Monday, April 25, 2016

Activism Is Our Civic Duty

When there are protests or really anyone willing to go against the grain, there is usually a fair portion of our population that is ready to denigrate them. This is typically the armchair citizen who thinks that the height of civic engagement is voting in the presidential election every four years or sharing something on social media. The truth is that it is our civic duty to do something about any injustices we may witness, no matter what they may be. Otherwise, we are derelict in our duties to our country and the world, and there will be no change.

I Applaud ALL Activism

These days, sitting in front of the TV and binge watching whatever the flavor of the month may be is considered acceptable behavior. Really intelligent people are doing this. No one seems to be batting an eye at how so many of us (myself included) seem to just be mentally checking out. And, this is exactly what our government and its corporate masters want. If you’re not paying attention, you’re not agitating for change.

This is why I applaud just about all types of activism. Whether it is protesting speeches by presidential candidates, occupying a public space, or holding a sit-in at a shopping mall. These people are engaged. And, engagement is half the battle.
Even though I don't agree with them, I even applaud the Malheur Refuge occupiers for their activism.
Let’s Take a Look at History

At no point in American history has the government up and decided to give citizens freedoms and rights. For instance, every right African Americans have secured in this country has taken years upon decades of fighting. From freedom in Northern states to the end of slavery to the right to vote to the end of segregation to the right to walk city streets without being shot, it took (and takes) long, sustained battles to slowly get closer to equality. And, judging from our slums and prisons, there is still a long way to go.

This is also true of the fights for women’s rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, and rights for every other marginalized group in this country. Changes do not occur from simply voting certain people into office. It takes organization and long, sustained activism. It is not an easy battle.

What I Mean by Activism
The dictionary may disagree with me, and there may be a better word for it, but I essentially mean social or civic engagement when I say activism. This can take a variety of forms. Here is a quick-and-dirty hierarchy of most engaged to least:
  1. Regularly volunteering to directly help those who you feel are oppressed or treated unjustly
  2. Organizing others to help various groups or to support a certain cause
  3. Attending a protest, rally, or other activist events
  4. Talking with friends and close others about the cause you support to raise awareness
  5. Posting your support for a cause on social media
  6. Learning about a cause
I put 1 above 2 because working in the trenches is essential. And, those who do number 2 typically also do number 1. (This is not toilet humor.) I think all of the above are important, though. It just made sense to put them in some sort of order. And, this list is not in any way, shape, or form exhaustive. I welcome your additions.
Something as simple as planting a tree or a garden is a form of activism.
How to Get Involved

Pick up a local newspaper and learn about what people are doing in your community. That is where you can have the most meaningful impact. You will find a cause that is dear to you or move on to something else. You will also meet people who share similar beliefs as you. It’s fun. You can slowly ease your way into it or jump in head first. The important part is that you are engaged. You may have to go to the outer boundaries of your comfort zone, but that is how we build character. And, there is nothing that feels quite as good as helping others. It makes us all stronger.

What are your thoughts?

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