“What is this bullshit?” is the phrase playing through so many of our minds right now. Tada! We’re edging closer to the top of the political soap opera roller coaster, right before the media blitz ball drop that is the presidential election on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. It’s… almost… over…
We’ve spent a year or more cozying up to our preferred candidates, only to have them drop by the wayside, self-implode, or rise to the top of their flippy floppy crop. “Politics,” we sneer, mercurial in our disdain for these public speakers promising to represent us. We love to hate, hate to love, love to love them. A jaded-yet-optimisticly-hungry-for-change America we are.
But what can we do? The majority of the time, the American political machine feels like a giant lopped-off Medusa head, a thousand angry snakes snapping at each other, forgetting they are all connected at the root, eventually turning everyone it encounters into immobile, dejected blocks of stone.
Listen, we have options. We can choose to tuck our tails and run away to Canada, or accept that we are part of this madness and plant our feet in the garden of change we are tending. It will eventually grow. Here are seven ways to make a difference before/during/after the presidential circus. Give them a shot…
1. Ignore It –
This is the route many people choose to take when the political bullshit sound machine becomes too unbearably noisy. It takes a lot of energy to digest the same soundbites over and over again, to hear people berate one another with vague accusations. Sometimes it is easier and healthier to just mentally turn the damn thing off. [The problem with this option though, is that if you aren’t engaging people and dialoging to make change in our system, then who is? We become complicit when we remain silent.]
2. Discuss the Issues –
On the flip side of ignoring the damn mess, you can confront it. This goes against the “never talk about religion, politics, or money rule” we all heard growing up. No one wants to fracture relationships with friends, family, coworkers, or randos on the street, but there are ways to genuinely and respectfully discuss issues while agreeing to disagree. The likelihood of changing someones mind now (or later) may be slim, but if you provide words or images to help educate them, and leave it there for them to consume on their own time, they may eventually decide to have a change of heart.
3. VOTE! –
Why voting isn’t more accessible or mandatory in the United States (like it is in 22 other countries) makes no sense. Well, actually it does. If all members of our society equally participated in our democracy, the outcomes would upset a lot of those traditionally in positions of power. Imagine an informed population with a 95% voter turnout rate. Imagine the immediate and far-reaching changes that would cause in our domestic policy! Well, that’s never going to happen, but VOTE. It does make a difference, even if the electoral college is an outdated piece of shit by several hundred years.
4. Volunteer to Register Voters/Help at Polling Stations –
A step up from voting is helping register people to vote and volunteering at polling places during election day/helping transport people to polling stations. These opportunities can be flexible (ex: canvasing the neighborhood for a day or two of your choosing) and limited in scope (ex: the presidential election is a one day event). These are nice ways to get involved that you can tuck into your schedule. Registering voters also has the potential to make a big difference in election outcomes. The more citizens that can speak, the louder and more representative the voice of The People.
5. Get Involved in Community Organizations –
Community organizations are ground zero for making a difference wherever you live. The people running these organizations have generally done the legwork of identifying problems and researching available solutions, and are usually set up with a skilled staff member or several under a nonprofit designation. Most towns and cities have nonprofits that exist to meet specific needs of the community. In oceanside towns, there are often volunteer beach cleaning organizations, in cities there are organizations dedicated to building and maintaining urban gardens. Food pantries and women’s shelters can be found everywhere. They all need your help… (and dollars…)
6. Become an Activist –
Merriam-Webster defines “activism” as “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.” Being an activist means consciously taking your voice and doing something – becoming an agent of change for a problem you are passionate about. There are literally a bajillion issues that need voices to represent them. Choose one! Educate yourself on it. Find other people with similar feelings and exchange thoughts and ideas. Speak up. Act out! You can become an activist today. No previous experience required.
7. Run for Office –
Who can make a difference? You can! You know the issues. You want to make change. You have dreams of helping the world become a better place. The penultimate way your can reform the system is by becoming a part of it (see: The Matrix). You don’t have to play sketchy politics or grub around for corporate money, at least not in local elections. Use your voting record, your experience being involved in community organizations, and your history as an activist as your resume and get your name on a ballot. Folks want to elect optimistic people to office that genuinely care about the issues and want to make a difference in the world. Now is your chance…
Instead of getting angry at politics and tuning out, dive in and make a difference!