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Learn to Evangelize (In a Good Way)

This OTYCD post originally appeared in February 2018. 

 

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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Let Cindy Otis Teach You to Avoid Being Overwhelmed and Stay Focused

This OTYCD post originally appeared in July 2018. In the lead-up to the midterms, we’re re-running important posts. Please click on the announcement from Sarah Jane to learn why you’re not seeing timely daily posts.

 

Let Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst and author, teach you how to avoid being overwhelmed and stay focused in a world where everything seems to be on fire.

 

Otis published an amazing thread on Twitter on June 28, 2018. Read it, save it, memorize it. We’ve reproduced it here, with the emojis removed. Scroll down for more info on Otis.

 

Today seems like the right time to do a thread I’ve been thinking about for a while on how to handle the seemingly never-ending deluge of depressing and disturbing news. My tips are based on my time as a CIA military analyst in which I dealt daily with disturbing content.

 

There are several risks to being overloaded with disturbing/negative content.  [We are replacing her emoji checks with numbers.] 1. Complacency – becoming so used to the deluge that it all starts to seem normal. 2. Paralysis – that is, being so overwhelmed, you can’t figure out what to do/how to move forward.

 

3. Crisis perspective – you get trapped in the Breaking News cycle where everything seems like a potentially world-ending crisis to you. 4. Depression/PTSD – you don’t have to be on the frontline of a war have either/both. Disturbing content is absolutely a trigger.

 

There are also serious physical consequences to living a negative content overloaded life. I had a colleague who didn’t know he had stage 4 brain cancer because the symptoms were the same as our very stressful careers–exhaustion, random fevers, stress, and dizziness.

 

So, what do you do? First, I strongly urge you not to ignore the news/current events. Ignorance is one reason we have this society. It won’t make the problems go away & contributes nothing to their solving. Now that that’s established, here’s how to make it easier to handle:

 

[Numbers from here forward are from Otis.] 1. TAKE ACTION. Volunteer for a food pantry, canvass for a political candidate, donate to a NGO, visit a sick friend. Seriously. Service of some kind in your community lets you be part of SOLUTIONS. You will see RESULTS when otherwise you’d feel helpless.

 

2. Conversely, for those who may take tip #1 to the extreme–know that you alone can’t save the world. Accept your limits. You aren’t a 7/11. You can’t always be open. At the end of every day when I reached my limit, I silently told myself, “I’ve done what I can today.”

 

(Note: Repeating that to myself did not stop me from feeling like I could have done more most days. But it was important to tell myself anyway because I am human. We are human. It’s good we *feel* things.)

 

3. RESEARCH BEFORE PANICKING. Easier said than done, but everything will seem like crisis/earth-ending if you don’t know what has/hasn’t happened before. If it has happened before, it’s can be hugely comforting to know how it was resolved and/or what might happen next.

 

4. GET UP & MOVE. Put the phone away, turn off the TV, log out of Twitter. Go for a walk, sit outside, get some coffee, call a friend. CIA is full of ppl walking the building with a colleague/friend. There’s a reason. Our brains & bodies need breaks from stressful content.

 

5. SET RULES. Because of my work at CIA, I had a rule–I only read fiction at home. I had enough reality at work. In the civilian world, I set blocks of time each day where I turn everything off–no news or social media. Let yourself recharge so you can keep fighting later.

 

6. AVOID DARK HOLES. (I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about that.) It’s easy to get sucked into the swirl of bad news. You watch a gruesome YouTube video and the next one is all queued up to play right after it. Focus on one issue at a time. Deal w/ it before moving on.

 

7. YOU NEED FUN. When there is suffering, war, despair, etc. around you, it’s easy to feel guilty when you have fun, feel happy, have a good meal with friends. You NEED these things. You will be better able to do good in the world if you let yourself have these things.

 

8. TALK TO SOMEONE. Often, we curl inward socially when overwhelmed w/ negative content. It’s a means of protection. One of the great things at CIA was that everyone else knew what you were going through. Whether it’s therapy or talking to your person, talking helps.

 

None of this is easy. I got burned out a lot in my career & many days recently, I’ve felt overloaded by the barrage. I’m sure you have too. But you and I can’t check out. We can’t give up & we need to stay engaged, but we can’t do that if we get overloaded. Keep going.

 

Shout out to who forces me to get out of the house when I start sounding especially doom and gloom!

 

 

Otis posted a follow-up thread on June 29, 2018:

 

Wow. I woke up this morning to find my thread went viral & my inbox was full of messages from ppl. My biggest takeaway from it is that we’re all struggling right now. So, I’ve got a few quick things you can do RIGHT NOW to help survive whatever news dump we’ll get today:

 

1. Read this article by that includes tips from me on how to read the news like an intelligence analyst. It gets at my tip from earlier on doing research before panicking and talks about how to actually do that research. Knowledge = POWER.

(Here is the link she referenced:) http://www.realclearlife.com/media/6-rules-thinking-like-cia-analyst-beat-fake-news/

 

2. Schedule the time you’re planning to unplug today. Write it down so it is more likely to happen. Will you take a walk? Call a friend to talk about anything but the news? Take a power nap? Bake some cookies? Watch your fave trash TV show? Whatever it is, DO IT.

 

3. Look at who you follow on social media. Do you only follow people who perpetuate the crisis mentality? If so, add in some practical folks who provide actionable ways forward and context you need to know. is a must for Americans worried about politics.

 

4. Tell yourself as many times as you need to hear it today — YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU CAN DO THIS. WE NEED YOU WITH US. Take care, all.

 

 

Follow Cindy Otis on Twitter:

@CindyOtis_

 

 

Visit Otis’s website:

http://www.cindyotis.com

 

 

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Believe It, You Matter, Part XIII: The GOP Really Is That Bad

Believe It, You Matter: the GOP really is that bad.

 

Sarah Jane here. I write all the Believe It, You Matter pieces for OTYCD.

 

Some time in 2018, I came across tweets from David Roberts (@drvox) that referenced the results of focus groups convened at various times between 2000 and 2014 with voters. They laid out information that showed what the GOP intended to do, if elected.

 

I’ve had trouble finding direct reference to the George W. Bush-era focus groups, but I was able to find them for the Romney-Ryan campaign in the 2012 cycle.

 

It describes groups convened by a Democratic Super PAC that attempted to alert voters to the extreme nature of the Romney-Ryan platform–promises to cut taxes for the wealthy and essentially destroy Medicare.

 

They hit a truly startling finding.

 

Apparently, a large number of the focus group recruits simply refused to believe that what the Super PAC described was, in fact, the Romney-Ryan platform.

 

They couldn’t wrap their heads around the notion that real politicians would advocate such unpopular and ruinous policies. Did not make sense. Did not compute. So they rejected the notion that the platform was the platform. It couldn’t be. It was cartoonishly evil. Real American politicians aren’t cartoonishly evil, because democracy, and civility, and American values, and rules and norms, and blah blah blah.

 

I’m going to drop the cites here before pivoting. Here’s a passage taken from a 2012 piece by David Roberts for Grist:

 

“If it’s hard for many folks to see the centrism already on offer from Obama, it’s also hard for the general public to see — to really understand — the radicalism on offer from the GOP. In the middle of Robert Draper’s recent New York Times Magazinepiece on Priorities USA Action, a Democratic super PAC, comes this astonishing detail:

Burton and his colleagues spent the early months of 2012 trying out the pitch that Romney was the most far-right presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. It fell flat. The public did not view Romney as an extremist. For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan — and thus championed “ending Medicare as we know it” — while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.[my emphasis]

That is, of course, an entirely accurate description of the Ryan budget plan. It’s precisely what Romney and the congressional GOP have said they will enact. And yet when voters hear it, it sounds over-the-top, like fear-mongering.

My guess is that most voters wouldn’t believe that the GOP has embarked on a nationwide effort to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters, but that’s just what they’ve done. (Here’s the latest.) Most voters wouldn’t believe that Romney and the GOP want to end the Environmental Protection Agency as we know it, but that is precisely what they have said they will do; Romney has expressed only eagerness to work with the most anti-environmental House of Representatives in the history of the institution.”

 

Here is the July 5, 2012 New York Times piece in which Roberts found the information about the focus group. (Scroll down to the subhead with the words “Last December” in bold:

 

And here is a MaddowBlog piece that references the post-9/11 focus groups. Not an ideal cite, but unfortunately, I can’t find other sources talking about it (I invite others to send them if they find them):

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/why-focus-groups-incredulity-matters

 

 

I realized I should pass on this information about the focus group results, but for months, I couldn’t figure out how. One of the fundamental tenets of OTYCD is to offer bad news with substantial side dishes of, you know, THINGS YOU CAN DO to fight back against what the news represents.

 

The focus group results are important, but they don’t offer anything inherent to act on.

 

Well, I’ve finally figured it out.

 

You can use this information when you talk to friends and family about the importance of voting.

 

It seems gross and Pollyanna-ish to find a silver lining in the torrent of bullshit that Trump has rained upon us since November 2016, but there is this:

 

The disbelief that people expressed earlier in the century about the GOP should have evaporated by now.

 

People should be far more likely to believe that the GOP and its goals are cartoonishly evil.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would stick with Trump, despite the mountains upon mountains of evidence that he’s incompetent, incapable, venal, self-serving, and thoroughly corrupt.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would support placing babies in cages.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would go mute in the face of Trump’s outrageous capers with Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Mohammad bin Salman, and other autocrats.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would plow ahead with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh after the president, who was, by then, credibly accused of a felony by Michael Cohen, placed 93 percent of Kavanaugh’s work product under the veil of executive privilege, and off-limits to their evaluation.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil would stand by while Trump refuses to safeguard elections and announces he’d be open to accepting information about opponents from foreign governments, which is a crime.

 

Only people who are cartoonishly evil… I could write so many more of these. You get the point.

 

When you talk to friends and family about the importance of voting, you can say “I don’t know what happened, but the GOP has completely gone around the bend. [Reel off a bunch of things they’ve done under Trump, describing each with neutral, factual, uncharged language. That means don’t use the phrase “cartoonishly evil,” btw.] Even if you don’t normally vote for Democrats, it’s important you do so now, to help the country find its way back to something that looks like sanity.”

 

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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 VII: You’ve Got To Stay Here and Carry On The Fight

This OTYCD post originally appeared in June 2018.

 

Believe it, you matter: The meaning of ‘You’ve got to stay here and carry on the fight.’

 

Sarah Jane here.

 

Every now and again you’ll see me slip a line into a post:

 

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

 

It’s a paraphrase of a line in the 1981 film Time Bandits.

 

It comes from a scene toward the end, when (spoiler alert) God (yes, that one) comes to collect the Time Bandits and take them back with him, where they will pay penance for stealing God’s map and traveling through time to commit robberies by serving in lowly jobs with a pay cut back-dated to the beginning of time.

 

One of the Time Bandits asks if Kevin, the young mortal boy who joined them on their travels, can come along to what God calls creation:

 

What about my friend, sir? Can he come with us?

No, of course not. This isn’t a school outing.

But sir, he deserves something. I mean, without him–

Oh. don’t go on about it. He’s got to stay here to carry on the fight.

 

 

The line is mysterious, and deliberately so.

 

The film ends soon after, with Kevin still the age of a preteen boy.

 

We never learn any more about the nature of the fight God mentions, or why Kevin is the one who needs to fight, and what God might mean when he says that Kevin needs to stay back on Earth and carry on the fight.

 

When things feel extra bad and weird and hopeless and miserable, I think back to this line from one of my favorite films, and I imagine I’m Kevin.

 

No matter what happens, I’ve got to stay here and carry on the fight until I can’t fight any longer, or until an impeccably dressed Ralph Richardson and six ragged-looking little thieves show up to spirit me away.

 

I’d prefer the latter way to go, for what it’s worth.

 

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Commit to the Long Haul, Because We Need You, Yes, You, to Help Un-Bork the Country

This OTYCD entry originally posted in April 2017.

Commit yourself to the long haul, because that’s what’s needed to un-bork the country. 

Waking up on November 9, 2016 was tough and bewildering, and not just because Trump won. It was tough because many of us were shocked to discover that the Democrats—the opposition party—was weak and in piss-poor shape to reign in Trump and his minions.

All this was made exponentially worse by the behavior of the Republicans, who have consistently favored their party over the greater good of the country since the current Congressional session began.

Let’s be painfully honest. There’s only so much the Democrats can do when the Republicans own everything and show no interest in fulfilling their obligation to check Trump’s power. The Democrats are trying, and in many cases, trying valiantly to curb the worst excesses, but the Republicans hold all the cards right now (in 2017).

Do not lose sight of the fact that the Democrats are stepping up, and the Republicans are not.

Trump will leave eventually. We won’t take bets on when. But never forget that this does not end when he’s gone. In the immortal words of God, speaking at the end of the classic film Time Bandits (which you really need to see if you haven’t yet): You need to stay here and carry on the fight.

The good news of the 115th Congress, such as it is, is that sitting Congressional Republicans are showing us who they are–unfit to govern, and incapable of governing.

We need to remember this, take down their names, and work to remove members of Congress who rolled over and surrendered to Trump. We need to work to elect Democrats, and we also need to work to elect Republicans who are sane and responsible.

Yes, you read that right. You need to work sane, responsible members of the opposition party, too.

One of the big reasons this country is borked right now is that we’re polarized. We used to be able to tolerate, and even befriend, people who disagreed with us on key issues. Somehow, without any of us really noticing, too many of us lost this talent.

You can argue about the hows and the whys, but it’s a fact. One of the ways to fix it is to go out and befriend people who don’t think like you all the time, on everything, but who are responsible and sane and have backbones.

You’re probably thinking by now, “Yeah, but what one thing are you asking me to do?” Fair enough.

Read this past post about recruiting friends in red states to call their MoCs:

https://onethingyoucando.com/2017/04/01/recruit-your-red-state-friends-to-call-their-mocs-2/

Pay attention to the bits about cultivating friendships. Get to work, if you haven’t yet. Build up your network so you can support your red state friends during elections and perhaps help them ID and support sane Republicans (assuming the Democrats are feckless or the Republican candidate is actually better).

And be on watch for future posts about sane Republicans, and consider following those folks on SoMe.

In addition, look at your state and local reps. Do you see any sane Republicans? Keep tabs on them. Maybe support them. Certainly support them if their Democratic counterpart is feckless or worse.

Community Activism · Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare · Stand Up for Civilization · Stand Up for Norms

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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