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Read About the History (Yes, History) of Accusing Protestors of Being What Some Now Call “Crisis Actors”

This OTYCD post first appeared in May 2018.

 

Read a February 2018 New York Times piece on the history–yes, the history–of accusing protestors and activists of being what some people now call “crisis actors.”

 

A particularly gross, but damnably inevitable, aspect of the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida, was the claim by some that the eloquent young survivors were “crisis actors.”

 

Their accusers weren’t talking about actual crisis actors, who are people hired to play victims and survivors during realistic disaster drills. They were implying that the MSD students, who emerged from their trauma as pissed-off gun safety activists, were paid by some shadowy cabal that’s bent on destroying the Second Amendment.

 

Here’s the thing–while the term has changed, the concept behind the “crisis actor” has not. In a February 2018 piece for the New York Times, writer Niraj Chokshi shows it goes as least as far back as the years following the Civil War. Back then, black “outside agitators” were blamed for allegedly exaggerating their testimonies of the violence and discrimination they suffered, both from the Ku Klux Klan and in general.

 

In the 20th century, the nine children who bravely volunteered to integrate the public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, were accused of being paid for their trouble.

 

The piece does not discuss why some people are so determined to push the myth that people who step up and do and say difficult things have to be getting paid to do it. (That would be an interesting and worthy follow-up.) Regardless, it’s worth your time.

 

 

Read the New York Times piece on the history of the “crisis actor” accusation:

 

 

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Believe It, You Matter, Part III: The Parable of Eating Less Meat

This OTYCD entry originally posted in June 2017.

 

Believe it, you matter. Every little thing you do to push back against Trump matters, no matter how small. 

 

Eating less meat is, generally speaking, a good idea. It’s better for your health and it’s better for the planet, because raising animals for meat demands more resources than growing plants for food.

 

But what if you can’t quit meat entirely for the rest of your days? What if you need it for health reasons, or cultural reasons, or hey, you just like meat too much to give it up once and for all?

 

Despite what some nasty, one-upping vegans and vegetarians would have you think, if you make a conscious choice to eat less meat, and you faithfully commit to making a change, that’s a win. Even if you never give up meat entirely, that’s a win, because you thought the matter over, you chose to eat less meat, and you stuck to your choice to eat less meat.

 

You are part of the resistance. Many of us–those behind this blog included–cannot devote ourselves to the resistance full time. We have jobs and family obligations and housework and a host of other demands on our time. There are some days when we don’t have the chance to do anything at all to advance the cause. (If WordPress forced us to write fresh posts every day instead of banking evergreen posts at our leisure and bumping them forward as needed to make room for breaking news, this blog would not exist.)

 

And there are some people who can’t advance the cause as often as they might like. Maybe they live in an environment where it’s not safe to resist Trump openly. Maybe they have crazy-demanding job or school schedules. Maybe they’re 24/7 caregivers. Maybe they’re disabled. Doesn’t matter why, it just is, and they have to work around it.

 

The point: As long as you’re doing something, you win. Even if it’s not as much as you want to do. Even if it’s not as much as you think you should do. Even if it’s not as much as your neighbor did, or your cousin did, or your best friend from your Indivisible group did.

 

Resisting Trump is not a competition, nor should it be. Something is better than nothing, no matter how small that something is. We should celebrate every contribution that we make in the effort to push back against Trump. All of it helps.

 

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Believe It, You Matter, Part X: We May Not Get Everything We Want. Keep Fighting Anyway.

This OTYCD post originally ran in August 2018.

 

Believe It, You Matter, Part X: We May Not Get Everything We Want. Keep Fighting Anyway. 

 

You might have noticed that people are pissed about the way things are going. You might be one of those pissed-off people. Team Trump and its shitshow of corruption, cruelty, and pro-bully tactics have spurred millions to do more to push back.

 

A fair number of registered Republicans–including some high-profile ones–have left the party and gone independent. Many folks who were never politically active stepped up after the November 2016 election. They went to protests for the first time in their lives. Same again for phone-banking, knocking on doors, donating to causes and candidates, and calling their members of Congress. A small but heroic number found the courage to run for office.

 

It is unprecedented. It is organic. It might be unique in the history of America. And it should continue as long as Team Trump keeps crazy-assing and the GOP keeps shirking its duties to check Team Trump’s fucked-up, hateful, hurtful actions.

 

But! While we are righteous, motivated, and strong, we could still lose.

 

Take the SCOTUS nomination battle. Team Trump and the GOP are determined to ram their choice through before the midterms. We don’t want that. But because Democratic Senators are in the minority, there’s only so much they can do to stop it.

 

They will do what they can. They will fight. And, as we at OTYCD have asked, you should call your Senators and urge them to fight (if they’re Democrats) or vote no if they’re Republicans. Yes, your Republican Senators probably won’t change their votes, but they need to know their constituents oppose them on this, and will work to vote them out if they move a Trump nominee along.

 

But we could lose this one, and losing this one would be bad. People you love will be hurt by a SCOTUS dominated by hard-right judges. People you love could die as a result of a hard-right SCOTUS decision. You could lose your health insurance. Gerrymandering might get a yellow or green light. Voting rights might be curtailed. Parts of the Constitution that annoy evangelical Christians, greedy corporations, racists, and committed bullies could be muzzled and stomped upon. Democracy could be smothered. [Edited to add: This post was written and queued before the Senate approved Kavanaugh by a 51-49 vote.]

 

The answer is to keep fighting.

 

The only way to stop the SCOTUS from being perverted by hard-right extremists is to elect Democrats to the Senate and keep electing Democrats to the Senate until there are enough of them to control the chamber. And once they control the chamber, you need to defend them so they can keep control of the chamber and stop hard-right extremists from getting on the court.

 

If Democrats controlled the Senate now, they could refuse any nominee who’s stupidly hard-right and continue to refuse until Team Trump puts forward an actual moderate. But they don’t, so they can’t.

 

But if you curl into a ball and quit when the news of InJustice EvilJerk’s swearing-in breaks, we all lose.

 

Same again with the 2018 midterms. Things generally look good right now. But we won’t get absolutely everything we want. Simply from a mathematic standpoint, it’s unlikely that every Democrat wins and every Republican loses. There are too many races, at too many levels. There will be losses, and some of those losses might be tough.

 

Plus, there’s an elephant in the room (or, rather, the polling place). Having successfully messed with the 2016 elections, Russia’s hackers will be keen to try again in November 2018, and Team Trump has yet to order the National Security Agency (NSA) to take the steps needed to defend our country from those attacks.

 

Again, if you curl into a ball and quit when news breaks of, say, Iowa House Rep Steve King’s reelection, we all lose.

 

Yes, rest. Yes, unplug. Yes, take time away. You are allowed to have fun. You are allowed to do things that make you happy. Heck, it’s vital. Drafting and sticking with a self-care routine is one of the most important things you can do.

 

Rest. Recharge. Frolic. Forget for a few hours or days, maybe even weeks. But come back. Always, always come back. We need you.

 

And hey, getting mad is OK, too. Crying is OK. Despairing is OK. Feeling the force of your emotions is OK! But come back. Always, always come back. We need you.

 

Trump will go, but you must not.

 

You’ve got to stay here and carry on the fight.

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Subscribe to My Civic Workout

Subscribe to My Civic Workout, an activist outlet that delivers twice-weekly action items broken down into things that demand a bit of your time, more of your time, and a bit more of your time than that.

My Civic Workout is one of the many online activism outlets that sprung up after the November 2016 election. It belongs to Action Alliance, as does One Thing You Can Do. But it doesn’t seem to get the play or the recognition that some of the others do, so we’re giving it a blog post.

My Civic Workout does an admirable job of picking a timely resistance-related topic and breaking it down into three actions that demand varying amounts of investment.

The “Five Minute Workout” is quick and simple (but not necessarily easy)–donate money, read a short article, watch a video.

The “Ten Minute Workout” is more involved. Read a longer, more densely written article, such as a white paper or an academic article. Type your address into a database and learn about gun deaths in your area, and share it with friends and family. Call your senators, using a script offered by MCW, and advocate for a bill.

The “30 Minute Workout” is even more involved, and sometimes reminds you to do stuff that you should have done ages ago anyway. For example, in the wake of Harvey, it suggested drawing up a comprehensive, personalized disaster plan. During the effort to defend Obamacare, it encouraged setting up a phone tree–recruiting friends to call their senators, and having them recruit friends in turn. One of its post-Charlottesville tasks was to check an interactive map and see if there were Confederate monuments on public land near you, and if so, urge local officials to remove them.

The twice-weekly email finishes with a selection of nice little digestifs: “Second Wind,” a nugget of wisdom related to the overall theme of the email, and “Need a Little Joy?” a bit of pure fun.

My Civic Workout also stands out among the post-2016-election activist sites for its consistency. Sarah Jane, OTYCD leader, has been a subscriber since January at least and she can’t recall MCW missing a week or otherwise dropping the ball. The graphics are elegant, well-chosen, and pleasant to look at. *We say check it out.

 

Visit the website for My Civic Workout:

https://www.mycivicworkout.com

 

Subscribe to My Civic Workout:

https://www.mycivicworkout.com

 

Suggest a topic to My Civic Workout or otherwise contact them:

https://www.mycivicworkout.com/contact/

 

Meet the My Civic Workout team:

https://www.mycivicworkout.com/theteam/

 

Donate to My Civic Workout:

https://www.mycivicworkout.com/support/

 

Like it on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/mycivicworkout/

 

Follow it on Twitter:

@MyCivicWorkout

 

And while you’re at it, check out Action Alliance, which accepted My Civic Workout and One Thing You Can Do as members who offer and encourage post-2016-election actions.:

https://www.actionalliance.co/#members

 

*My Civic Workout didn’t ask us to write about it. As of late-ish 2017, when we wrote this post, neither MCW or any member of its six-member team followed or subscribed to OTYCD (at least as far as we know). We’ve interacted with whoever speaks for MCW on Twitter. We wrote about MCW because we like it and thought you might like it too, simple as that.

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Read Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Obama Alum Alyssa Mastromonaco

Read Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House, a refreshingly open and honest book by Alyssa Mastromonaco, alumna of the Obama administration. 

Mastromonaco served as the White House deputy chief of staff for operations and assistant to President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2014.

Her book is a riveting account of what it’s like to work in high-profile political jobs and it’s a breezy read, too. She salts it with useful tips (if you save your bosses money, make sure to tell them; never be a jerk; everyone is replaceable) but its greater value is in showing someone facing challenges and overcoming them.

Mastromonaco’s book, like Al Franken’s book, is one that you need to read right now. She never uses the phrase ‘impostor syndrome’, as far as I can remember, but her approach, her openness, and her willingness to talk about things others would just find too embarrassing, such as how she wrestled with episodes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) on the road, make it a gem.

Mastromonaco is like the senior executive sitting down nervous interns or entry-level staffers on their first day and telling them, “You can do this. I did it, and here’s how.” If you are interested in running for office or helping someone run, it will give you confidence that you can do it.

Note also: Her Twitter bio says she has a new podcast coming soon. We suspect it’ll launch with Crooked Media, given that Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Favreau, and Tommy Vietor are peripheral characters in her book. We’ll update this page accordingly when the time comes.

 

Buy Mastromonaco’s book at these independent bookstores:

http://www.strandbooks.com/index.cfm

http://www.powells.com

 

Follow Mastromonaco on Twitter:

@AlyssaMastro44

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Read There Is No Good Card For This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love

Read There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love, by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell.

 

TINGCFT might seem like a not-quite-on-topic choice for a political blog, but bear with us. It’s a great textbook on how to have awkward conversations, how to listen, and how not to be a jerk–skills that are ever more precious and valuable in the time of Trump.

 

McDowell is the genius behind a series of greeting cards that you’d actually want to send to someone who’s going through hell but still has a sense of humor. Crowe holds a doctorate in social welfare, and founded Help Each Other Out, which teaches people how to avoid being the person who ghosts or says and does unhelpful things when bad stuff happens to friends and family.

 

The whole book is a gem, but in particular, it goes over how to help people in the grip of illness, fertility issues, divorce, unemployment, and grief.

 

Some general takeaways:

 

It’s better to do something than nothing. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ is doing something.

Remember it’s about them, not you. Don’t make their problem about you.

Listen.

Your kindness is your credential.

The person who needs help may not respond to your overture the way you’d expect. Don’t hold that against them, and don’t let their response deter you from helping others.

 

 

Buy There Is No Good Card for This at great independent book stores such as The Strand or Powell’s:

http://www.strandbooks.com/index.cfm

http://www.powells.com/book/there-is-no-good-card-for-this-9780062469991/1-5

 

 

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Learn to Evangelize (In a Good Way)

Learn, and practice, how to tell the story of the candidates you support, and become an evangelist for them.

 

One of the most important things you can do to push back against Trump is convince people to come out and vote against his democracy-destroying agenda. But if you really want to be effective, you want to immerse yourself in the merits and the story of a non-Trumpish candidate, fully master it, and be ready to make a powerful, personal, eloquent case for voting for them.

 

Now, a personal confession. Sarah Jane here. I’m the founder of the OTYCD blog and the lead wrangler of research and of its anonymous writers. This is my 2016 story.

 

So it’s late 2015 or so and the election is starting to gear up. I resign myself to voting for Clinton. I’m meh on her but I don’t think Bernie can do the job, the Republicans are all thoroughly horrible, and the third party options look miserable, too.

 

But at some point I see clips from that eleven-hour Congressional Benghazi hearing.

 

And I see Clinton own those Republican twerps like the boss she is. Own. Them. Completely and thoroughly. She cleans the floor with them till she can see her face in it, and she doesn’t even break a sweat. She slays. She dominates. She destroys. Through her actions and her attitude, she reveals the hearings for what they are–a formal, coordinated attempt to kneecap her 2016 presidential campaign–and she ain’t havin’ it. At all.

 

And I realized: She can do this, and she wants to do this. She is crazy-smart and ludicrously skilled, and she has a skin as thick as a rhino’s, and she actually wants to be president. She’s been through hell and back so many times, from so many different directions, she could write a guidebook on it for Lonely Planet. She has taken far more than her allotted ration of shit in this life. She has long since earned the right to walk in the woods and play with her grandkids. But she wants to do this. Damn. Whoa.

 

In that moment I became a Clinton convert. The scales fell from my eyes. I went from ‘meh’ to ‘yeah!’ I was *excited* to vote for her. Not as much as I was for Obama, but I was excited.

 

Now, here’s my sin: I didn’t tell anyone about my change of heart. At no point before the 2016 election did I speak up to anyone else and say why I was excited to vote for her.

 

I donated to her campaign. I voted for her in the primary. I stayed on top of the issues. I watched all three debates. I voted for her for president. But never did I ever sit with friends and family and spontaneously say why I was so jazzed to vote for Hillary Clinton.

 

I live in a state that went overwhelmingly for Clinton. I can tell myself that not speaking well of her once I started thinking well of her made no difference.

 

But c’mon. What if more of us had shown genuine enthusiasm for voting for her? What if more of us had evangelized for her?

 

What if our friends and family made note of that, and passed the word to others–that there are people out there, sane and fine people, who actually like Clinton and want to vote for her?

 

Don’t get me wrong–I realize she had a fine contingent of folks who did speak well of her, early and often, and I realize a goodly number of them read this blog. I’m wondering how things might be different if that contingent were bigger, and if folks who share my Clinton journey had stepped up and joined it.

 

The overriding perception was that those who cast votes for either major presidential candidate in 2016 did so while holding their noses.

 

Remember the ‘Giant Meteor 2016’ bumper stickers? Judging by the way the election was covered, no one would blame you for thinking it was a giant nationwide game of ‘Would You Rather?’

 

It wasn’t, or at least it wasn’t for me. I liked Clinton, and I still like her, and what she stands for. And I’ve gone from being irked to pissed to stabby about how the right wing noise machine has done its level best to smear her for 30 goddamn years.

 

It’s too late to do right by Hillary Clinton, the presidential candidate. But you can devote yourself to becoming a better evangelist for non-Trumpish candidates running in special elections and in 2018 who will restore and defend our democracy. (“Non-Trumpish” candidates include Republicans and conservatives who have spines, btw.)

 

You don’t have to formally join their campaigns to be effective. Heck, you might be more effective if you don’t. Just do your damnedest to learn about them, and what they stand for, and figure out what it is about them that you connect with most, and tell others why.

 

You have power. You have friends and family who listen to you and value what you have to say. Hearing people you trust speak happily, and authentically, about a candidate for office helps that candidate’s chances of winning that office.

 

Speaking up is scary. Some people will challenge you, talk over you, even yell at you and try to shout you down. But you need to speak up anyway. It’s too important. Do not succumb to silence. Do what you have to do to learn how to speak up, and get good at it, and start working on it now, in summer 2017, well before the primaries.

 

We need you. We need every voice. Our democracy depends on it.

 

Update: Since I wrote this I realized (headsmack) that many of those who stuck up for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign got shouted down, and they’re still getting shouted down months later. I can only point back to my own experience.

 

I know most of my crowd was pro-Clinton, but no one expressed spontaneous enthusiasm for her. I don’t think I would have felt any pushback if I had voiced my enthusiasm in real life (online is of course another matter) but I can’t know because I did not think to try.

 

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