A scientist breaks down some useful resources to stay engaged and stay sane

February 23 | Guest post by Caitlin
RESIST graphic tee by Etsy seller blackbirdsupply

In recent conversations with friends, the tone is often one of overwhelm and fear, and hope, and excitement all at once. There is a tendency to want to shut out the news, and just hope it all goes away. But that is the worst thing we can do. I have yet to come across a problem to which denial was an effective solution. And in my experience, most things that are worth doing involve some hard work.

My mom is in the middle of writing a book, and called to ask me a favor the other day… She was feeling overwhelmed by the current political scene, wanted to participate and #resist, but at the same time feeling the need shut the world out in order to get her book finished. So she wanted me to give her the bullet points and tell who to call and about what issues.

See, I am a scientist and an Extension educator, and therefore I spend a lot of time helping people find the resources they need, and translating complex and technical information into a form that is useful to a key audience.

Here are the resources I rounded up for my mom and my friends, plus some useful things I have learned in the last few weeks. Pick and choose the resources and action items that agree with your values, and get involved.

First, save the numbers for you federal and state representatives on your phone

In a recent conversation with my sister, she shared that calling legislators did not feel radical enough. I thought about this, and did some reading, and determined that phone calls can be a highly-effective tool. If only a few of us make phone calls to our elected representatives it will not likely make much of a difference. But if THOUSANDS do? Then yes, they listen. Calling and writing is the most basic step to political action.

Echo Through the Fog provides a delightful explanation of how to call your representatives even if you have social anxiety and it makes you nervous, and feels yucky.

Second, subscribe to an action list that you like

Here are three lists that focus mostly on federal issues:

  • Jennifer Hofman creates a "Weekly Action List" delivered on Sunday to your email in-box. I like her non-nonsense, research based approach. She also includes positive news and recommendations for thank you letters. What started as a list for 40 of her friends, now reaches over 60,000 people.
  • Wall-Of-Us delivers "four concrete acts of resistance" to your inbox every week. They use beautiful graffiti art to illustrate the "bricks" built by people working together to #resist. A great example of how the simple act of participating in something so mundane as a phone call or social media post can have an impact.
  • The Sixty Five project provides a weekly action item and encourages people to "make congress work for us." They provide scripts on many different issues, and suggestions on how to make the most impact with a phone call.
  • The folks at Indivisible (former congressional staff members) have created a guide to "demystify congressional advocacy" and cite the Tea Party as an example of successful advocacy. They provide support for local action groups, and a calendar with action items scheduled on specific days. Print it out and put it on the fridge, get the kids involved!

There are many groups on the state level that can keep you informed about important policy issues, depending on your interest

For example, natural resource and publics lands, women's issues, LGBTQ issues, agriculture and forestry, education, etc. Find the organizations in your state lobbying on these issues and get connected. You don't even have to agree with their positions on the issues, but they will help keep you informed of what bills are in the state legislature and when calls are needed.

People are making very important decisions every day that affect your life in real and important ways. Some of these people are family, some are coworkers or bosses, some are total strangers. Perhaps most importantly, some are elected by you and your neighbors! Want to be a decision maker instead of a decision taker? Emily's List, supports pro-choice women running for office by providing training, support and funding. Not a woman but want to support women running for office? They will gladly accept your donations.

And finally, for those willing to go right into the lion's den…

There are thousands of appointed part-time positions on boards and councils that will be appointed by Trump in the coming weeks and months. Most do not require Senate approval. Check out the list here, and throw your hat in the ring.

Don't have the stomach for public office? Give money and support to someone who does — even if it is just $20. Champion a candidate that you believe in! City council, county commissioner, state representative, US senator — they are all making very important decisions that affect you.

I hope these lists and resources are useful to you, and I look forward to hearing what others have to share as well!

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  1. I'm a researcher who lives and works in DC. For a number of years I worked as an advocate on Capitol Hill. I can not express enough how important calling your senators and House members is. They can (and do) ignore Facebook posts, emails, and tweets. But people pay attention when their phone is ringing off the hook. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a Senator or House member who supports your issues. Call and thank them. And then get your friends and family who live in areas with swing votes to call their senators and house members. My kids go to DCPS and we don't have representation in Congress (Statehood now!) so during the DeVos confirmation process I asked my parents in NY to call Senators Gillibrand and Schumer to thank them for their hard work.

    On the local level I'd suggest writing letters to the editor (LTEs) and submitting them to your local paper. House staff read them. They bring them to the Members.

    4 agree
  2. There are also many boards, committees and commissions that need people to provide oversight to local government programs. There are all kinds of programs – beautification committees, economic development, election oversight, historic preservation, parks maintenance and various recreation programs, water treatment facilities….something for every interest and many require only a couple hours a month or a few days a year. Some positions may be elected, some appointed, some you merely show up. There are nearly unlimited ways to get involved in government at the local level. Serving at the local level has given me a great return on my time spent. I have been educated about how our city & county governments work and connections to the people who are running things. If I have something to say to a local politician, even if they don't agree with me, I know they will at least listen, because they know me and know that I have been there to help out with the grunt work. This gives me a sense of control. While I often feel helpless about national issues, I know that I am making a difference in my community.

    2 agree
    • This is SO TRUE! We live in a rural area and the county commissioners cannot find enough people to serve on the many county boards that are needed. Decisions are not made be the most qualified, but by those who show up.

      2 agree
  3. Thank you so much for this. Another voice from suburbia: volunteering in community centers can be a good way to keep resource lines open for vulnerable groups.

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