And it becomes more than a duty when we see the way of life that we’ve been able to take for granted threatened by people who are more interested in benefiting their own lives and furthering their own careers rather than representing we, the people.
We do need to form a more perfect union, but we need to do it beyond our vote. We need to come together and make sure that our advocacy and our actions inspire change.
We need to ensure that our country—a melting pot whose progress has been hard-won—isn’t hijacked by groups and individuals who seek to divide instead of unite. So we’ll fight. We’ll drown out the voices of hate and self-interest with tenacity and courage, and with our united efforts to protect the progress we’ve made in the hope of leaving our children with a better America than we were handed.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina