Friday, May 12, 2006

The ammo box or the ballot box?

I received an interesting comment on my post about Polite Debate…(a long title that has to do with who controls what you do in bed. Yes, that includes you heterosexuals.).

The poster noted that he feels helpless “as a citizen of only average resources” to change this country’s political slide. His solution is to think that we might be coming close to a time when the “ammo box” is the only cure for this country’s problems.

I respect his position, and I certainly understand his fear. I feel it often, along with outrage and pure, unadulterated fury. I am a lesbian progressive stuck in, of all places, anti-gay, anti-evolution Kansas. I know how it feels to be helpless and oppressed.

When you feel like you’re backed up to a wall, it seems as if the only solution is to put aside the tools of organizing, politics and rhetoric and, perhaps, even to pick up a gun. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it, particularly if the alternative is oppression? Yet, it isn’t.

Morally, I oppose the use of violence. Politically, even thinking about violence as a solution means giving into the kind of despair that takes away the tools we can use to change this country. Ironically, considering violence makes us weaker, not stronger.

Here’s the core of my argument: We. Are. Not. Helpless.

As an individual of average resources – and trust me, my financial resources are most definitely average – I can make a difference, and so can you.

The trick is to not get sucked into the Superhero Trap. That’s the too-easy-to-fall-into idea that you’ve got to solve it all. And, you’ve got to do it all by yourself.

It is a fact that I, for example, do not have the financial means to fund an entire organization, or even to make a huge contribution or even a significant contribution. But I can give something.

As a person who’s worked with grassroots political organizations, I can tell you that even $10 makes a difference. If enough people give $10 or $20 or even just a little more, then that makes a HUGE difference to any political group.

You or I may not have a lot of time to give to a political group, but we can always do something.

Out here in Kansas, I was privileged to work on organizing the Kansas Equality Coalition, the state’s first geographically diverse gay rights organization. It was created and is still being run by volunteers. We all had different skills, but we all found something to do, even the woman in a small town in rural Kansas who helped out by baking cookies for meetings. Her cookies were very appreciated.

The first step is to be informed about what is actually going on. I suspect most of us are, or we wouldn't be so darn upset about it.

The second step is to ask yourself: What one thing can I do today? In this moment, how can I make a difference?

Can I give even a small bit of money?

Can I take one hour and stuff envelopes for someone or help fold and stamp a newsletter?

Can I hand out fliers?

Can I tell a friend about a meeting?

One other thing to remember: Progressives don’t have to change everyone’s minds. There are some folks we will never reach. All we have to do is change enough -- just enough -- to alter the outcome of an election.

George Bush’s approval ratings are now at 29 percent. Public furor over the Republicans in Congress is at an all-time high and elections are coming up in November.

What can you do? If you do just one thing today to help out in the right Congressional race, you could make all the difference in the world.

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