Six Things to Do in 2010

In my travels,
I've heard many cries of despair from you good folks about the timorous
Obama presidency. On issue after issue, it's been go-slow and
don't-rock-the-corporate boat. "Where's the 'audacity of hope?'" people
are asking. "Where's the 'change you can believe in?'"

The answer is that in our country's democracy, audacity and change
are where they've always resided: out there with you and me, at the
grassroots level. For some reason, the guy who was elected by running
from the outside is now trying to govern from the inside - which is
where change is taken to die.

The good news is that the American majority is with us on nearly
every issue, so the chance for change remains strong - if we can push
it. Now is the time for us to be more aggressive, more demanding, more
active than ever. Many of you have asked, "Fine - but how?" Here are
some suggestions:

1. Start by considering what's reasonable for you. Few of us can be
full-time activists, and the list of issues and problems is long and
complex. So, just take one bite, choosing an issue that interests you
the most, then start contributing what you can (time, skills, contacts,
money, enthusiasm, etc.) to making progress.
Every little contribution helps - it all adds up. As a young Oregon
woman said of her half-day-a-week of volunteer door-knocking in a
legislative race: "I was only a drop in the bucket, but I was a drop.
And without all of us, the bucket would not have filled up."

2. Inform yourself. A little effort can quickly connect you to
accessible, usable information and insights on any given topic, helping
you gain a "citizen's level" of expertise so you can talk to others
about it. Read progressive periodicals, tune in to progressive
broadcasts, get information from public-interest groups and plug in to
good websites and blogs.

Don't know how to go online? Nearly all public libraries not only
have computers, but also librarians and volunteers who'll help you find
the info you want and teach you how to use the machines.

Or, find a youngster (maybe your granddaughter or someone at church) who'll help you. Yes, you can do this!

3. Democracy belongs to those who show up. Join with others.
Everyone feels better when they're part of a group, a movement, a
community (whether real or virtual). In your own town or neighborhood,
many others share your progressive outlook and are either already
working together or willing to help form a group - seek them out, maybe
at bookstores, book clubs, coffee shops, events, churches, blogs,
websites or other meeting places.

4. A community is more than a collection of issues and endless
meetings. Get to know each other by combining the serious with the
social. Remember the Yugoslavian proverb: You can fight the gods and
still have fun! So discuss your issues and strategies at potluck
suppers, throw an annual festival of politics, establish sessions of
beer-mug democracy at local taverns or political coffee talk at the
coffee shop, etc.

5. Become the media. Create a local newsletter, blog, online bulletin board (or, a real one), an Internet radio
broadcast, etc. Just as importantly, enlist high school or community
college speech and journalism teachers to help others learn how to do
radio and TV interviews and how to get local media to cover your
issues. Also, get them to train you and others in public speaking, so
you can have your own speakers' bureau to address clubs, churches,
schools, etc.

6. Hold your own "what to do" sessions in your community. National
progressive groups haven't figured out a cohesive strategy for focusing
people's anger about the meekness of the Washington's Democratic
leaders, so don't wait on them. Instead, have your own discussions
about what should be done nationally - if anything - and start zapping
those ideas to other communities, heads of national groups, progressive
media outlets and so forth. Let the ideas/discussion percolate up from
a thousand localities!

If you're looking for genius, don't look up, look around where you
are, and trust you're the wisdom of your own community. As Ralph Waldo
Emerson put it, "Common sense is genius with its work clothes on."

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