One of the ways I'm working against this amendment is by facilitating, weekly, a training called "Conversations with People You Know." It's a chance for folks to think about their realm of influence and the people they might hold sway with in gentle conversations over time: family, friends, neighbors, coworkers. It's just the kind of grassroots activism I love.
My co-facilitator and I are a good team, both longtime activists. The workshop itself is well-designed, and leading these has felt like a good use of myself. The only trouble is attendance. It's been dismal, not only at our sessions (so I don't personalize this) but at other trainings, phone banks, and events. Though I tell myself it's August in Minnesota and many people are "at the lake," it's kind of freaking me out.
We do two kinds of role play in the training. One involves what we call an "Un," someone who might be undecided or unsupportive, or whose opinion is unknown. In this role play we emphasize active listening, remaining openhearted, not getting triggered, not lecturing or ranting, and all the other things you'd expect. All of us, trainers included, stumble through these a bit, trying to find an authentic voice with which to speak from the heart about why the ballot initiative is hurtful to us. Every week people's stories brings tears to my eyes. People cry. Folks are very nervous about having these conversations, afraid of losing or fracturing relationships, afraid of being hurt by people they love. Most of the attendees are heterosexual allies; they are talking about their brother or best friend or grandchild when they share how this will hurt them. It is always moving.
The other kind of conversation we role play is one involving a known supporter, someone you know is going to vote against amending the constitution. In these conversations, you try to crank up their involvement a bit and move them from conviction about their own vote to committing to doing more to fight the amendment. Most workshop participants report much less anxiety about these conversations.
But in fact, for me, as the weeks go by, talking to inactive supporters is starting to trigger me more than talking to people who are going to vote against me. If I hear one more person (who isn't doing a thing about it) say, "Oh, don't worry, we're going to defeat this thing...," if I see one more person roll their eyes in annoyance that I think they should put their money where their values are, if one more person tells me how he or she is simply too busy to help out, I might scream.
In the training, we teach not to guilt, pressure, or get triggered in these conversations, as well. But I don't know how to say this calmly, so rant warning is now on Code Red! Here's my rant:
I'm old. This hurts me, but it doesn't surprise me. I'll move on. But I have a 16-year-old kid who is giving her entire summer to fight this thing because she is so upset about what it will mean for her state's constitution to proclaim baldly that her family is not a family, who says matter-of-factly (and I know just how stubborn this child is) that if the ballot initiative passes, she will leave Minnesota after high school and never look back. "You can come and see me," she tells me.
I know that our wonderful state has brought us not only Paul Wellstone and Al Franken (barely) but also Tim Pawlentey and Michele Bachmann. I know that not a single poll, yet, has put "no" voters in the majority, and that people lie in polls anyway, because they don't want to seem homophobic. So I really don't want to hear about how we're sure to win from people who are going their merry way and not doing anything to make it so!
Rant over. Please, my Minnesota friends, think about how you might give your best to this effort, so that you can wake up the day after the election knowing you did what you could, knowing that you can look kids like mine in the eye and say, "We gave it our best shot." As for me, I've committed at least five hours a week between now and the election to fighting this thing. I'd like to do more, but this is what I can shoehorn in and still sleep at night.
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