[Posted this on Facebook this week, but wanted to widen its reach.]
I, like many people, have been disturbed by the political happenings of the last week. If you are happy with the way things are going, yay! But this post is not for you.
I have also been disturbed by a sentiment I have seen floating around the Internet that the vote is over, so we all have to suck it up and deal with it. This is not true. In America, we don’t vote in a dictator. Our political system is designed to encourage political participation all year, every year. This is what free speech is all about. If you have a problem with what’s happening, you have every right to participate in political speech to prevent it from happening, or continuing. Our system was built by people who believed we had not only the right to do so, but the moral obligation.
While I’ve known this academically, it’s not until the recent events that I realized it’s true, right now, for me, in real life, and my actions should reflect that. For me it’s not a partisan issue. I strongly opposed the last Republican president, but I didn’t feel the need to protest because I always believed that our president was acting in good faith, even though I disagreed with him.
I no longer believe that our president is acting in good faith. I remember now that as an American I have privileges, rights, and obligations. So I’ve been re-educating myself about political speech. If you, like me, want to claim your right to participate in our political process, here are some historically effective and appropriate means of political speech:
You can attend protests. You can participate in strikes. You can tell people what you believe. You can give money to organizations that oppose lawmakers or that offer services. You can talk to your representatives about what you see happening and what you hope they will do about it.
Yes, these things really help. You don’t have to agree with me (or anyone) about what needs to be done. You can raise your own voice for any purpose you choose. That’s how we do things in America, and we need to exercise the rights we have if we want to keep them.
I was super intimidated about what to do and where to start. One tool I found useful is thesixtyfive.org, which is a progressive website that tracks what issues are being voted on by your representatives in the immediate future. It will tell you who your representatives are and give you their Washington phone numbers. Another website you might try is 5calls.org; they list different issues and different suggested scripts.
These websites have a progressive agenda. I don’t agree with all of it. You may not agree with any of it. You can also read the news, especially from trusted news sources. You can fact check the news you consume. You can read something inflammatory and ask yourself, is that true? And the do research to discover if it is before you share. You can look on government websites to find out what’s being voted on this week. You can Google your representatives. If their Washington mailboxes are full, you can call their state numbers and fill those boxes, too.
You can also give money to organizations that fight on either side of a given issue. You can also give money to organizations that serve important purposes and can help feel the gap when the government cuts off important services. You can also give money to organizations to help fill the gap when the government defunds them.
You can also encourage others to call their representatives. You can share what you know about how our government works. When you see political posts on social media, you can encourage those who are upset to direct their complaints also to lawmakers and leaders who can make a difference.
But if you disagree, please do something. Or at least, for goodness’s sake , remember that you can.