Friday, January 20, 2017

an introvert's guide to activism

Ever since I started blogging here and running my own online business, I've tried to refrain from politics in any public online platforms. I've always felt that talking about religion or politics is a really easy way to end a friendship, and I applied that rule to the internet as well. Better to be quiet about the things I care about, or else people might not want to be "friends" anymore. I regret this. Immensely.

My senator, Cory Booker, wrote recently, "In the cause of justice: never stay silent just so that others can remain comfortable."

I don't know that my tiny voice could have made any difference in the years since I started blogging, but my silence spoke volumes. I am ready to change that now. And if you were/are in a similar state of mind, I hope you'll reconsider as well. This goes for liberals and conservatives. If we voice our opinions with a sense of consideration and respect, we can easily engage each other with the same level of admiration and camaraderie that we reserve for DIY posts and room tours. Politics doesn't have to be divisive. We can disagree about issues and still love each other.

With all that being said, I have a very heavy heart today. I'm worried about civil rights, health care, women's rights, and tweet-triggered nuclear warfare. I'm sad that we're replacing an intelligent, cultured, impossibly kind President with someone who doesn't read books, mocks the disabled, and sexually harasses women. I'm sad that my dreams of seeing a woman being sworn in today were shattered.

I've been wanting to do something more substantial than sitting home crying over Buzzfeed photo posts of President Obama playing with kids. I want to DO something. BUT... my introversion usually keeps me on the sidelines when it comes to any real organizing and activism. I'm sure a lot of other introverts (progressive or otherwise!) must have this same problem, so I put together a little list of things you can do that should hopefully fall within your comfort zone, while still making a difference.

1. Donate money. I feel like this goes without saying, but it's a great way to help out without being around other people. I didn't want to physically volunteer much last year, so every time I felt guilty about not doing phone banks or canvassing, I made a donation to Hillary. Even $5 here or there makes a difference in the long run!

2. If you're a maker, create a one of a kind item and auction it on ebay or instagram. Donate the entire amount (or entire profit) to charity. (A few organizations that could really use the help right now would be the ACLU, the NAACP, and Planned Parenthood.)

3. Create a challenge for yourself and set up a crowdrise fundraiser for charity. You can do literally anything. I raised over $200 for Random Acts a few years ago by chalking up my driveway for an entire day. It was just me and my brother, at our house, no socializing necessary. It can be an endurance test ("I'll pogo stick for five hours straight on periscope if you donate!") or a simple task ("I'll share a cooking video of my favorite apple pie recipe if I reach X amount of donations!") The sky's the limit.

4. If you're too short on funds to make donations *but* you do need some new t-shirts or tote bags, make a purchase from a charity shop. You'll be helping the organization, and every time you wear the item it's free advertising for them! Here are some shops to start with: Everytown (gun safety), The ACLU (civil liberties), Planned Parenthood (women's health), The Brady Campaign (gun safety), Greenpeace (environment), Organizing for Action (progressive activism), Human Rights Campaign (LGBTQ rights)

5. Volunteer to do phone calls with an extrovert friend or relative. My dad and I teamed up to do calls for Hillary last year, and we developed a system where he would dial the number first and pass the phone to me if he got an answering machine. Then he'd start dialing the next number. This way I wasn't uncomfortable talking to a (potentially hostile, unfortunately) stranger but I still got to help out. We knocked out a ton of phone calls very quickly with our system, so I like to think it might have been even more effective than if I was making calls separately! :)

6. Volunteer from home with micro-volunteering. There are a lot of websites that list tasks you can complete from home. Some match you up with the task based on your skills and interests, and some just list various tasks based on their time or difficulty. Some suggestions are Help From Home, UN Volunteers, and VocaliD, an organization that lets you record your voice (from home!) so that people who are unable to speak can have a unique, human voice instead of a mechanical one!

7. Support the institutions that are currently under threat. Have your breast exam done at Planned Parenthood. Borrow books from the local library. Visit art museums. Watch PBS and listen to NPR. Frequent immigrant-owned businesses. Go to National Parks.

8. Participate in marches and rallies. You don't have to talk to anyone. If you're uncomfortable standing in a large crowd, hang towards the back. If you're going to a rally alone, bring a book. If you're marching alone (and it's not a silent march) you can always slip in one earbud so music can keep you company. Bring a large sign and hold it up high so you can just peek out over it. It's do-able!

9. Write letters to your lawmakers. Phone calls are apparently the best barometer of public opinion for Congress, but letters are your next best bet if you're an introvert. E-mails and tweets go mostly unnoticed, so write it up or print it out, put a stamp on it and mail it!

10. Art. This has been my own refuge the last two months and it can be yours too. Paint rally signs for friends who are more outgoing and active than you are. Make buttons and t-shirts and patches and stickers. Knit for charity (this is a cool idea!) Act in and attend politically relevant plays. Watch and review and recommend politically relevant movies (ie: A Face in the Crowd, Born Yesterday, Meet John Doe, Citizen Kane, Duck Soup, American Madness) Art is a sanctuary for those of us who cherish making it and admiring it. It's also a very necessary part of any thriving culture, and it's one of the things that is being threatened right now. So create it, stand up for it, buy it, enjoy it, support it. Now more than ever.

HUGS, guys!  xo