Until recently, the majority of my political activism consisted of signing petitions. Since the recent election, I realized it’s going to take a lot more than just signing petitions to protect the people in this country, along with the earth and its flora and fauna. When I first started to increase my civic duties, I was at times overwhelmed. I had this idea that I would do something once every weekday or once a week. I soon realized that would not work for me. It’s far more intuitive to follow my fire. In other words, there are some days when I am eager to make change, sending out dozens of emails, making calls or doing research. Other days I barely even want to log on to my computer. And that’s ok. I just do what I can when I am able and give myself permission to rest.
If you are interested in taking action, I’ve got some suggestions to help you. Then once you are all set up, it will be easy for you to spring in to action when a problematic situation (such as a Congressional bill you adamantly oppose) arises.
- Create a text file or spreadsheet with the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of all the people you might find yourself contacting. That way you won’t have to go hunting for them every time you want to convey your thoughts. Some people you may want to include on your list: The President of the USA, your two Senators and one Representative in the US Congress, your Senator and Reps in your state legislature, the Governor of your state, Mayor of your town, members of City Council, and members of the School Board.
- Add these individuals to your email address book. Put email addresses of groups you contact into a group contact list in your email (Gmail lets you do this)…that way when you want to contact every member of the School Board at once, for example, you can just type in School Board and everyone’s email address pops up.
- If you anticipate making a lot of phone calls, add the phone numbers to your phone address book.
- Keep a log of every contact you make, so you know what you’ve done. This will help when months or weeks from now you can’t remember if you contacted so and so about such and such, and what you said to them. You can also use this file to put in notes for future actions you want to take but aren’t ready to do so yet.
- If you aren’t currently involved in any activism groups, sign up for a group or list that will give you action items to do. Some examples are Dumbledore’s Army and My Civic Workout.
- I’ve also found it helpful to create an activism folder on my computer Desktop that contains subfolders for issues I’m interested in working on. That way if I want to save an article or save the link to the bill, I can have everything together. On a Mac you can save a link from your web browser just by grabbing the icon to the left of the URL and dragging it to the Desktop or to another folder.
Writing Letters and Emails
Never written a letter to an elected official, or need a refresher? Here’s a brief video describing the process of writing a letter to an elected official, specifically handwritten ones. You can also check out this more in depth article. If you request a response from the official, please know that you will receive a pretty generic form letter geared toward the general topic you’ve written about.
Making Phone Calls
Since attending meetings, marches and rallies are usually a bit of a hardship for me for various reasons, I decided to push my comfort zone in a new way: making phone calls. I’ve been inspired to conquer my fears about making calls, because I’ve learned it is more effective than letters or emails, which are hardly read, according to this former staffer.
Here’s what you do to make a call:
- Prepare what you want to say in advance so you have a script to fall back on when you freeze up.
- Whether you get voice mail or an actual live human on the line, be polite, brief and to the point.
- If you are a constituent of that elected official, let them know, because they care whether you are a voter who has the power to help vote them in or out of office.
- Thank them for their time.
I hope this helps inspire you!