7 Suggestions for Activism Beyond the Women's March
On Saturday, January 21, we astonished ourselves. Millions of women and supporters around the globe turned out to demonstrate peacefully for human rights and against hate. It was a marvelous moment.
The question now stands: How do we take a moment and make it into a movement?
The Women’s March organizers are offering a new campaign: 10 Actions / 100 Days. I don’t know what their long-term plan is, but the first action they suggest is writing a postcard to our elected officials telling them what we want. Postcards sound like a great way to go: simple, cheap, and written, so they're guaranteed to get attention from politicians who want to be re-elected.
That’s good. I have some additional ideas. Feel free to do these, or not, or improvise upon them. If you have great ideas, please share them in the comments!
- Send the White House a postcard. The President cares about public opinion, so give him your attention. Give him your wish list. Don’t be insulting, don’t call names, just tell him what you want. Can’t hurt, might help if enough of us do it.
- Did you march with others? Did you meet anyone new at the march? Invite them over (maybe next weekend?) for a postcard-writing party. Then all go out to mail them and have drinks or ice cream or whatever floats your boat.
- Who do you know who is different from you? Is there a person of a different race, a different religion, a different economic background with whom you can build a relationship? Become an ally. Volunteer for something they are passionate about. Help them build their organization. Do not exect anything in return. This is about learning to be a good ally. Keep your commitments: show up on time. Do not give advice unless asked. This will be difficult; do it anyway. Pay attention, because you are going to learn, learn, learn!
- Choose an issue and really learn about it. Pick one topic and do more than just Google it. Read articles. Learn statistics. Learn both (or several) sides of the issue. Learn who the players are in your state. Learn who the players are in the federal government. Let what you learn inform your activism.
- “Go high,” as Michelle Obama admonished us. Swear off name-calling. Swear off passing along gossipy news. Swear off nasty jokes. If people are mean on social media – mean to anyone on either side – unfollow them, drop them, unfriend them! Make it expensive to be nasty: it will cost followers!
- Show up. The next time there is a march or demonstration you care about in your area, show up! A friend of mine pointed out that part of the reason that things went so peacefully at the Women’s March was that the majority of those marching were white women, and we are privileged – police treat us gently. We are not assumed to be trouble. We need to start showing up for our less privileged allies. Whenever I can show up for Black Lives Matter I’m going to do it. And I’ve got the button and I’m going to wear it. Which brings me to:
- Quit infighting. Some readers are thinking, “Rabbi! Didn’t you read about the pro-Palestinian rhetoric in the Black Lives Matter statement? How can you support them?” I can support them because we need each other now. I can support them because one line in a document is not going to keep me from pursuing justice. I can support them because after I’ve proven myself as an ally, after I’ve shown up a few dozen times, I will have relationships that will allow maybe for a dialogue. But for now, I’m going to wear a button and show the heck up. Many of us on the left have made careers out of picking holes in each other, and this is not the time. We cannot afford to stay home and lick wounds. We have to fight fascism, and we need every available person to do it.
None of these are partisan steps. You can do them no matter what your party affiliation because they are about making America better for everyone, not about supporting a political party.
I am resolved to do all seven of the above. Maybe you want to do all seven, or maybe three, or maybe just one. That’s fine, but do something. Don’t let the marvelous, miraculous energy of the Women’s March wither and die – because that is exactly what will happen if we don’t take next steps.
See you on the barricades.