I was excited and nervous to board a plane from Zurich, Switzerland and fly to the US to attend the Women’s March in Washington, DC. I was bringing my two little girls, 1 and 3 years old, and we talked about why there would be a big “parade” of people talking about their vision of the future for women in the US. As Murphy’s law descended upon us with a vengeance, my 3-year-old and I simultaneously caught an illness that knocked us completely off our feet for a week. (PSA: always wash your hands — repeatedly — on airplanes!!). So we were physically incapable of attending the march and it felt slightly devastating. I wanted to be part of a solidarity movement that encouraged women to stand up, pay attention, and take action for improving our circumstances. I’m a big fan of action and a key issue for me is the discrimination women and minorities face. I believe that discrimination is a key barrier to us having a free and fair society and I wanted to share that feeling with like-minded women across the globe.
As I lay half-awake on the couch of my childhood home, watching the march appear in front of my eyes on the familiar TV our family had gathered around over the year, I was brought back to the many political discussions our family had embarked on. I’d had over the years with friends and family. I majored in political science as an undergraduate in the Washington DC area and interned for a Congressman as well as interned at a political think tank. My father was an adviser to several Congressmen over the years and we had many family friends who were involved in politics. There have been truly many interesting and meaningful political dialogues that have taken place right here on this sofa.
So I watched the excitement and fun and empowerment being displayed on TV during the march and thought about the history that was being made. But then, as if having a meta out-of-body experience, I began to see how the media coverage of the event would affect actual political policy. Beyond the empowerment was a thought to next steps for action. My initial reaction was that such a strong turnout against the President could be perceived as an engagement to fight. If Donald Trump doesn’t like to be embarrassed or mocked and he loves to seek revenge on enemies who contradict or ridicule him, what might be the outcome of this outpouring of anti-Trump rhetoric? Would he be forced to listen due to the sheer volume and pressure from the marches? It seems unlikely.
What does seem likely is that there will be backlash far beyond his Twitter wars; he now has the power of the Presidency – and the Senate, the House of Representatives, and possibly the future of the Supreme Court.Trump has the power to exact revenge. One of his first acts in office was to re-instate the Mexico City abortion ban and remove Obamacare. He’s also claiming voter fraud just to put an extra strain on the resources of big democrat-leaning states like New York and California.
Here’s the real point though: for those of us who truly want to have our ideas enacted, this strategy of marching loudly will only serve to help us lose that battle. We have no power in the current head-to-head fighting situation and all we are doing is poking a sleeping bear. But I’m not one to just bemoan what we’re facing. I want to accept the challenge and face it.
What we can do to effect change is to work within the confines of the governmental systems as we have it today. I understand that people don’t like the system as it is. I understand that people are sick and tired of politicians they don’t trust and feel frustrated that the system isn’t serving them and their needs. I understand that people see unicorn stories like Donald Trump and think they don’t need to follow the standard way of playing politics in order to win. I also understand that for many people it’s hard to accept Donald Trump as your President.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. We can’t ignore reality simply because we don’t like the reality. Here’s the hard truth: Unicorns are rare, and if you ask the smartest and most politically astute people in the world, they’ll still tell you the old channels of effecting change are worth pursuing.
A few years ago, I attended the Israel lobbying organization AIPAC’s national event in Washington DC. We met there to learn about the issues, network, hear empowering speeches — and to lobby Congress. The conference organizers had planned well in advance to ensure virtually every congressional office had lobbying appointments from us constituents scheduled in and every attendee descended on Capital Hill to meet with our Congress representatives. The conference organizers helped us with talking points, pointing out a few critical bills currently under review by the House / Senate that were currently important for our cause, and they helped us to articulate and explain why these bills were important to the American people and to the legislators. We were armed with information and ready to make a difference, although probably many of us felt a little bit intimidated. That’s how a difference can truly be made using our political systems.
That means what we really need to bring change to the government is the same number of participants – millions worldwide – to spend as much time and energy as they did marching in using the political system we have to make significant change. The Women’s March/rally in DC lasted about 7 hours. Here’s how you can use those same 7 hours to have a much, much bigger impact in making a change and getting your voice not just heard but acted upon.
Here are the three most important actions you can take:
- Financially support candidates and institutions who support your values.
- Elect new candidates in office who reflect your values (including running yourself and getting yourself elected!)
- Lobby your Congressperson to influence them to support your values.
My next blog post will include much more detail and some starting tips for making each of these a simple reality for you to do in about the same time as it took you to march. Want to get a jumpstart? Get informed! You can start by finding out more about your local candidates on their websites and searching for lobbying organizations in areas you’re already interested in. Also, I found this, this, and this article really informative and interesting as written by people far smarter and more politically astute than I am. I also set aside funds as part of my personal budget-planning every year for charity and political donations and it makes it much easier to ensure money goes to good places when I plan for it in advance.
I don’t mean to sound like the fun police here and kill all the joy and inspiration that came out of the women’s march. I know it felt good to be there and that it feels good to write witty commentary on Facebook and Twitter. It’s just that I also know from years of studying happiness and coaching / training clients on finding it that this fleeting feeling of happiness will not last and it won’t make you happy in life if it ends there. Actually, just the opposite. If you fill your life with superficial feel good moments, you don’t have the drive and energy to do the meaningful and important work. Your life will be happy when you take deep meaningful action over long periods of time, not just placate yourself with instant happiness hits.
So trust me, these actions will actually make you really happy! 🙂
You’re reading this political piece because I stand for living a meaningful, fulfilling life. To me that means taking a stand for things that are important to you. People are important to me and I feel compelled to take a political stand in order to honor my lifelong commitment of helping others. You won’t see brazen, one-sided political posts that mock one side or the other simply because I don’t believe it helps drive intelligent dialogue or solves any problems. I’m here to help, not hurt. Will you join me? Then please share this article and let’s make a difference together.
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