It Takes a Village to Save a Democracy

We are the superheroes we’ve been waiting for. Find your superpower and join the fight.

I was at the Women’s March on Washington this weekend and the energy was urgent, electric, palpable. In addition to rallying and inspiring the crowd, the speakers voiced a constant reminder:

“This is the beginning! Let this be a movement, not just a moment.”

In just one week we’ve seen executive orders streaming forth from our new leader for the building of the wall, the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline, silencing of scientists, an “investigation” into voter fraud that will likely be used to ramp up voter suppression. We are outraged, we are energized, we are fired up, but where do we go from here?

Was January 21st your first time marching? It was mine. Mark that date. It’s our new birthday, the day we were born in the resistance. In a month, in six months, in a year check back in, how are you doing? Do you need to be re-energized? Reconnected? Recommit? Find a way to do that and keep going. This must be our new way of life, because we can’t go back, only forward. That’s the only way towards freedom.

This new progressive movement is going to take us all. We need to bring back our civil society which has been decimated by urbanization, people leaving their communities and moving to big cities (like me and my generation), and by social media replacing our face to face interactions that we used to depend on. We need our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, teachers, health care workers, lawyers, engineers, service workers, artists, armed service members, everyone, to take part in building our future.

The Basics

Here’s what I’ve been doing lately, the basic stuff you’ve probably seen on Facebook or Twitter. It seems small but it adds up when we are all doing it.

Contacting My Representatives: I followed all my representatives on social media so I can see their latest statements and know what they are working on. I’ve been using the 5 calls website to reach out and now I’ve added my representatives to my favorites on my phone so it should be super easy to make calls on a regular basis.

My legislators on speed dial

Even though all my representatives have promised to fight for democracy and equality, I know my calls help to give them ammunition for arguments and assure them that their constituents are behind them as they take on battle after battle. I also ordered these awesome postcards, designed to send to your legislators to inform them about issues you care about.

Doing Research: Reading the news, joining groups on Facebook, finding out about upcoming marches, upcoming elections, finding resources like 5 Calls and Swing Left. You know, compulsive information collecting stuff.

Joining Marches: My hope is to attend at least one demonstration per month. Next month’s march will be a DAPL protest in my city. I’m working on rallying some of the Women’s March ladies to join.

Taking Care Not to Burnout: I’ve been trying to make sure I get regular exercise and am finding community. Here’s an excellent article on strategies to prevent burnout in the coming months and years: “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind.”

Taking it up a notch

The basics are important, and some people might need to stop there. It’s already a lot, but some of us can take it a step further and if we can, we must.

Making It Part of My Work: My colleague and I are making a documentary, we filmed the march in D.C. and we’re now working to portray the moment and the bigger context. That will be a long process and it’s not the only project I’ll work on this year, but I feel really good that I’m fusing my particular talents with furthering the movement.

Sure it seems easy to figure out what you can do when you’re in a creative and journalistic field like documentary filmmaking, but the movement needs everyone. This is where the whole “it takes village” part kicks in. We all have different skills and roles in our society, and each one of us needs to bring those skills to the table. It’s going to take all of us, across different industries, in different states, cities, and families working together to preserve our democracy and build the world we want to live in.

Here some ideas for people from different industries or with different skills. Feel free to skim until you find an role that suits you.

Are a social butterfly, somebody who’s good at organizing people? Organize a coffee meet-up, organize a group of concerned citizens so that you can get together and speak to each other about your concerns and then take action together. Organize some of your friends to volunteer at a local non-profit, organize some of your friends to go to a march. You have a really fantastic skill that you can bring to the table, don’t let it got to waste.

Are you good at planning and logistics? Help others make a plan of action and execute. Not everyone is good at that and they might need a little help to get started.

Are you a good a cook or a baker? Bring food and bring treats to places where people are doing activist work. Sometimes people get really caught up in the work and don’t take care of themselves. Help fuel others to keep them going.

Are you a skilled crafter? Make something that helps express your opinion and share it with others. Not into the pussy hat? How about a brain beanie for the upcoming March for Science?

Are you a passionate people person? Run for office! We need new leadership, and particularly Millennials need to step up.

Are you an artist? Use your ability to touch people’s hearts with your work to share a message.

Are you a musician? We need anthems! Inspire us, unite us; make something amazing and share it with us.

Are you a lawyer? There are going to be immigrants across the country that are going to need your help in various stages of removal proceedings. There are going to be lawsuits brought against the president as he tries to trample all over the constitution. Your skills are going to be desperately needed.

Are you a doctor, nurse, or health care industry worker? Talk to your colleagues, get a group together to support the Affordable Care Act and make your voices heard. Your patients are going to be the ones that suffer and we need you to tell the world why healthcare is a basic human right. You’re the ones who see it in action every day.

Do you make content for entertainment purposes? You have the public’s ear and you help create culture. Use that power wisely (hint: don’t give would-be demagogues their own reality show and look the other way for years when they seek to delegitimize a president based on racist propaganda).

Do you market products, are you in advertising? Same as above, you are creating culture. If in our culture we don’t value freedom of thought, equality, and democracy then we will lose it.

Are you in tech? Social media is a roiling rats nest of misinformation and racist, Nazi trolls. Start there.

Not that kind of tech? Join with industry leaders to fight preserve our free access to information. Help create products that solve problems for a broader swath of humanity than just the people in your immediate circle.

Are you a service worker? First of all, take care of yourself. People are going to grumpy and stressed and scared and they will sadly take it out on those around them, which is particularly hard for people who’s job it is to provide service with a smile. To that end, if you can help make someone’s day better by meeting their humanity with love, they might respond by recognizing yours. Who knows what kind of pay it forward chain reaction you might set in motion?

Are you an academic or a scientist? Share your research with people outside academia in a way that empowers them. Build bridges with lay people to help them support the seeking of knowledge and information in our society. And join the March for Science!

Do you have a lot of money? Fantastic. If you worked really, really hard for that money, then I’m impressed and congratulations on your success. We need your help. We need your help to preserve a society that allows people to pursue their dreams and find success like you did. Give your money to organizations that are fighting for equal rights for all citizens. Give your money to politicians that want to preserve our democracy. Give your money to those that need help. And get your friends with money to do the same.

Are you already an activist? There people all around you who just participated in their first public demonstration, young people just waking up, older people going through profound changes, opening their eyes for the first time, grab them by the hand and don’t let go. Some may fall out and disappoint, but many will surprise and uplift you.

I could go on, but with some imagination, I know we can all figure out how to come together to and bring the best of ourselves. For the past decade or so, we’ve been inundated with superhero films. It seems it’s a national obsession. Time and time again we’ve watched the fantasy play out, as heroes like Batman and Superman have saved America, and the world, from tyranny and catastrophe. But here we stand on the edge of real precipice, a real threat to our democracy and the world as we know it and no one with supernatural powers and amazing strength is coming to save us. We the people are the superheroes we’ve been waiting for. Find your superpower and join the fight. #resisteveryday