This is all a waste of time! Why would you march? Calling your senator is futile! You aren’t donating your money to the right organizations. What’s the point of that rally? Get over it! Why would you protest? Why do you write like you’re running out of time?
Nobody can define what it means to make a difference. But man, people love to judge.
Ask yourself: Isn’t there something that you care about so much that you would get up and yell about it? It doesn’t matter if you think actually getting up and yelling about it is what could make a difference. It just matters that you give a shit. That could be just as helpful for those trying to figure out what to do as it could be for those trying to understand why others rise up.
Empathy is everything.
In a world that has seen change driven by the acts of the few (Tiananmen Square) to the acts of many (Soweto, Stonewall, Alexanderplatz, the March on Washington), it can be a head scratcher when people question the power of the people.
So why would someone pooh-pooh activism in a country that was founded on it?
The divide we see today in the United States (and Britain, and France, and…) is driven in many ways by a lack of empathy, so it’s no surprise that there are people who can’t wrap their heads around the ways others stand up for what they believe in. And there is value in trying to understand where they, the judgers, are coming from. If more of us had done that sooner, we may not be where we are today. But here we are.
On Jan. 21 millions of people rallied, peacefully, at the Women’s March and related events around the world. And a lot of people thought that would be the end of it. Or maybe they hoped it would be. Not so much. With very little advance planning, protests at U.S. airports the very next weekend put another set of voices over the air that could not be ignored. And this time, those voices included government representatives: Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and others joining their constituents in speaking out.
These voices ― in marches, in protests, in letters and articles, in phone calls, in volunteering ― are being heard. They are giving other people the courage to stand up for what they believe in, and the knowledge that others are standing up for them. And they are sending a message outside the U.S. ― that there are a heck of a lot of people here who do not agree with what our new president is doing.
But can you catch up?
Sometimes those naysayers exist inside your own head. For me, it has led to times of paralysis over the past six months. Leading up to the U.S. presidential election, I found myself stalling out because I didn’t know if I was choosing the most important thing I could be doing. Failing to act because I wanted to do “the best thing” instead of just doing something. And then there was election day. What should have been a wake-up call knocked me further into paralysis.
But now, it’s on. Literally every day since the inauguration has been a build on the previous day. A build onto a pile of things that I feel strongly are not okay. And along with it, a very large, very loud chorus. Of people gathering, writing, supporting, protesting, questioning. You have made a difference. And while I like to think I’m woke, I am now also wide awake.
You know what you stand for. Do something about it. It all comes down to sending a message. Maybe you want to get outside and shout. Do it. Maybe you want to get on the phone to your senator or go speak with a member of congress. Do it. Maybe you want to write a blog post for 50 of your friends to read. Do it! Maybe there are organizations you think can amplify your voice. Donate your time and/or money.
I was originally going to make this piece a list of ideas for how to get your voice out there, but a lot of people have already done great work on this. Google it. Plus you likely already have a bunch of ideas but have been second guessing yourself on where to start. Just start.
But I will share one tip. Check out the Indivisible Guide: www.indivisibleguide.com.
I spent some time with it this week and think the guide is really well done. It offers practical analysis and activities to understand and influence your local government. What hooked me? The humility and reality. They examine the rise and success of the Tea Party, and how other grassroots movements should take note. And they offer a digestible explanation of how congress works and how to engage with your Member of Congress (MoC) to get things done. It’s empowering and impressive, given a team of volunteers put it together.
Burr counseled Hamilton to “talk less” and “smile more.” Smiling is my favorite, but let’s let them know what we’re against and what we’re for.
What the fuck have you done?
“You tell me that I make no difference. At least I’m fucking trying! What the fuck have you done?”
― Minor Threat “In My Eyes”
These lyrics, from an early ‘80s hardcore punk anthem, have been in my head lately. They’re a little angry. Okay, a lot angry. But they are also a reminder to channel that anger into something. Anything you want. There’s also a “judge not, lest ye be judged yourself” thing to these words, but really I don’t care to judge you for judging me. But I may choose to dismiss you, be you the armchair quarterback or the voice inside my head.
As for me? I have done a bunch of things in recent weeks, but did not write this to list and defend them.
This is about today. And then tomorrow, it will be about today all over again.
Today I wrote this. A few people will read it. Hey, whether you agree or not, you read this far. I’ll take it.
And if you think this makes no difference? At least I’m fucking trying.
Chris Eberle writes about the intersections of life and leadership at www.SVginger.com.