I could easily go on a rant about what happen last Tuesday night, seems to be the main thing in most peoples feeds this week. How people are reacting, rampant false news stories, or how we’re about to have a white nationalist in the White House soon. I’m not going to because those are the loudest things out there right now and frankly, I’ve already seen people sharing their thoughts way better than I could ever do so. I’m not saying any of these things are not important, they are, just that I can’t add anything to the conversation that you (hopefully) haven’t seen already.
What I think I can add is what I’ve been doing this week to try and start to make things better. I’m hoping you have seen lists like this in other places as well already. As I just stated I’m not interested in adding to the noise. Reinforcing things we can all do to make the scary road ahead better, I’m all for.
I want to add that I’m still learning as I go with this. So this list is what I’m doing so far. Working to make this a better list is also part of the plan. Learn, try, adjust, repeat. So here goes, 7 things I’ve been doing to make tomorrow better since the election.
1 – Get better educated
Like many of you (at least half the country looking at voting data) I woke up last Wednesday morning like I was living in a perpetual flash-bang. Hurt, angry, confused. Lashing out or clinging onto anything I could hold on to. In a word, raw. I still am many of these things in many ways. To help combat this I started reading like a man possessed. Which is kinda hard for me since I’m a slow reader and trying to correct an issue with subvocalization. I’ve gone to sleep every night with some kind of headache from pushing my reading skills each day.
The important and different thing I’m doing now that I didn’t do before is not just reading more. It’s stepping back from everything I read and asking more about the source, what might be the reason this article was written, and is it being covered differently by different sources. I no longer trust things on the first pass until I can verify it better. Even more important, not passing things around until I feel that what I’ve read might actually be the more true than not. Trying not to fall into the FOMO of the 24 hour news cycle on social media. I haven’t even turned on a cable news channel since last Tuesday. It’s a drug and I need to put myself in a 12-step Facebook group to help recover.
Here is a great cheat sheet of current sites not to trust. Even more important, be sure to read the tips for analyzing news sources included here so you can do this on your own. I’m also trying to better familiar myself with how our system works. Things like how best to really get your Congressman to listen for example.
I have also been continuing to educate myself on things outside of topics and discussions directly tied to politics and the election. Trying to go as wide as possible so to get the deepest perspective I can. Thank goodness for my Blinkist subscription, podcasts, and and well read friends to help with this. Tim Ferris, Jocko Willink, Ben Franklin, Kevin Kelly, Seneca, and the Dalai Lama have all at least had a few minutes of my time this past week. I’m even currently re-reading the US constitution as well since I think the last time I read it in full was in the early 90s. Standing on the shoulders of giants to help me see the way. I want to no longer complain about things that I only half-ass remember facts about or just read the headline for when it came across Twitter.
2 – Support or donate to causes that can help
I’ve always held the strong belief that you should give what you can when you can. Time, money, experience, or what every you have at your availability. I’ve been an off and on contributor/supporter of organizations such as the ACLU, CBLDF, ASPCA for a long time now. I give monthly to a special needs cat rescue in San Francisco and try to give daily through the Pet to Give and One Today apps. I will continue to do these things but now need to expand this list more when possible. I can make some room, either time or funding.
Last Week Tonight this weekend made a great list of places to donate time or money to that will help push human rights causes forward, help people who are in in the cross hairs of possible bad things to come, or help keep the people involved with what’s to come honest.
- Planned Parenthood
- Center for Reproductive Rights
- NRDC (National Resources Defense Council)
- International Refugee Assistance Project
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- The Trevor Project for LBTGQ Youth
- Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Or any of these
For an extra bonus that both supports keeping the people involved with what’s to come honest as well as giving you another great source to educate yourself LWT also recommends subscribing to The New York Times and The Washington Post.
I will also add shopping with smile.amazon.com and selling items via charity.ebay.com over the holiday season would also be a great idea.
3 – Don’t pretend either side is clean in this matter
A lot has been said about Trump voters being fine with racism, sexism, and bigotry. That they cared more about their selves, their family, and their own problems than how putting Trump in the White House would effect non white males across the country. I fully stand by this statement and think this is the biggest realization that hurt the most from election night. That half of America wanted change of any kind and cared more about their problems than other. Sure most of them don’t hate minorities, women, and immigrants; they just don’t care enough about them to not vote an bigoted internet troll into office. You subscripted to HBO but knew you were also getting Cinemax. Does this of course mean that everyone who voted for Trump is a monster? Of course not. I know some of them and they would smile when seeing you at the store or high five you at the gym. It just means that where their lives are today, how the country has changed, and how they feel that they may not be a part of it or like the direction is a bigger deal to them than other people they don’t know’s issues. Welcome to the human condition. It sucks but at least we have pie right?
The thing that I’ve not seen being plastered all over the internet that is similar to this that I think needs to be brought up is that Democrats/liberals (which I am one of them) need to be aware that we are fine with being smug assholes. This, like the Trump voter, doesn’t mean liberals are monsters. It just means they are fine with living in bubble where everything is fine for them and not concerned with the people who don’t fit the profile of being in their bubble or look at like some cause or project to fix. I am trying to make the conscious decision to be more aware of this. I knew I lived in a bubble, I just didn’t realize it was a glass dome on top of an ivory tower.
At the beginning of election night I like many other liberals had the popcorn out and the memes loaded up on Twitter for the fun Mike Tyson styled beat down ahead. We just didn’t know it was the Tyson vs. Buster Douglas fight we were about to watch. When change started to roll out the past few decades those who where luckily enough to see things progress the way they wanted didn’t mind that the ‘small town folk’ that weren’t part of this. They didn’t look at us as lucky, hard working people but as smug assholes who would rather take a selfie than acknowledge what they were going through. We didn’t see, let alone, care about them so why should they care about us or the people and causes we care about?
Indirect racism, is still racism. Indirect lack of caring, is still lack of caring. We can’t ask Trump voters to care more than beyond their sphere unless we are willing to do the same. We need to stopping looking at Trump voters as “Fly-over state rednecks armed with AR-15s and a cousin that works at Walmart” and they need to stop looking at us like, “Characters from Portlanda armed with Apple Watches and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.” We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone.
We are a lot more alike than we are unalike and I need to get that tattooed on arm so I don’t ever forget again. So I plan to keep all sides motivations in mind when working to make things better.
4 – Be aware that this isn’t about making you feel better
White guilt is real and it is not a good thing when white people (like myself) focus on getting rid of this guilt by making them self feel like they did something when they really didn’t. Retweeting a story about immigrants shouldn’t stop you from helping the people who are mentioned in the story. I’m all for showing unity or support for a cause but changing your profile color or adding a flag to your Twitter name doesn’t cut it. I would love to be wrong on this BTW. If I heard from someone who is scared to walk down the street now that adding a safety pin to my shirt actually made them feel better I would do it in a heart beat.
I’m trying to take an active effort now to note every time I see something like this happen. To use this as a reminder that I need to be uncomfortable from time ti time and remind myself to not sit back in the safety of my white male-ness and let this all blow over after the media frenzy has died down. If you remember everyone was all hot on Kony 2012 until the new Hunger Games movie came out. I plan to help stay the course by reminding myself as often as I can that the goal here isn’t my comfort with a bad situation but helping make a better situation for those not as luck as I. I try to remind myself every morning how lucky I am to have the life I have, how humble I am to have the friends & family that stay by me, and how great it is to have the ability to share my voice with little to no repercussions. All things I will be trying harder each day to not waste.
5 – Become an active optimist
I’ve always considered myself an optimist. Finding anything good in any situation, being the calmer head when things come up, and acting the fool to cut the tension in a room when things are wound too tight. I am still planning to be that guy through whatever happens next. This doesn’t mean smoothing over the wrinkles with when horribly wrong things pop-up though. What it does mean is that as I read and discuss new things that need to be brought to light to try and find some solutions or actions to go with them.
This is one of the reasons I decided to write this post. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more but I started working on this to work through these inner demons as well as just maybe it might help someone else too. I know this will not be easy. That I will fall short many many times, but in the act of trying good things will come of it. I should like to help, even if small it’s worth the effort to remain non-complacent but keep a solutions oriented mind set. Because Yoda was full of shit. It’s all try.
6 – It’s okay to not have saved the world by Friday
I’m a fixer. When I see a problem I want to see what could be done to make things right or better. Because Mister Rodgers is my spirit guide and he taught me a long time ago that when things get tough to look for the helpers. I strive to be one of those helpers whenever possible. This makes it tough when I look at a problem that I can’t figure out a good quick solution for. Problems that take more than a two-part episode to fix. Problems that I can’t see the mid-game outcomes let alone the end-game solutions. Problems where new information and new troubles are still rolling out regularly.
With problems so big and with such a long fight ahead it’s easy to loose focus, walk away, or step back and let others figure things out. The journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step but how do I still be standing tall and keep moving forward around mile 500 is what I’m asking myself today. I’m working to make a mind shift with this problem so to settle into the long trench war ahead. Thank goodness for making 10 minutes a day to find some head space. The only way I can do this is to be okay with pushing the bolder just an inch each day. And if that bolder ends up rolling back over me from time to time to not let that stop me from standing back up, dusting myself off, and starting to push it again. Be more like Rocky than Usain Bolt. Take punches like rain drops and keep moving forward. Because that’s how winning is done.
7 – Don’t forget what you’re fighting for
Lastly I’m doing something to ensure I can keep up the fire in the blood for the long haul ahead. With more and more information coming in at warp speed every moment of the day it’s just too much to handle making all the above items on a consistent basis. So I’m being sure that no matter how deep of a dive I go into the above listed items I still come back up for air regularly. Take a breath to not only see the forest from the trees for a clearer perspective on things but to also keep my sanity. The road to wearing a tin foil hat is paved with good intentions. If I let myself live in the world of political & social change, and only this world, I could easily spiral down into a shell of my former self.
Read a comic, watch some anime, play video games, drink some scotch, hang out with friends, hug a cat, listen to some music, watch the sun rise on the beach, make someone smile, or tell someone you love them. All great things that I will keep doing so to remind me of what and whom we’re fighting for. Without this the struggle is that much harder. As Viktor Frankl said in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
I’m not sure if any of this is useful to you or not, I’m hoping at least some of it is, but I thank you for reading. As mentioned in the beginning I’m sure as time progresses this list will change, adapt, and grow. I assume I will as well in the coming 4-8 years. If you have any thoughts or things to add please feel free to share it with me. If you found this helpful please feel free to share it. This is a great country with a possibly tough time ahead of it but I refuse to give up and not planning to leave it anytime soon.
Amendment #1 (11/19/16): Calling your representatives
With Trump’s cabinet and staff choices starting to role in I felt it was time I called my government representatives to tell them what I thought about this. From what was noted by “how best to really get your Congressman to listen” above calling is by far the best way to reach them. They can ignore e-mails and letters all day but they have to have a staffer on hand to log all in-coming voice messages. Enough of these from their constituents (that’s us y’all) and they have to listen in fear of losing votes next time they are up for reelection.
This was the first time I have done this so I had to look up how to. It’s pretty easy I found out.
Step #1: Find out who your representatives are
Visit this page on House.gov and put in your zip code to find your Congressman
Visit this page on Senate.gov and find your state to find your Senator
Visit this page on USA.gov and find our state to find your Governor
If you find you have more than one representative I recommend calling each of them
Step #2: Find their direct office line
The Senate.gov page will list the direct line for your representatives so this one’s easy
The House.gov page links to your representatives website. These don’t always make their direct number super easy to find. It will be on there though. I ended up typing “congressman (insert name) phone number” into Google. A number popped up right away.
The USA.gov page links to your representatives webpage as well. Would again recommend trying the Google trick. I didn’t for me this time but I found the number on their website.
Step #3: What to say
If you are like me “but what the hell am I going to actually say to them?” Is running though your head right now. I highly recommend writing out what you want to say ahead of time. This will help pull your thoughts together, best simplify your message (so you don’t ramble for 10 minutes), and create something to refer back to in case you get nervous while talking. Here is the script I wrote before calling. Feel free to use this as base for yours or just change out the words in green to your info and use it as is.
Which if you feel uncomfortable talking on the phone to someone don’t worry, you should have an option to leave a message from the automated voice menu when you call. On the off chance you do get a real person on the line just say that, “I have a message for (insert name) that I would like to share” and then read from your script. They should either pass you along to the representative’s voicemail or record what you want say to them with no commentary or conversation. Remember the person taking your call will just be a staffer and not your actually representative. They want to record your message and get back to what they were working on. Even if it is a fierce game of Mine Sweeper (I assume government computes don’t get updated a lot).
Step #4: What next?
If you were able to leave a message with each of your representatives, great job! If for any reason you were not try calling again soon. I got a ‘voicemail full’ message from my Senator and a ‘voicemail not available’ message from my Governor. So I will be calling back tomorrow and each day after that until I can leave a message.
You can call your representatives for any concerns you might have regarding local, state, or national government affairs. Always remember THEY work for YOU! I have a feeling that Trump will continue to do things that will have all these guys on my speed dial. So the next time I want share my thoughts or concerns I will just repeat write a new script and call. I hope you all do the same when you want your voice heard on similar issues.