The Threat of Voter Registration

I don’t normally quote conservative blogs, but this one is priceless. Apparently, Republicans in Missouri are outraged that liberals are trying to get the people of Ferguson to express their frustrations at the voting booth. From Breitbart:

In an interview with Breitbart News, Missouri RNC executive director Matt Wills expressed outrage about the reports.
“If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is,” Wills said, “I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”
Wills explained that the shooting death of Michael Brown was a tragedy for everyone.
“This is not just a tragedy for the African American community this is a tragedy for the Missouri community as well as the community of what we call America,” he said. “Injecting race into this conversation and into this tragedy, not only is not helpful, but it doesn’t help a continued conversation of justice and peace.”

If registering people to vote is “fanning the political flames”, then we need more people fanning the flames. Personally, I think registering to vote is the most appropriate and constructive thing that can be done in response to the tragedy. But maybe Mr. Wills would rather see looting.

As to “injecting race into this conversation”, well, a continued conversation that ignores the elephant in the room doesn’t seem particularly helpful either.

Political Gratitude – Day 1 #CTPride

A group of candidates for political office have joined me in challenge to post 100 days, or at least daily until election day, things they are grateful about in their communities. James Maroney, who is running for State Rep in the 119th Assembly District in Connecticut posted, “I’m proud to live in a community that values history and tradition”.

Whitney Hoffman, who is running for State Rep in the 160th district in Pennsylvania posted

I am so glad that we live in a Country where you can go door to door and meet people, talk to them, and ask for their vote. Meeting my neighbors and community members has been one of the best things about campaigning for office. Hearing people's stories and putting names and faces to issues we face is eye-opening and a true privilege.

Let me start off my political gratitudes saying how glad I am that people get involved in their government, whether it be voting, volunteering on campaigns, contributing to campaigns, or running for office. We need to give people choices in the voting booth for our democracy to mean anything. We need to have campaigns where small donations mean a lot, like we do in Connecticut, thanks to the Citizens’ Election program. We need to have meaningful discussions about the issues our country faces.

Thank you, James, Whitney, and everyone who helps make our democracy work.

100 Days of Political Gratitude

The other day, I was talking with a friend about political campaigns and social media. He commented that all he was seeing in a specific candidate’s social media political posts was negativity. I see a lot of that as well and it struck me that perhaps what is needed is politicians who will post for 100 days, things they are grateful about.

There are less than 80 days left until this year’s election, so even doing it until election day would be a big thing. Such posts could reflect the values of the candidates in a much more beneficial manner.

The 100 days of gratitude, or sometimes 100 days of happiness is a popular challenge going around the internet right now, so making it 100 days of political gratitude isn’t a big stretch. Also, with the ice bucket challenge going around right now, social media challenges appear to be the thing, although I know some are beginning to weary of such challenges.

So, to all my friends running for office this year, are you up for a 100 Days of Political Gratitude challenge?

The Undoing Racism Challenge

It may be that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is close to running its course. More and more, I see people criticizing it, asking not to be tagged, etc. A friend who runs a rescue farm wrote about not having time, ice or money, and I thought, we need a farm chore challenge. Muck out a stall, feed some horses, and share a video of it online, or contribute to an animal rescue.

It made me think of another challenge, which I’ve been trying to get a chance to write a few thoughts about for the past couple weeks, the 100 days of gratitude challenge. One such gratitude I might post is about being able to safely let my twelve year old run around outside after dark with friends screaming and laughing and having fun. Not everyone gets to do that. In fact, far too few people get to do that.

It made me think of my friends who have black kids and the talks they have to have with their kids.

Today, another friend posted, “I love that the ALS challenge is capturing attention, wish we could create a Michael Brown Challenge....” Many friends replied and I started to reply there, but I thought it might be better as a blog post.

The power of the Ice Bucket Challenge is that it is something lots of people can participate in and share virally. Many of us may be too cash strapped to be able to contribute to the ALS Association, but we can at least help share the message with a video. What might be a good simple thing many people could do to help spread the word about undoing racism?

Since I had just gotten home from church, my thoughts started off in that direction. The church I currently go to is very diverse. It is one of the things I love about my church. However, at other times, I’ve attended churches that are very homogenous.

I remember years ago, when I was in college, a friend of mine invited me to go to church with him. We walked along the road together, and a car pulled up and asked if he was going to church. He said he was and that I was coming with him. We both climbed in the car and headed off to church.

As we walked up the steps, Ronnie introduced me to many of his friends. One, an older woman, looked me over closely and said, “I’m surprised you want to come to church with us.” I looked at her, puzzled. “Really?” I asked. “Why?” She got all flustered and apologized and said maybe she shouldn’t have said anything. I looked around for a clue as to what that was all about, and it slowly occurred to me. I was the only white person there.

During the service, there was a time for guests to get up and introduce themselves. I felt awkward and insecure as the eyes of a hundred black churchgoers looked at the only white person in the congregation.

For me, a white person who was not accustomed to being in the minority, it was an enlightening experience. I wondered if that was how some of my black friends often felt.

My first thought was that the undoing racism challenge for white folks might be something like going to a setting where they experience being in a minority. Yet getting people to take pictures of that and share it online might be a challenge, limiting the potential to go viral.

Instead, what if we made it simpler. Post a picture of yourself hugging someone from a different race or ethnicity and challenging your friends to do the same, and then perhaps attending some sort of undoing racism training or contributing to an organization aimed at undoing racism.

I realize it isn’t much of an ask, and I can imagine some of my racist friends who talk about how even one of their best friends is black, might participate to convince themselves they aren’t racist, but it is small enough and simple enough to be doable.

Thoughts?

My Mom and the Ice Bucket Challenge

When my mother died two years ago, the obituary ended with “In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the International Essential Tremors Foundation. http://www.essentialtremor.org/Home” I don’t remember how many people donated to the IETF in memory of my mother but for the next month the letters I received from IEFT when another person donated proved to be an important point of joy during my grief.

Recently, a friend’s grandson died. “Memorial contributions may be made to the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation.” I shared a link to the obituary and to the PKDF. Another friend lost her nephew at just about the same time. “Donations in his memory may be made to Ron’s Run for the Roses, The Ron Foley Foundation, www.ronsrun.org.”

If more people donated to the battles against essential tremors, polycystic kidney disease, or pancreatic cancer, we could make great progress. Yet these, and so many other diseases get so little attention.

I work in health care communications. I know how hard it is to get anyone’s attention these days. You send out an email and get 10% of the people to open the email, 1% to click on the link and even less than that to do anything. You post something on a Facebook page and get several hundred people to see it, a few to like it, maybe one or two to share it, and almost no one to act on it.

I know, working for a non-profit, and having been very involved in politics, how difficult it is to get people to contribute to anything. For most of us, money is very tight these days and writing a check for $100 can be a big challenge. So, what if we encouraged people who are tight on cash, to contribute what they can in different ways? What if we asked people to contribute $100 to an organization, but if they can’t spare the hundred bucks, they contribute their social capital in spreading the word and asking others to contribute? What if they used something that would get people’s attention to result in a higher conversion rate?

That’s what the Ice Bucket Challenge has done brilliantly. An article in the Sacarmento Bee on August 15th wrote:

Since July 29, the association has received $9.5 million in donations compared to $1.6 million during the same time period last year. The donations were from existing donors and 184,812 new donors.

A friend of mine died from ALS. My daughter, Fiona was challenged by her friends to take the Ice Bucket Challenge. She’s made her video and has shared it.

Yet, there is the expected backlash. Why waste clean water when so many people go without? How about sending the money you spent on ice to the charity instead of wasting the ice? Maybe if the people who protest so much would share the contribution acknowledgement letter they received it would be a little bit more persuasive.

Me? My wife and I both work for nonprofits. Money is tight. We get by. We’re not food insecure, and if things get really bad, we’ve got friends and relatives that can help out. We’ve been paying down our debts and my wife just got a raise, so perhaps someday soon, we’ll be able to contribute more to causes that matter to us. Until then, we’re going to use our social capital however we can.

So please, don’t let the naysayers distract you. Give what you can to organizations like the ALS Association, the International Essential Tremors Foundation, the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation, or The Ron Foley Foundation, even if it is just a little bit of your social capital.

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