After the election, I proposed creating a community where we could, in whatever small or large ways we come up with, channel our frustration and political will towards productive ends. There seemed to be a fair amount of interest, so here it is - Off-year Activist, because there's no reason for us all to forget about issues of importance till the next election comes up.
So what's this community for? That's not something I want to define entirely, because I think there's a lot of useful directions we can go in, and I also think we shouldn't limit ourselves to just one yet (if at all). I figured this would be a good place to explore ideas and throw a lot of things out there that may or may not work out. And I also thought it would be a good place to play around with ideas that seem small and that normally don't seem worth the bother, because there's enough of us that those sorts of actions can accumulate into something really worthwhile.
I should make a note on politics for anyone who stumbled across this and doesn't already know. I created this for people who are dissatisfied with George W. Bush's presidency, with the way the war in Iraq is being fought, with the way our government has lately been abusing the rights and liberties of people at home and abroad (the Patriot Act and Guantanimo, for starters), with attacks on freedom of speech and the seperation of church and state, and with publicly accepted discrimination such as we saw when eleven states approved a ban of gay marriage. I don't have a problem with dissent, and if you disagree with me on some of that, that's great. But I created this for activism, not debate. Intelligent discussion and hammering out of positions has its place; trolling and disagreement for the sake of disagreement (or to convince members how wrong they are) does not. At the moment, membership and posting access are unrestricted and I'd prefer to keep it that way, but won't hesitate to change it if needed.
So a lot of people have been floating suggestions the last couple days about ways to make a difference, and I thought I'd start off this community by listing some of them here. Discussion and suggestions are great and maybe we can keep an updated list archived in the community memories:
* Classic, and maybe even cliched, we can write letters to our representatives in Congress (federal and local) and to our local papers. This has been stereotyped as the activity of the old and crotchety, which just means it's up to us to represent the opinions of the somewhat younger and crotchety. Here's a nice quote from a letter sent to Sars at Tomato Nation:
"Also, try and learn how a bill is passed in your state, when the legislative cycle starts in your state (when do local legislators turn in their bill ideas for the next session, et cetera), and which legislators represent your particular area. You would be amazed at how many state legislators and their assistants are receptive to hearing ideas that could potentially become new bills, as long as you're positive and have facts to support your ideas. National and state legislators hear so little from their constituents that studies have shown if five to six people contact a legislator regarding an issue, they will probably make it a "hot button" issue in need of further investigation.
* Even less time consuming, the ACLU website allows you to send free faxes to your representatives.
* If we're just writing letters to the San Francisco Chronicle (my local paper), however, we're preaching to the choir. Let's seek out publications where reasonable and articulate differences of opinions are needed. Does Fox News have viewer call-in segments?
* Essay writing. I know that most of the people who responded to my initial query of interest about this community are both brilliantly articulate and beautiful writers. Would it be possible to start a site where we archive and propogate political commentary? Something that we can publicize on a wider level than most livejournals? Something where we can put formalized versions of the ranting we do in our Live Journals on a day to day basis? The more I think about it, the more I like this idea, because it provides us with a lot of possibilities. On the other hand, I know little to nothing (closer to nothing, actually) about the technical and practical parts about keeping up a website, or about the financial costs involved. I'd be happy to be content mistress, though, but given that I couldn't even come up with a decent color scheme for this LiveJournal (and believe me, I spent a good hour trying) it would be foolhardy for me to take responsibility for technical tasks. While I'm at it, if anyone does want to design an exciting layout for this livejournal, you'd have my eternal gratitude and I'd totally spring for the paid account (which you need for custom layouts, right?).
* If a website doesn't work, however, there's no reason we can't write those formalized rants into essays and post them on our livejournals or send them to submissions accepting web magazines or newspaper op-ed pages.
* What about organizing small-scale fundraisers and devoting the money to a cause we determine? For instance, one idea featured on Tomato Nation recently was called a "Night In" party. You invite people over for a night of, say, board games, and ask them to bring a dish to share and the money they'd spend on a night out. Even if ten people bring five dollars there's a donation that'd be worth something to somebody. I bet we could think of Internet variations too.
So there are some ideas to get everyone started. I'm looking forward to reading the discussion!