If it feels like the dissolution of much of what we hold dear about the United States is accelerating, that’s because it is. This has been a particularly dire week: SCOTUS has decided that racial gerrymandering, lying to women about our reproductive choices and their consequences, undermining unions, and religious bigotry against Muslims are all A-OK, a series of 5-4 decisions that was apparently Justice Kennedy’s “fuck all y’all” swan song. Thousands of immigrant children are still separated from their parents, traumatized by the experience, and may never be re-united. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and so-called (for now) President Trump both blatantly violated the Hatch Act in using their official Twitter accounts to attempt to harm the business of a small Virginia restaurant that refused service to Aunt Lydia on the grounds that she’s an awful person (which, by the way, is NOT a protected class, and isn’t this what you all wanted, Republicans?). And then his idiot #MAGA supporters started attacking loads of other totally unrelated businesses that also happen to use a red hen in their logos or advertising. Fucking morons.
Anyway, this has been a particularly dire week in an unrelenting stream of dire weeks.
I’ve written a couple of times here about the importance of self-care in both combating hopelessness and ensuring we’re all strong enough to continue the fight.
Today, I want to talk about community care.
In the past two years, one of the best ways I’ve found to combat that feeling of powerlessness, that we’re all doomed, that we’re about to enter a horrific dark age with no possible end, is to become more fully engaged in my local community and in caring for the people around me – not just my friends and family, but the people I causally encounter day to day.
I’ve found it really helpful, and I hope you might as well.
Community care can mean lots of things:
- Donating to a local organization that does good in your community ($100 isn’t even a drop in the bucket of the costs of Greenpeace’s next direct mail campaign, but if you give it to local non-profit community garden group, it makes a HUGE difference)
- Volunteering for a local organization that does good in your community (a one-off is great, participating a local community-wide day of service, but what’s even better is finding an organization where you can help once a quarter, or once a month, or once a week)
- Picking up trash on your street, or organizing a clean up of a local park or rec center
- Running a food drive at your office for the local food bank (summer is usually a VERY slow donation time, but people still need food assistance in the summer, even more so than at other times of the year, because their kids aren’t in school)
- Checking in on your elderly neighbors
- Organizing a block party
- Organizing a book drive for a local library or elementary school
- Shopping locally – skip the big box store on the edge of town or the Amazon Prime order this week, and find a local merchant you can patronize. Sure that gadget might cost a few extra bucks (or maybe not), but you can spare it just this once, right?
- Registering people to vote outside the local supermarket, public transportation station, flea market, or library
- Getting deeply involved in the campaign for a candidate for local office you really believe in (not that you shouldn’t donate to the DNC or phone bank for candidates in far off locations, but you can really dig into local races in a way that you can’t for someone running for office 1,500 miles away)
- Picking a local issue to advocate for. It can be small – traffic calming measures, a five-cent plastic bag tax, more protected bike lanes – or big – becoming a sanctuary city, switching to housing-first policies for the local homeless people, protections for LGBT people, sensible gun safety protections. You, individually, can’t protect the undocumented children being taken from their parents at the border. But you CAN work to protect your undocumented neighbors in your own community.
We all still need to keep working on the big national issues, both in the magical and mundane realms. But for most of us, federal policy affects our daily lives not that much. Local policy affects our daily lives A LOT. The quality of life in our local communities affects our daily lives A LOT. Weak ties to the people in physical proximity to us affect our mental, emotional, and physical health A LOT. The impact one individual can have on big national issues is pretty small, but the impact one individual can have on local issues is HUGE.
Embed yourself deeply with the people around you. Work to make their lives better in concrete ways. It’s not going to solve everything, but it is going to solve some things, not the least of which is a tendency towards feeling hopeless or powerless.
Image found here.
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