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NOW poster makers

The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.

– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

A handful of friends and neighbors gathered for a second time. We got together in my living room to share ideas and support each other in our efforts to become more politically active.

Our first meeting took place in early February. We kicked off with drive and energy and a fury of commitment. In the intervening six weeks, our national disaster escalated and many of us lost momentum. Speaking candidly with friends and peeking into my own heart, I notice that many are experiencing the outrage fatigue we predicted. The Republican administration continues to throw all its might into dismantling regulation, research, democratic checks, civil liberties, protection of the commons, and social safety nets. Those of us committed to these institutions as well as to the values that undergird them have lost our sense of direction. How do we respond when everything is a crisis?

First we admit the sense of loss.

Then we remember that these power mongers win if they paralyze us, so we must keep moving.

From this starting place, our second gathering began. We sat with a quiet admission of our hopelessness. By giving voice to our shared experience, we could think together about crafting small, achievable goals. We talked for three hours. By the closing, we were laughing together and talking about what makes us smile. Each woman left with a manageable action plan and a little more lift in her wings.

For anyone interested in assembling a circle of emerging activists, please feel free to draw on the objectives and agenda we created. The basic outline is below. If you’d like to see a more comprehensive guide, let me know in the comments.

This format welcomes people wherever they are on their journey of engagement — from first-time voters to long-time revolutionaries. Of most value, the KC builds connections of relevance between members of a community.

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The Kitchen Conversation, Sunday 1:30-4:30pm

This Kitchen Conversation aims to establish an environment of reflection, inquiry, and support for those seeking to expand their civic engagement and take effective action in preserving democratic values.

Participants in today’s KC will have the opportunity to…

  • Share and hold one another’s stories, questions, and perspectives on civic engagement and political activism
  • Define “effectiveness” with regards to civic engagement and political activism
  • Discuss the role of civic society in resistance to totalitarian creep and in strengthening democratic institutions.
  • Identify ways to nudge our individualistic tendencies towards involvement in collective efforts
  • Create a list of local entry points (organizations with a local focus or presence) and assess where we can each realistically get involved
  • Brainstorm mechanisms of support for one another’s plans of action over the coming weeks and months
  • Inspire a sense of hope and energy for the long game

Agenda

1:30-1:45 Gather and Gab

1:45-2:05  Welcome and Introductions (20 minutes) 

  • Your name
  • One historical event that inspires you
  • One activity or area of your life that makes you feel powerful
  • Your dream day or week

2:05-2:20  Objectives and Touchstones (15 minutes)
Group discussion

Establishing the tone and expectations of our conversation drawing on the Circle of Trust touchstones, and expanding on the day’s objectives by adding individual goals.

2:20-2:35 Defining Effectiveness (15 minutes)
Think-pair-share:  “What actually works?”

Three minutes each sharing thoughts on what it means for our efforts to work. What does effective resistance look like?

2:35-3:00 Civil Society in Resistance (25 minutes)
Brainstorm

List the organizations at the forefront and behind the scenes, paying special attention to local efforts

3:00-3:10 Break (10 mins)

 3:10-3:35  Motivation and Connection (25 mins)
Individual reflection, sharing in pairs, then group discussion of themes

  • Where do you want to plug in?
  • What you would need in order to show up? (support, time, information, reminders, a babysitter…?)
  • What manageable steps can you take in the next 14 days to move towards the work that calls you?

3:35-4:10  Plugging In Locally (35 minutes)
Group discussion

Tasks, personal goals, how can we support each other?

4:10-4:25  Closing (15 minutes)

One thing in your life that makes you smile


Image: “The first picket line – College day in the picket line,” 1917. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-31799

Locus Reluctance

Verlinde Bed

Six years divorced.

Only now reclaiming the middle of the bed.


Image: Claude Verlinde

From To-Do to Done

Eero Saarinen list

Eero Saarinen’s list of Aline Bernstein’s good qualities, ca. 1954.

Every day I wake up to a checklist panting in my face. Every day for my entire adult life. I never considered questioning it. Bottomless need? Multiplying demands? Expect only this, nothing less, certainly nothing different. Tasks on the to-do list comprise a responsible life.

Wake up and get to work, Smirk.

Oi vey, what a wretched way to start each day.

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visitor for bear door

Little holes in the bag of rice gave it away. Three and half years living in this place, and here was the first sign of uninvited guests. On our next trip to town, we stopped at the hardware store for traps. Despite Bug’s insistence that we buy the $39 ultrasonic pest repeller, I opted for Tomcat traps. A four-pack for four bucks.

We smeared on peanut butter and tucked it into the cabinet corner. The next morning, we heard a snap. Big brown eyes, white fuzzy belly, limp broken body. “Oh, he’s so cute,” Bug said sadly. Into the weekday rush we crammed this death. We shrank it down to fit. School, work, a morning meeting and already late. I dumped the trap, mouse and all, into the garbage. Another dab of peanut butter on a clean trap, and off we hustled into our overfull day.

On the drive to school, regret hit hard.

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Ask Fear Out

dance trilogy

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

– Audre Lorde

I buy the house for the future. Political variables do not enter into the equation. Of course the system will stay healthy enough to sustain my son and me. Housing markets rise and fall. Financial markets swing from bear to bull. Social security may last or disappear. Through all this, my house is insurance. The same is true of my education, my work experience, my retirement savings, my kid’s college fund. The road will have its bumps but we’ll be okay, more or less.

(But for how long?)

My decision fails take into consideration that truth is only assumption and that nothing is fixed.

Now a fear takes root, a fear bigger and more eclipsing than any I’ve ever experienced. Inside this fear swim all the possibilities of a much darker future. Inside this fear dawns a recognition of the fragility of my security.

Privilege, as it happens, will not protect me.

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rules_for_radicals

The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means.

– Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

At the end of January 2017, the chilling term “alternative facts” entered the public lexicon. For a brief moment, reading humans around the world collectively remembered a literary dystopia that looked uncomfortably prescient. George Orwell’s 1984 rose to renewed prominence in Amazon’s bestseller list.

Now in the first weeks of March, 1984 has fallen out of the top twenty. In its place, Portraits of Courage by another clown of a president for whom, at this moment, we would trade this entire administration plus vital organs and firstborn children to have back in office. Also up on the list? The Five Love Languages. In the midst of rising fascism, romance still drives the bus.

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goa-reed-flute-cave

Because now we must save the whole world, my son’s bow slips from the strings. The last reverberation hums against windows closed against night. So does the cold flash of his gaze when he slaps the songbook shut.

He refuses.

I walk out.

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