Step outside your bubble

It’s only been about a month since the inauguration, but some days, it feels like it’s been a year.

Maybe it’s because many of our fears about what a Trump presidency could mean for the country are coming to fruition.

Reinterpreting Title IX to exclude students who are transgendered. Actively hunting down illegal aliens. Working to take away healthcare from millions of Americans.

It’s overwhelming. Disheartening. Frightening.

And much of the time, I feel somewhat alone in my fear bubble. It’s just me, a handful of friends and family and Rachel Maddow.


At least that’s my perception.

Except we’re not alone. There are lots of us out there – I mean, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes. So why do some of us feel lonely?

Personally, I think it’s because I am living in a kind of echo chamber, despite my best efforts. Sure, I’m making my daily calls, thanks to Daily Action. I’m in the process of getting vetted to volunteer for Jewish Vocational Services’ refugee relocation program. Yet it generally feels like I’m doing these things without benefit of ever seeing a familiar face.

And then, within the last two weeks, my bubble burst in a good way.

First, a friend I’ve known for several years mentioned she’d been at a local Progressive Social Network meeting. I didn’t realize she was involved. She’d never mentioned it, and I hadn’t asked.

Then a couple weeks ago, I got an e-mail asking for last-minute volunteers at JVS.

With the stay keeping the immigration ban at bay for a bit, JVS learned that more than 40 refugees would be arriving in Kansas City the week of Feb. 13. They needed people who could help put together basic supplies to help the refugees get set up in their new homes.

So early on a Monday morning, I headed to a warehouse in Midtown to bundle together donated sheets, towels, kitchen supplies and toiletries.

I didn’t know a soul there. I was a little late (because I usually am,) so I joined two women who were just getting started. One was in her 20s, and the other in her late 40s. They’re friends who work together at Southwest Airlines. I asked how they found JVS. I thought maybe Southwest had a volunteer program such as Kohl’s Care for Kids.

Nope, they said. They were working the Sunday that folks gathered at the airport to protest against Trump’s executive order effectively banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations. They decided that day they wanted to do something to help refugees, so the older woman found out about JVS’s work through her church.

They never spoke of politics or the election or even mentioned Donald Trump’s name. They just wanted to help other humans. We worked together for two hours, counting sheets and blankets and pots and pans and toothbrushes.

Then on Wednesday, after a long day at work, I stopped by the local meeting of the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus. I was late, this time because of work, so I slipped in, signed in and headed for a seat. I tried to make myself smaller so as not to draw attention to myself.

But I felt eyes on me, so I looked over at the next table. There was a woman I knew through my job, smiling at me knowingly. I flashed her a grin.

Just then, the door to the room opened, and another woman walked in late. After a few minutes, I realized it was a woman I see at my gym. After the meeting, I reminded her that we take Zumba together.

I was starting to feel like part of a club.

And on Thursday after work, I stopped by Jo-Ann Fabrics to pick up something. As I grabbed a cart, a woman came up to me.

“Excuse me,” she said, leaning in.

She looked around and lowered her voice.

“I like your bumper sticker,” she said.

I paused.

“My Clinton-Kaine sticker?” I asked.

“Yep!” she said. “I just had to say something to you. I feel so alone that when I see people I know feel the same way I do, I have to reach out.”

I smiled and offered my hand. Then I told her about the Progressive Social Network group and the women’s political caucus meeting. She didn’t know about either. I told her about Daily Action – she’d been trying to make calls on her own.

I dug in my purse and pulled out a business card and wrote all that on the back.

She thanked me, and I thanked her for stopping me. And then we went on our ways.

And the world felt a little smaller.

Keep calm and non-violently protest on


Wow, guys. So much has happened. Where do I start?

I’ve been trying to write about the Affordable Care Act for the last 10 days, but I keep getting interrupted by the Crazy Train running amok through Washington, D.C. Immigration. Abortion. Healthcare. Misplaced white nationalists. Absurdly inaccurate inaugural crowd estimates.

I once was a fan of the circus. As a child, I marveled at the trained lions, and men soaring across the rings as they were shot from cannons, and beautiful women hanging by their ponytails as they performed a mid-air ballet.

But now, the circus seems déclassé. No one wants to see animals, who might be treated unfairly, jumping through hoops and dancing around rings. Don’t even get me started on the clowns.

And yet here we are, every day and night spent glued to Twitter and Facebook and the cable news channels as we seek to make sense of the biggest American circus of all – the federal government with Donald J. Trump in charge.

I don’t know where to start. I am making my daily calls (thanks, Daily Action!) and contemplating other ways I can become involved and remain a force for good.
But it’s difficult.

On election night, when it became apparent that Hillary Clinton had lost, I posted a status on Facebook, asking everyone to remain calm. We didn’t really know what was going to happen; Donald Trump had been anything but predictable during the election season, so I did not feel that assumptions would be helpful.

Man, did I get a virtual earful that night from my friends who were rightfully scared. They detailed all the ways that a Trump presidency could ruin life as they knew it, and many had valid points. He could strip away hard-won rights for members of the LGBTQI community, he could appoint a radical justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, he could pick a fight with another country and launch World War III.

All true, to be sure.

I guess I was trying to convince myself to stay calm. As a psychotherapist, I spend much time explaining to my clients about the havoc chronic anxiety wreaks on our minds and bodies. It contributes to stress within our families and workplaces. Chronic anxiety leads to inflammation, the underlying cause of autoimmune disorders and possibly cancer.

I work with my clients on mindfulness, living in the moment, letting the past go and facing the future with a clear mind.

So I was trying to practice what I preach.

That’s difficult these days, though, with the three-ring circus coming out of Washington, D.C. Yet it remains even more important now that Donald Trump has been inaugurated that cooler heads prevail among those who resist his misogynistic, racist, nationalist agenda.

Next executive order?

His daily executive orders and manufactured feuds with the press and Twitter bullying are meant to do one thing – keep us in an uproar. And when we’re upset and anxious and fearful, the amygdala takes over. That’s the part of the brain that governs the limbic system and regulates emotions. When the amygdala is in charge of the brain’s functioning, the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that controls critical thinking – cannot work.

It’s like a governor on a machine – something that regulates something else. The amygdala can overrule the prefrontal cortex when we’re in danger, telling the body to give us the shot of adrenaline to jump out of the way of a speeding car, for example, or to spring into action when we or someone we love is threatened.
The amygdala is an awesome thing, but when it works too much, it overheats and starts telling us we’re in danger when we really aren’t. Only by remaining calm can we think and analyze whether the danger is real or perceived.

Do you see what I’m saying? The current administration seeks to keep us in a perpetual state of anxiety and fear, so that we can’t stop and analyze what’s going on, such as sneaking a highly politicized and completely inexperienced white nationalist onto the National Security Council or demanding the resignations of many experienced career diplomats at the Department of State.

We must remain calm.

That does not mean we can’t react – we just need to do so in a thoughtful way that reflects that we have thought critically about the situation. Knee-jerk reactions will be dismissed and ineffective.

So here’s what I know:

1. Calling your senators and members of Congress is the most effective way to make your dissent heard.
You can write letters and e-mails, too, but daily phone calls get noticed and aren’t as easily discarded as postcards or e-mails. Your phone calls should be sincere and polite. You don’t want to give your elected officials any reason to say you’re histrionic. Ask questions. Ask for positions. Ask that the staffer you reach take down your name and ZIP code. And say, “thank you.” Being nice disarms someone who is expecting a fight.

2. This is a marathon, not a 5K.
It’s only Day 12 of a four-year term. Donald Trump has issued at least 20 executive orders since Jan. 20. You will wear yourself out if you attack every day with the gusto you did on Jan. 21. Do what you can. Give yourself time to rest. Read something other than the Huffington Post and Twitter. Turn off MSNBC every once in a while. And then come back to the issues recharged enough to keep going. You don’t want to flame out by March.

Here’s something a friend posted on Facebook, and she gave permission to share. I think it is heartening:

For everyone who DID something, small or big, your efforts have been successful.
Because of you:
1. Federal hiring freeze is reversed for VA (Veteran Affairs).
2. Court order, partial stay of the immigration ban for those with valid visas.
3. Green card holders can get back in country.
4. Uber pledges $3M and immigration lawyers for its drivers after #DeleteUber trends on Twitter.
5. Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) enrollment ads are still going to air.
6. The ACLU raised $24 million over the weekend (normally 3-4Mil/year).
7. HHS, EPA, USDA gag order lifted.
8. EPA climate data no longer scrubbed from website.
9. More people of different career/religious/economic/race backgrounds are considering running for political office than ever before.
10. MOST importantly, since we live in a participatory democracy, the people are engaged.

While more is needed, sometimes you have to celebrate your wins.
Stay vigilant, but also take self-care seriously. Activist burnout is a thing. Marathon, don’t sprint.

3. Love trumps hate.
Yes, the phrase is too precious. But it’s true. You cannot fight hatred with more hatred. It will consume you. You can only fight it with love.

What does that mean? How do you fight hatred with love? For me, it means that if I attempt to extract vengeance, I risk harming myself more than I do the person I’m aiming my vengeance toward. To fight hatred with love, you must remain calm. You must stare the hatred in the face with a calmness of spirit and a prayer in your heart that the hater will receive grace. You must outlast the hatred.

It’s not impossible as long as we keep this in mind while we’re striving to resist the hatred: Whatever we do should be out of love.

Love for our neighbors – those who are less fortunate, who come from other lands, who need our help.

Love for our children, who are watching how we handle this uncertain time. They’re watching and learning, and if we want them to forge a better future, we must show them how to love in the face of hate.

Love for our country, a deeply flawed place full of the children and grandchildren of brave men and women who fled persecution and hatred and economic hardship to build better lives for their families. They made mistakes along the way, of course, but everything they did, they did for the future. They made this place for us, and we should love it and cherish it and continue to speak out and fight with dignity for what we know is the way forward, not backward.

You can do it. Just keep calm.

Want to resist? Here’s how

The campaign officially ends Friday.

That’s when the vaunted peaceful transfer of power occurs in Washington, D.C., and Donald J. Trump assumes the mantle of president. POTUS.

(Personally, in my opinion, he won’t be able to pull off that acronym with the coolness of Barack Obama. But whatevs.)

Maybe you’re feeling down about this. Maybe you’re thinking this week will be the last good week of the next four years. Maybe you’re thinking all you’ve got to look forward to is Alec Baldwin on Saturday nights.

But wait. You can do something, and it’s as easy as making one phone call a day.


Daily Action began a month ago, the brainchild of Laura Moser, a D.C.-based writer. She felt blindsided on Nov. 9, unsure of the world and anxious, for the first time ever, to really do something. But what?

Here’s how she explains it:

Then, while scrolling through yet another despairing Facebook thread, I had an idea: What if I could help curate the controversies and use technology to keep people engaged in holding the new administration accountable?

As The New York Times recently reported, phoning legislators is the most effective way to make our voices heard—but phone calls can take up time that many of us don’t have. What if a service made placing these calls so easy that we had no excuse not to do it? That’s where the Daily Action alerts come in. The idea is, with the help of the progressive digital media agency where my husband is a partner, to provide a sort of clearinghouse of actions we can collectively take to resist extremism.

It works this way: You text “DAILY” to 228466. You receive a response asking for your ZIP code. You give it, and you’re in.

You’ll get a daily text alerting you to the issue of the day, along with a telephone number. You dial that number, listen to talking points and get connected. Sometimes you’ll be connected to your senator or representative to share your concerns about a particular issue. At other times, you might be connected to other members of Congress who chair various committees or have sway over certain issues. You even could be connected to folks who influence Congress, such as businesses or policy groups.

The text alerts arrive in the morning. You can call and be done with it within 15 minutes. It’s so simple. And it’s effective.

As of last Friday, Daily Action counted more than 38,000 recruits. Along with other progressive groups, Daily Action’s calling campaign might be making a bit of a difference. Phones in Congressional offices are ringing off the hook. Some Congressmen, such as House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, have stopped taking messages. Some phones go straight to voicemail. Other mailboxes are full.


You have the right – nay, the responsibility – as citizens to let your lawmakers know your stance on these issues. They work for you, not each other and certainly not the president, whoever he or she is. Almost 40,000 is a lot of people making calls. But just think how effective we could be if that number were twice or three times that.

Today we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., definitely a man of action. How would he join the resistance if he were here today?

Tune in, tweet on, text much. This is not the time to be silent or immobilized by inability to take action.

And luckily for us, Daily Action makes it as easy to get involved as sending a text.

*Please, please consider joining Daily Action and raising your voice. For more information, click here.