Over the past week, many of you have shared your deep sadness. Some of you have asked how the national election will affect our community. In the face of divisive rhetoric and the reopening of old wounds, what can Berkeley residents do to find solace, open our arms, help and love as many people as possible? How can we talk to our children? How can we unite to make our community a better place?
After a few days of misery-soaked soul-searching, I know one thing–self-indulgence or shocked impassivity won’t cut it. Angry finger-pointing posts on social media sites won’t serve anything except for a temporary reprieve from our collective reality. Instead, let’s finish grieving and harness this anger and fear into something beneficial. Don’t get me wrong–we will face trying times ahead. As an LGBTQ married woman with a non-traditional family, I’m all-too-familiar, as many of you are, with the prejudice that has always been present. There are serious times ahead, particularly for disenfranchised and marginalized communities. Now more than ever, we need to consider what can we do to make a real difference in people’s lives and fight the forces of intolerance and ignorance.
So, what can we do? Let's work together to make a difference.
1. Volunteer or donate money at one of the many local and national organizations listed. This by no means is an exhaustive list. Starred* organizations have volunteer opportunity for kids. Email me if you have other suggestions. We will update it on our website continually.
Equity in Education
Families and Children
Freedom of Press
Combatting Sexual Violence
General Volunteer Activities for Kids
2. You also don't need to volunteer with an organization in order to give back. You can send cards to sick kids at Children’s Hospital, visit a nursing home, donate blood, etc.
3. Volunteer for a political campaign, particularly in a swing state.
4. Express your love and appreciation for one another, especially your family and those who are feeling rightly scared. Join hands with our allies who cherish tolerance. Talk and listen to people. Be kind.
5. Serve on a local city or county commission. We have several openings on various commissions in Berkeley. Look at the roster here and see if any interest you. There will be vacancies on all commissions in December (more on that in a subsequent email). See if there is a position that interests you and contact the appropriate Councilmember or our new mayor. You do not have to live in the same district as the appointing Councilmember. Berkeley is a beacon of hope for the nation. Get involved.
6. Finally, consider optimism. I'm not talking about a naive pollyannaish optimism that believes that intolerance and ignorance will magically dissipate. I'm talking about optimism in our capacity for resistance and positive social change. This is Berkeley, for crying out loud. Now is the time where we dirty our hands, tighten our belts, and put our bodies upon those oft-mentioned gears, wheels, and levers to fight for what is right, what is noble, and what is just.
In the words of Berkeley resident Alex Steffen,
Entrenched interests use despair, confusion and apathy to prevent change. They encourage modes of thinking which lead us to believe that problems are insolvable, that nothing we do can matter, that the issue is too complex to present even the opportunity for change. It is a long-standing political art to sow the seeds of mistrust between those you would rule over: as Machiavelli said, tyrants do not care if they are hated, so long as those under them do not love one another. Cynicism is often seen as a rebellious attitude in Western popular culture, but, in reality, cynicism in average people is the attitude exactly most likely to conform to the desires of the powerful – cynicism is obedience.
Optimism, by contrast, especially optimism which is neither foolish nor silent, can be revolutionary. Where no one believes in a better future, despair is a logical choice, and people in despair almost never change anything. Where no one believes a better solution is possible, those benefiting from the continuation of a problem are safe. Where no one believes in the possibility of action, apathy becomes an insurmountable obstacle to reform. But introduce intelligent reasons for believing that action is possible, that better solutions are available, and that a better future can be built, and you unleash the power of people to act out of their highest principles. Shared belief in a better future is the strongest glue there is: it creates the opportunity for us to love one another, and love is an explosive force in politics.
Great movements for social change always begin with statements of great optimism.