How to Be a More Active Progressive in Seven Easy Steps

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Something is wrong in the United States.  Really wrong.

So wrong that our state legislators know less about epidemiology than my five-year-old daughter.

So bad that a (thankfully) former North Carolina GOP executive committee member just proudly spewed racism on national television—on top of admitting that his state’s recent voting suppression laws were designed to topple another political party.  (Can we please bring back tar and feathering?)

And, finally, 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.

Now just throw in a few references to the Koch Brothers’ Caligula-like cash orgies and you more or less get the picture.

In fact, things are in such disarray in our nation that the world is about ready to turn us over on its knee and start paddling our bottom—even if we are Planet Earth’s principal economic and military power and its third most populous nation.

You know, it kind of made me glad to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel take our prima donna buttocks to the wood shed this week.  Yet we best be careful:  there’s another global bully chomping at the bit to usurp Uncle Sam’s throne.

Myself, I’m not much of a throne person.  I fall somewhere on the political spectrum left of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and believe that global posturing and empire building is remarkably idiotic.  I’m not so far left that I can’t appreciate some of the nuggets of wisdom of President Eisenhower, but I really wish the man had followed up on his WWII duties by transforming the military industrial complex into a giant set of underwater goggles and telescope.

While we sit around playing Mario Brothers with drone fleets and investing our spare energy in this week’s USA Today Coaches poll, 95% of the world’s oceans have yet to be explored—not to mention we live in a universe so vast that it exceeds even the vapidness of Sarah Palin’s braincase.

What really worries me now is that Russell Brand just pinned both the Elephant and the Donkey squarely on the ass cheeks this week 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.”

Damn, it’s embarrassing when Russell Brand 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 found Brand’s diatribe a sweltering, complex stew filled with poignant insights and contradictions.  But he was spot-on on a number of points, including that, if we’re not careful, the next revolution will have no meaning.  It will simply consist of thousands upon thousands of rioters flailing swords and tossing Molotov cocktails for no particular purpose other than that the past two centuries (and even further back) of global history have culminated in a culturally bankrupt world.

Or in Brand’s words:  “We have become prisoners of comfort in the absence of meaning.  A people without a unifying myth.”

If we do not take the time to know who we are—spiritually and politically—we are indeed nothing more than blind chimps electing blithering chimps.

With these things in mind—you know, the future of the Union and of global civilization—I thought it might be helpful to offer some practical solutions for those who want to disprove Brand.  In the end, while I find his political Guernica fascinating, I don’t think it’s a deterministic prophecy about our future.

If enough of us act, we can point civilization in the right direction.  We can avoid Get Him to the Greek Armageddon.  But we must all become directors of our political selves to get there.

Now is the time of action.

How to Be a More Active Progressive in Seven Easy Steps

This list is not intended to be didactic.  Revise it.  Expand it.  Print it and use it as cat litter box liner.  In other words, feel free to do with it as you please.  But I have a feeling it will be helpful to more than a handful of folks out there—including myself!

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:

Sheet 1:  Compose your Personal Political Philosophy.  That’s about 500 words on a computer.

Sheet 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.

Sheet 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.” [ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23291897 ].

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

I suspect that if we simply took 30 minutes to make it easier to contact politicians, we would.  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 state websites provide a simple way to list politicians who answer to your vote.  Here’s mine in South Carolina.)

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.

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.  It 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.

Calls and emails matter.  But a mailed letter is a signal to a politician 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 particular subjects.  (Example:  World Wildlife Fund for conservation.)  Trust me, these groups will tell you how 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.

6.  Don’t patronize Walmart.

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 necessarily a bad idea to put some research and thought into where one spends one’s hard-earned cash.

For me, that’s Walmart and a handful of other companies, including one I won’t name but which happens to have a clown in a red and yellow costume as a spokesperson—and, no, I’m not talking about the CEO of Chik-fil-A.

7.  VOTE.  EVERY TIME YOU CAN.

We have this many days before we can finally rid our asses of a good number of blithering anti-progressive chimps.

Image via Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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!

Comments

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  • Pipercat

    Dr. Zaius… DR. ZAIUS!!!!!!!

    • The Author

      Chuckled at that one, Pipercat.

  • naomi dagen bloom

    Nice try but took too long to discover your special seven. My list would start and end with “Encourage women you know, women with progressive values, to run for office.”

    • Paula DelaFaria

      Seriously narrow view you have there, ALL of the above are important if we are to make any kind of difference as a collective group. Encouraging woman to run for office? THAT is all you would advise anyone to do to be a more “Active Progressive?” MEHHH!

      • The Author

        Indeed; what Paula said.

    • Guile Williams

      I don’t care which gender runs for office so long as they do a good job and get it done.

  • Wayne Bassett

    This article is good advice no matter what side of the political fence you are standing on. The reason why we have so many idiots in public office is because people don’t get involved like they used to and just take their views and opinions from news channels and talk shows. Its quicker and easier to make a political decision that way, but it also makes you a mindless drone.

  • Lyola M Roeske Shafer

    Thank you. We (I) really need this set of directions. REALLY.