On The Path Forward, 2 of 5
If only you knew the headaches I had getting the last part to post, lol.
So, moving on, you should have registered by now. Registered to vote, even if you were already registered Because yeah, they gonna try and take that away from you. Especially if you are not white, straight, cis, and have an income under 20k a year.
They are going to make it as difficult to vote as possible. Especially in the States of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, but also Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky, and Arizona.
I mention those states for specific reasons. The sharper among you will recognize that collection of states. Will be aware that for over 150 years that specific collection of States have resisted to the maximum ability they could the expansion of human rights in the United States.
It has always been those states, and so those states are the ones where the most effort needs to be applied. Not all of it — we have to defend the bastions of Democracy and US Values we do still hold — the large cities, the major states, all of which will come under fierce attack — but we must make inroads in their homes, destroy the lock of a century and a half of frankly, racist motherfuckers who think women should shut up and look pretty but not bother themselves with important work and who have consistently tried to hate off on LGBT and other groups as a tool to keep their bitterness alive.
There is a flag that is still popular in those states, still not seen as a declared and open support of Slavery, of white supremacy, and they all manner of pretty suggestions to shy away from that, yet it remains that the symbol is a symbol that was created and developed to resist the march of Human rights, and that serves to declare opposition to such.
Might seem odd to you that I bring that up. Might even seem untoward. Perhaps even a bit hysterical or exaggerated. Fine. If you want to see it that way, then by all means, go right ahead. We do live in a time where people are supposed to be thinking whatever their golden orange idol wants them to think, where truth is “fake news” and falsehood is accepted as Gospel of the New Era.
I am a sociologist. These things are real, these things are current, and these things are part of what underlies the ongoing conflict. We can undo all of it, but to do it, again, we must concentrate, we must make sure that everything we do is based in a central proposition: Human Rights are the heart and soul of what it means to be an American.
There is a post here for what those Human Rights are. You might want to read it. It does not follow the usual conventions, and there is at least one that many Progressives will find shocking. But read them. And remember that Human Rights exist first, and that these are the things we are fighting for — all of them. Laid out in black and white. At least, I’m pretty sure it is black and white. Could be Gold and Green, given the official colors of the new era…
So now we have a baseline of what Human Rights are, and a conviction and purpose of ensuring that they are the purpose to which we apply ourselves over the next decade and a half.
The next step is to the immediate effort. We need to know who our legislators are, in person, and, more importantly, we need to make them aware of who we are, in person.
Throughout history, one of the most powerful tools of all time is the personal relationship. It is really hard to be a complete asshole to someone you like. It is very difficult to be a dick to your friends, to make them suffer.
Politicians are generally an exception to this, but they are still susceptible to it. So, the first order of business is to know who yours are.
When I have done various speaking engagements, I have used knowing who your representatives are as a tool to demonstrate to others how not knowing something can be dangerous to you.
Liberals, today, generally do not know who their legislators are at the local level. They don’t know the people on the staff. They tend to think in terms of Congress, of national level effort, and forget that all this stuff starts at home — in part because without realizing it, they take it for granted that the folks at home won’t be dicks, or they have become cynical about those folks at home and no longer try at all because “it won’t make a difference”.
So they stopped doing the hard work of making themselves known. This is perhaps the single most important part, though — because the folks currently in place are the ones who are most likely to move forward, from overseeing your little area to becoming Congressmen — and if we can shape their policies locally, we can shape policy nationally, as well.
So the first place to start is the school boards, the Elected Jurists, the “dogcatcher” jobs. And, here, most importantly your city council member or Borough representative
Find out who they are, first. Then you find out where their offices are.
Then you go and you visit them.
Here is the real trick: get to know the staff there. When you go and visit them the first time, do not go with an agenda of being against some sort of bill or with a policy in mind, or even just to say hey, don’t be a dick.
GO there with the heart and soul of you, as a person, in all your good and bad and otherness and say Hi! I thought it would be cool to meet the people who represent me.
Don’t even really try to get to know the Councilman or Alderman or whatever right then. Get to know the people who work for them. Are they young or old, do they have families or are they single, are they religious or meh, do they like country or pop, how do they feel about hip hop, rap, and Blues?
I mean, literally, get to know them as people. I don’t know about you, but I have lots of friends who I have, recently, called immoral, unethical, indecent, gullible, and ignorant. Those precise terms I have said of them, At least a few are in government work.
They are still my friends. I am a woman of color, bisexual, mixed race, poor, trans and annoying. The odds of me not having friends who are immoral, unethical, indecent, gullible, and ignorant are not in my favor. I have family that falls into that same trap. It doesn’t change that they are my friends or my family.
But what it does mean is that they understand that I am affected by their actions and that there is a penalty there — and I am paying it, so when it comes time for helping me, they had damn well better be there.
Lo and behold, because they are friends and family, they do. Some take arm twisting, but, yeah.
So get to know these people. You don’t have to make friends with them. But you should get to know them, and they will get to know you.
A weekly visit to your city councilman’s office is a good start. A half hour, hell, if you can pull it off, a full hour. Once a week. This early part of things, right now, isn’t going to make much difference anyway, and we are playing the long game here, not the short one.
Now, you might be thinking that I am going to say go visit the other city council folk.
Do not. Avoid them. THink of them — with the exception of the Mayor, who, technically, has the whole city — as kind of like scary people. Avoid them, Hide from them.Unless you know them personally, in which case keep your interactions separate from their offices.
In my case, my City councilman is a woman. She is also Vice Mayor, here, and she is close friends with the Mayor, who happens to be a liberal. Moderate with centrist leanings. She’s pretty similar.
Getting to know their staff over the next month and a half or so, just stopping in to get to know them, will put you on the radar. It will annoy them a little, as well, as you aren’t there for business.
But you are. Your business. Which is, after all, human rights.
After about two months, you start in with the requests. You will, by then, likely have email addresses, and know who to talk to about what topic and subject. You will know what they like, how they think and hey, maybe even a few birthdays and anniversaries.
And they will have come to know you. In my case, I am that trans gal who is annoying but had the balls to stand up to a really disliked leader of the opposition in the State legislature.
But originally I was just that gal who was running a homeless shelter. I never talked about my blog. I never mentioned that I had been a member of any political party. I was just a citizen who wanted to see the sausage made, and maybe I could help now and again.
Which is pretty much how I do things.
So as you get to know your city council person, and maybe your school board members (that could be a second hour, but monthly on that one).
That’s 5 hours a month, so far Plus travel time, and I will assume for you that’s a PITA, so we’ll add a couple hours travel time in there. Call it 7 hours a month so far.
Now, I also think you should look at your County leadership. Here, in AZ, County isn’t quite as fancy and powerful in my area, but in the rural parts of this state, County leadership has a lot more pull and power.
Give them 30 minutes of time, plus 30 minutes of travel, once a month. More, if county in your area — say, for example, Nashville –is a bigger power base.
Then you get to your State Legislator. This one you want once a month, if the legislature isn’t in session. But when they are, you want it weekly as well. Just like the city councilman. For some folks, that will be hard — especially rural folks. But a good State Legislator has a local office. They might not ever be in it, but they try to have one.
Go there. As often as you can, again, to get to know the people working for them. So they can get to know you.
Let’s call that 12 hours a month so far. Give you a little more room for travel time, call it 15 hours a month.
Now, you might be thinking that what with your working two minimum wage jobs to make ends meet that such a time request is beyond your ability.
Well, bad news: in about a year and a half, you won’t be able to make ends meet with those two jobs. So work them while you can. Because the shit is raining down, and the devil has diarrhea.
But if you can’t spare the time, you can’t spare it. But odds are good you know someone who can spare the time, so help them out in spending that time on your behalf.
A note, here: you can do this at any age. Sixteen years old? Go on, do this. Now. Hell, you might even get a part time job out of it.
Eighteen, don’t feel like college, but the military isn’t on your radar either? Try this out. Do it. Get involved.
I started when I was 22, in earnest, but I had a slight advantage in that I knew a lot of this stuff already from being the grandchild of a woman who worked for Congressman. One who helped my uncle get into the Naval Academy. One who introduced me to Barry Goldwater. When I was like 12.
So, yeah, I know this stuff the way I know restaurants, but for years I hated politics because, well, I mean, seriously, have you read the news since 1973?
Then I went to work for some of them, contract basis. Helped them do things.
So I’m not a staffer type, like the folks who created Indivisible. I’m more like one of those party types who have influence but you never know their names.
So now you have the local stuff figured out.
You know your precinct by now, and you are registered. If you registered for a party, go to their meetings. They can be god awful boring, and the amount of fawning that can go on is pretty icky and there are always a lot of grey hairs, but seriously, go.
Speak up and talk to everyone there that you know about the key things to be talked about.
Attend every meeting, and be vocal about the people you support, and keep hammering on the key things that we need to do.
Which is, first and foremost, Human Rights.
Before anything else, we need to make damn sure that people start putting into the order of the day and talking about Oppression and human rights, using those words.
Let’s say you don’t like my list of human rights here. No, it doesn’t matter that my list comes from really great sources including the Bill of Rights. Maybe you don’t like Section 8. Maybe section 10 doesn’t work for you.
So sit down and right your own bill of rights. yes, Really.
You have some amazing resources:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
You also have the arguments that have been going on about various human rights for the last 70 years.
Dive in, figure it out, research it, come up with a list and then…
Go and talk to people about introducing a bill.
A simple bill. In your local city council, in your school boards, in your county governments, in your state legislatures.
A bill that says, simply, that Law and Justice are in the Service of Human Rights, because the United States is about human Rights. And here are those human rights that we hold to be self evident.
No, you probably won’t get it to happen at first.
Yes people will roll their eyes at you.
Keep doing it. Keep talking about Oppression. DO not talk about racism, do not talk about misogyny, or homophobia, or transphobia, because by breaking Oppression down, in this climate we are in, we fall prey to the division of Oppression, the idea that somehow we can achieve this goal by miraculously doing one thing at a time.
DOn’t fall prey to that trap. Stand up for human rights. Stand up against oppression, in all its forms.
When someone says to you “Hey, this won’t work.” Ask them why. Then ask them “hey, how can we make it work?”
Because who is American and claims to be against human rights?
Remember those who are. Speak their names, loudly, often, and always be sure to say they opposed a bill that says the United states is about Human Rights and they opposed human rights and they were working for Oppression.
DO not mince words, but don’t add anger to it. Just keep hammering away about human rights.
At all those offices.
Get other people to do the same thing. Your neighbors. Your local businesses. Your co-workers.
I mean, its human rights. If they are already guaranteed, then what is the harm in saying these are human rights?
Most folks will not read your list of them, just as most of the people who like my list of human rights haven’t read it.
Because we are Americans. We love human rights.
THe orange golden calf idol that is about to take office does not love human rights.
But then, they aren’t American. People who oppose human rights are UnAmerican.
But of course, the big question will come up, eventually. The important question, the one that is the point of working to make this discussion happen about America and Human Rights.
The question is “How does passing such a thing make my life better?”
How does making this simple effort to have a bill passed in every city, in every county, in every state that says, simply and elegantly, that human rights are what America is about, that law is about human rights, and here are these human rights, make a difference in the lives of people in the rust belt, of poor trans folk like me, of elderly struggling to survive on an ever dwindling social safety net….
That’s part three…