now what

Last night 12 sad, angry people entered our local library’s meeting room. We all seemed to have the same look of despair and defeat. “How are you?” we asked each other and the answers were all similar; Depressed. Sad. Disbelief. One woman said, "I'm pissed." We had gathered at the invitation of 2 local women and the topic was to be: “Where Do We Go From Here?” We went around the room introducing ourselves, giving a little bio to the others about who we were, what we are worried about and what we hoped to achieve. Two of the people are currently members of our town council and of our local water board. They also are concerned and have the experience of holding public to understand the magnitude of what it takes to run just a local government. They grasp the challenge ahead of accomplishing and preventing devastating changes in policies and laws that we are looking at with a Minority President and a GOP controlled Congress.

hand shake

We agreed to not interrupt each other, to be respectful and polite and share our ideas on what we could do for ourselves, our families and our community. Our collective decision was to focus on local issues and effect change here with an eye towards state and federal goals. We agreed to put down our rhetorical spears and use our hands for shaking in agreement rather than pointing in blame. When we walked out we looked at each other and shared that we felt better, that we didn’t feel so discouraged and that we had goals to work for and achieve. What we learned from the 2 local public officials was the importance of public support, the value of continuing to follow them AFTER they are elected. So much work is put into winning a political campaign but the real work comes after, when they sit in the chair and have to follow through on campaign promises. Often they sit alone, sometimes they have to face a room of their peers who don’t share their constituency and they are the under-dog. They are out voted, out-talked, ostracized from meetings and events and they find themselves with their hands tied behind their back. What makes the difference? Having voters in the audience showing their support, voters who raise their hands and ask questions or being able to bring a stack of letters or phone messages to the meeting and show them to their fellow officials, “My constituents want me to take this action.” This is the support they need when they go into the council or chamber meeting. They need to be able to point and say, “These people want this action.” All too often no one is there and they go it alone.

speak out

That’s where we voters come in. We need to support our candidate before and during their term. Now more than ever we need to discuss, share, email, phone, write letters to our local paper, letters to our elected officials on every level and let them know that we are paying attention. If you can’t show up to your local council meeting, write a letter. If you are too shy to speak up in public, bring a friend with you or send an email. Congressional staff member Emily Ellsworth offers advice on how to get your representative to take notice and hear you out. “But, phone calls! That was a thing that shook up our office. One time, a radio host gave out our district office phone # on air. He was against our immigration policy and told our constituents to call. And they did. All. Day. Long. All I did all day was answer phones. It was exhausting and you can bet my bosses heard about it. We had discussions because of that call to action.”

The 12 of us vowed to work on local issues and inspire each other. We decided that working on our own county’s problems, acting locally but keeping an eye on the state and federal level. We have agreed to ‘bring a friend’ to our next meeting where we will come up with a list of action items. I feel optimistic and even a little energetic, there is nothing like having a goal you share with others to motivate you. Today I have a, ‘Fuck you, Minority President-Elect Trump.’, attitude. (Sorry Mom, I know you don’t like me saying the F-word but if we now live in a country where the man in the White House can grab pussy then we have moved past polite conversation.) Today I feel better than I did yesterday and a lot better than I did last week. Sitting alone in your room is disheartening. Siting among a group, even a small one, of motivated people is empowering. We may not change the world but we will definitely change a small part of our world. One lesson I have learned from this election- we have to be loud. Loud and repeat what we want over and over again until we are heard. We can’t do that from our couch, we have to get up. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

“You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can't fool all the people all the time.
So now we see the light (What you gonna do?)
We gonna stand up for our rights!” Bob Marley

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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