How to Be a More Active Progressive in Seven Easy Steps


a re-reissuance

Something is wrong in the United States.  Really wrong.

So wrong that a woman who was very near to becoming the Vice President thinks that the First Family lives at the Willard Hotel. (Nice place, by the way—stayed there once myself. Even the storage closet starts at $250 a night. But it ain’t 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.)

Hey, not a big deal! Anyone can make a mistake while delivering a public speech. I mean, it’s not like Sarah Palin recently mistook a row of grain silos for a military base. Now that would be embarrassing. (Ah, military murder sans judicial consequence. Must be nice.)

But that’s okay! Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents turned their backs in solidarity on the Chinese flag when it was raised on Chinese National Day. And folks in the United States proudly do the same: when the Golden Band from Tigerland starts playing “Fight for LSU” a week from now, not one single Florida Gator fan will pay those student musicians heed—except the ones throwing rotten squash in the tuba players’ bells.

You don’t have to tell me that football matters. Why else would the average male adult in this country devote 10 hours per week to watching it? Sigh.

This time last year, we reported that things in this country were so godawful that:

Christian conservatives recently met in Washington for this year’s Family Research Council Values Voter straw poll and elected as U.S. President a U.S. Senator from Texas who just spent the past few months trying to raze the Union.

Um…guess what. As Mr. Berra once said: Déjà vu all over again:

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz has for the second straight year won the Family Research Council Action’s 2014 Values Voter Summit Straw Poll.

For what it’s worth, Senator Cruz—Critical Thinking Enemy No. 1—says, “I’m optimistic because I’m convinced God isn’t done with America yet.”

He’s right. God isn’t done with us yet. Who could blame God—Mr. Omnipotent responsible for gravity itself—for wondering just how far a single nation can fall.

Now just throw in a few Fox News anchors blaming Obama for lapses in his own Secret Service detail—not to mention some Kenya-White House-Ebola conspiracy theories plus a pinch of homicidal police incidents—and you more or less get the picture.

While the United States remains Planet Earth’s principal economic/military superpower, and its third most populous nation, the rest of the world is keenly aware that we have washed our chicken butts in chlorine one too many times.

So much aware, in fact, that we have been forever shown up by Russell Brand.

Former junkie and spouse to Kate Perry (no comment on which is worse), Brand appears at first glance incapable of thinking his way out of an jetliner vomit bag. Yet this lanky hedonist, this poor man’s Aldous Huxley, pinned both the Elephant and the Donkey squarely on the ass cheeks with his Revolution of the Revolution-less Manifesto in The New Statesman:

We have become prisoners of comfort in the absence of meaning.  A people without a unifying myth. … We are still led by blithering chimps, in razor-sharp suits, with razor-sharp lines, pimped and crimped by spin doctors and speech-writers.  Well-groomed ape-men, superficially altered by post-Clintonian trends.

Brand’s message remains as fresh now as it did last October. And, damn, if it isn’t embarrassing when a political prophet who hails from Essex performs spot-on electroshock zinger therapy on global political reality, including the Founding Fathers’ Enlightenment Science Fair Project:

America is not real; it is an idea that someone had ages ago.  Britain, Christianity, Islam, karate, Wednesdays are all just ideas that we choose to believe in and very nice ideas they are, too, when they serve a purpose.  These concepts, though, cannot be served to the detriment of actual reality.

I continue to find Brand’s diatribe a sweltering, complex stew filled with poignant insights and contradictions.  He is most spot-on in identifying that the United States of America is an idea. Not only an idea—America is an IDEAL.

And in order for the American Ideal-Idea to work, 315 million individuals must not only collectively buy into the “unifying myth” of “we the people…in order to form a more perfect Union,” but we must also stop acting like de-feathered, headless chickens who will elect any ole fowl candidate.

The most beautiful thing about the American Ideal-Idea is that we have, as a people, earned the right to determine our political future. Only, we’ve fallen asleep on the job and allowed corporate interests and the greed-bots of plutocracy to take over the helm.

We must individually take the time to know and direct our political selves.

Now is the time of action.

Psst! That means, get a political plan! You only have until November 4!


This list is not intended to be didactic.  Revise it.  Expand it.  Print it and use it as cat litter box liner.  Feel free to do with it as you please.  But I have a feeling it will be helpful to more than a few folks out there—it’s been helpful to me!

I’m holding myself to 500 words.  The rest is up to you.

1.  Know Thy Political Self

What worked for Plato still works today.  Here’s a three-page “Know Thy Political Self” challenge:

Page 1:  Compose your Personal Political Philosophy.  That’s about 350 typed words.

Page 2:  Write a Top-Ten List of Political Issues that matter to you.  Could be municipal, state, national, international issues.  Provide a short description of what you believe about each issue.

Page 3:  Write down your Personal Political Activity in the past year.  Could contain anything from “I voted” to “I delivered a speech at the U.N.”

2a.  Create a Politician Contact List:  Display It Everywhere

I suspect that if we simply took 30 minutes of our lives to make it easier to contact politicians, we would do so regularly.  Create a Politician Contact List for categories related to your political existence (local, state, national, etc.).  Include email addresses, telephone numbers, mailing addresses, etc.

Put it multiple places.  Your refrigerator.  Your iPhone.  Make laminated dining table placemats—should lead to interesting conversations this Thanksgiving.

(Most official state legislature websites provide a simple way to list politicians who answer to your vote.  Here’s mine in South Carolina. When I search for “mint julep” and “parasol,” it takes me directly to Lindsey Graham’s contact page.)

2b.  Become a Politician

[Does not apply to anyone currently engaged in a sex scandal.]

3.  Support Your Local U.S. Post Office

Step 1.  Take out 12 Envelopes.

Step 2.  Take out 12 Stamps.

Step 3.  Affix said stamps to said envelopes and write your return address on each envelope. (If you’re lucky, you’ve got a sheet of return address stickers from St. Jude’s or World Wildlife Fund in one of your junk drawers.)

Step 4.  Put a sticky note on each envelope:  November 1, December 1, etc.

Step 5.  Each month, write a one-page letter to a politician about an issue that matters to you.  You already have a political contact list.  The letter doesn’t have to be long—in fact, the more succinct, the better.

Get in the habit of communicating this way with politicians.  Politicians pay attention to hardcopy letters:

Representative Joe “You Lie” Wilson and I have nothing in common other than our male anatomy.  I once mailed him a letter about a problem I was having with a federal agency.  Shortly thereafter, I received an apology letter from the agency, accompanied by the information I needed, plus a copy of Representative Wilson’s letter to the agency.

A mailed letter to a politician is a signal that you are really concerned. If you truly want to impress, deliver your letter in person with 10,000 of your closest friends.

4.  Plug-in to Quality Political Information

Go back to your Top-Ten Political Issues list.  Connect to groups that are trustworthy sources of information for these particular subjects.  (Example:  World Wildlife Fund for conservation.)  Trust me, these groups will inform you how best to contribute to the cause.

5.  Participate in a Political Rally or Protest

Pledge to attend one political rally or protest before the November 2014 Election.  You don’t have to participate; be a bystander.  It could even be for a political cause you don’t support.  Just make the effort “to be there.”  The hardest part of dancing is stepping onto the floor.

Earlier this year, I attended one of the South Carolina Truthful Tuesday rallies. Easy-peasy.

6.  Don’t patronize Hobby Lobby.

I know, where else are you going to find decent magenta, sparkly photo frames? While I recognize that it’s virtually impossible to spend one’s life weighing whether or not to support a commercial entity based on a political calculus, it’s not a bad idea to put some research and thought into where one spends one’s hard-earned cash.

For me, that’s Hobby Lobby, Walmart and Chik-fil-A. They simply do not get my money. Period.

7.  VOTE ON NOVEMBER 4, 2014.

We have this many days before we can finally rid ourselves of a good number of mother-clucking, clipped-wing poultry strutting about congressional and gubernatorial offices.

Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!


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