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.

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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.

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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.

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Changing for the better

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Hey, there. It’s me.

It’s a new year, that time when we all make promises to ourselves to do things better, to make different choices, to improve ourselves. Some call them “resolutions.” I prefer to think of them as goals.

I generally make several goals as the year changes. Almost every year, for example, I set a goal to be more organized. Mixed results on that one. Sometimes I tell myself I’ll work out more. Again, mixed results.

This year, I’m pledging to speak out.

It’s been a while since I’ve written in this space. I can make up all sorts of excuses, but they don’t matter. I just didn’t write.

This year, I’m pledging to write about the things I’m speaking out about.

Here’s why:

I’m a Democrat. I’m a liberal. And I was – I am – an unabashed, unapologetic Hillary Clinton supporter. I like Hillary Clinton. I wanted her to win. I donated money to her campaign. I slapped a “Clinton-Kaine” sticker on my car and planted a “Clinton-Kaine” sign in our front yard.

And I was so convinced that Hillary Clinton would win that I ignored all the signs that pointed otherwise – the anger of those who supported Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the fear among many whites of immigrants and minorities, the hatred of a certain segment of the American population for the Obama family and liberals in general.

I lived in a bubble, as so many of my fellow liberals did. I felt like a country who could elect Barack Obama twice could never elect someone like Donald Trump. And I truly thought that people would not vote against their own best interests.

But I didn’t speak out. I let others lift their voices, but I didn’t speak out. I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of my friends and relatives who are more conservative than I. I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable around me, although I felt very uncomfortable when they spoke untruths about the Obamas and Clintons. I didn’t speak out.

So when Donald Trump won the Electoral College and it seemed like hatred suddenly oozed from every crevice in America, it felt like a punch in the gut. I never saw it coming.

And when people I know and like and maybe even love laughed at my visible discomfort and told me to “get over it,” it hurt. It hurt. How could someone find delight in others’ pain? And how could someone who did ever be or have been my friend or relative? It hurt like hell.

Had I treated my more conservative friends in this manner when my candidate won in 2008 and 2012? I didn’t think I had.

So I didn’t speak out before Nov. 8. I’m not deluding myself into thinking that had I engaged more I could have changed the election’s outcome. But I didn’t really do much to effect that outcome except vote.

But starting today, I’m making a change.

I will speak out against intolerance and racism and xenophobia and hatred and bullying and just all around meanness. I will speak out against these things when I witness them. I will speak out against these things so that I can stand in solidarity with those who are disenfranchised and mistreated and look differently than I do and come from different backgrounds and places. I will speak out so that my children know that bullies will not prevail in our neighborhood, in our town, in our state, in our country, in our world.

I will speak out so that I can sleep at night knowing that I tried to make a difference. And I will speak out in this space as often as I can because that’s one small thing that I know I can do to try to make the world a better place.

Some folks who read this blog might be offended. They might stop reading. I hope they don’t because I think we need to try to understand other points of view. You don’t have to agree, but you should be able to respectfully listen to someone’s ideas and viewpoints.

I invite civil discussion and want to hear what others have to say. If you’re one of those readers who disagrees with my views, I invite you to stay but understand if you can’t or won’t. If you leave, I’ll be sad.

But I won’t stop speaking out.

Please stick around.

 

Things I’ve learned this summer

I’ve always thought I was pretty quick on the uptake, but I’m gradually realizing I am a slow learner.

That’s pretty much the gist of what I’ve gleaned from a year in graduate school, studying social work. I thought I was going through the motions of getting the degree that would help me land employment doing the things I was doing for free in a volunteer capacity.

But like a good scrubbing with Windex lets the light shine through a clean window, I appreciate now that I was barely seeing the trees, let alone the forest.

This summer I’m spending two afternoons a week at a non-profit family services center in the inner city. It’s a place I’ve visited often during my years as a court-appointed special advocate. The center has an awesome daycare and preschool that can serve 600 needy kids, with a waiting list at least as large.

I don’t know what I expected to learn at Operation Breakthrough; I just knew it was where the rubber meets the road, to be trite. I knew I needed some real-world experience after a year of grad school and before my first practicum. I don’t have an undergraduate degree in the social services. I barely have any relevant undergrad coursework: A rural sociology course on the Old Order Amish doesn’t translate too well to 31st and Troost Avenue in Kansas City.

So what have I learned that’s so earth-shattering? Lots. I’m pretty liberal, but I admit I have biases. Lord knows, I’ve had to examine them aplenty during my recent coursework. And one that I discovered is that I really did sort of pass judgment on folks who’ve been convicted of crimes.

Where does this come from? I don’t know. No deep-seated childhood fear or up-close-and-personal contact with someone like Max Cady from Cape Fear . My daddy wasn’t no jailhouse lawyer, my grandpa never spent time in the pokey.  I just had this bias.

Until this summer. This summer, I’ve been working with moms who need to find jobs. They all want to work. They need to work. Some are not on public assistance. Others are, but it’s a finite thing – it does eventually run out. Some have high school diplomas, some even have college degrees. Others dropped out and don’t even have GEDs. Some are all these things and have one other stigma – they’re convicted felons.

They’re the toughest. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a Harvard Ph.D. if you’re a convicted felon. You will be hard-pressed to find a job.

I can sincerely say I never truly understood this fact until this summer. I figured if you did your time, paid your debt to society, you got a do-over, except for voting.

Except that’s not the case. Politicians rant and rave about “welfare moms” and people taking advantage of the system, implying that people without jobs don’t want to work. And then they pass laws or allow companies to discriminate against people who’ve committed crimes.

Felons have a hard time even receiving public assistance – food vouchers, public housing, what have you.

This isn’t fair. How long does someone have to pay for a mistake?

And here’s something else I’ve changed my mind about: Many of these people that I work with have felonies related to drug charges. Where once I would have pursed my lips and passed judgment, now I see human beings who made bad choices and who are being punished with no end in sight.

Like yesterday. I spent several hours with a woman looking for work. She once directed a transitional housing program for drug offenders, until she made a mistake. Thirteen years ago she was convicted of marijuana possession. It was a Class C felony. She served her time.

Yet now, after losing her job in March, she can’t find work. Her voice broke as she talked about her felony. She’s embarrassed. Every time she applies for a job, it comes up. She has a great employment history and good references, but the background check trips her up every time.

Meanwhile, she’s unable to pay her bills. She got a speeding ticket, which made her appeal for clemency to the state get delayed by two years. She’s on the verge of bankruptcy. I could see the desperation in her eyes.

It’s no wonder that recidivism is a problem.

What kind of parent would I be if every time one of my children made a mistake, I held it against him or her for infinity? I believe in doling out consequences and moving on.

Social work is based on the belief that humans have the capacity to change, and that’s long been my mantra. People make mistakes, but people can change.  But they can’t as long as society holds them back, excludes them, treats them as untouchables.

I don’t know what to do about this, but something needs to change. With drug laws and “three-strikes-and-you’re-out,” the untouchables class will continue to grow.