Florida, non-profit organizations, places, political action, Public Policy, society

Volunteering for Planned Parenthood

planned parenthood

Like many people, I was motivated to get more politically involved by Trump’s election and the Women’s March. In early 2017, I decided to begin volunteering for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

One of the first events I volunteered for involved contributing to a physical presence on the day of an anti-Planned Parenthood protest. We weren’t supposed to think of ourselves as counter-protesters since we weren’t protesting anything. Our goal was to overshadow the protesters so anyone coming to the clinic felt welcomed and not bombarded, and so people driving past noticed us more than them.

planned parenthood

Standing in the line on the street was fun. I felt some of that same Women’s March excitement in the air. People talked more about Trump than about the protesters. It was clear that his inauguration had spurred people into action. Like me, many of the people there were volunteering for Planned Parenthood for the first time.

The event was eye-opening for me. Our show of support for Planned Parenthood in the face of the protesters was dramatic. We arrived before they did, stayed later, and outnumbered them by at least 3-to-1. Also, they were more pathetic than I had expected them to be. I figured I’d feel anger when facing the protesters, but I felt sad. There were some elderly men, and also families with children whose faces showed they had been forced to attend. Their signs were full of fear-inducing phrases in ugly colors and fonts, while ours were bright pink. The protesters looked miserable; the Planned Parenthood side was joyful.

planned parenthood

This event was meaningful for me in more ways than one–it was the first time I publicly showed support for the pro-choice movement. I’ve been pro-choice for over a decade, but it’s the one political issue I’ve shied away from posting on social media about, or discussing with family. I was raised in a fairly conservative Christian household. Abortion is a major issue for most of my family members. When they vote Democrat, they do so with a heavy heart because of this one issue. I know that they are not ignorant or insensitive zealots–they are caring and compassionate. They genuinely view abortion as murder, and want it to be illegal in order to save lives.

I began calling and thinking of myself as a liberal when I was around 17 years old, but for the first couple years, I’d mention abortion as the one issue I disagreed with–I thought it should only be allowed in special circumstances, such as rape or incest. At some point in my early twenties I began considering myself pro-choice, but if anyone asked about my beliefs, I’d say, “I’d never get an abortion, but I think other people should be able to if they want.”

planned parenthood

Now, at 36, over two decades after I first began developing my political beliefs, I feel comfortable standing in the street wearing hot pink and holding a Planned Parenthood sign. I can say I’m pro-choice without wanting to add a preface or any qualifications to the statement. The evolution of my beliefs helps me feel kindness and compassion toward people who believe differently, at least on this issue. It also shows me that political stances are fluid, not static, which gives me hope for our country overall.

Talking about politics is important. My beliefs on abortion wouldn’t have shifted if I hadn’t encountered so many people who were pro-choice, if I hadn’t been forced to evaluate my beliefs and why I held them, over and over. This is why I want to make an effort to speak up more. I’m still figuring out how to do so in a way that is kind and open rather than judgmental or forceful. Blogging posts like this is one of those ways.

political action, Public Policy, race, society

What to do about Trump

Okay. Here it is. My imperfect post about what to do–more specifically, how to resist a society of bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious persecution, environmental degradation, and a total erosion of civil rights–now that Trump got elected. This is in no way complete, so please add your own suggestions in the comments.

  • Eat your vegetables
  • Exercise multiple times per week
  • Sleep 8 hours per night (or whatever amount is healthy for you)
  • Meditate (or pray, journal, go to therapy, or do what gives you mental clarity)

Okay, probably half of you will see that list and think, “WTF is she talking about?,” but the rest of you, the anxious, the depressive–my kindred spirits–will think, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Give yourself permission to take care of yourself first. If that’s too hard, know that I give you permission. Take it.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the 24-hour news cycle that you forget to eat or go to bed on time. I’m guilty of scrolling through twitter and reading articles when I should be asleep.

It’s also easy to fill with panic, rage, or despair after seeing upsetting news, like that neo-Nazis are openly heiling Trump in D.C., or that Trump’s pick for attorney general was too racist become a judge in the 80s.

A lot is happening, and it’s happening fast. Yes, we all need to act. That said, our actions will do the most good if they come from the calmest, healthiest versions of ourselves. A frantic, panicking person will burn out quickly without doing much good. So, yeah, before you start getting politically involved, take care of yourself. Then, maybe in small doses of just a few minutes a day:

  • Educate yourself. Follow news sources, non-profits, and key people on social media. You can’t know what actions to take if you don’t know what’s going on. Read articles from reputable sources. Sometimes non-profits focused on the issues provide more detailed information than traditional news outlets. (So far, I’ve found the New Yorker and the ACLU to be the sources I trust the most. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Mother Jones are also good, but sometimes have some articles I consider to be borderline.) I’ve also found following key people on twitter (journalists, politicians, academics, etc.) to be extremely helpful as I’m educating myself on what’s happening.
  • Make phone calls. Find your senators’ contact info here and your representative’s here. (I saved this info in my phone to make it easier to access.) You can also utilize usecalltoaction.com to contact congresspersons directly through their site. A former political aide named Emily Ellsworth tweeted that calling is more effective than other forms of communication, and explained the best way to approach calling politicians. A politically active teacher in Massachusetts named Kara put together this Google sheet that she is regularly updating with calls to action. Non-profits also post calls to action.
  • Donate. I am going to begin sharing info about one non-profit organization a day for thirty days, beginning today, in order to better educate myself and help others figure out where they should donate their money. Donations also make good Christmas gifts! Many non-profits also sell products that could be given as gifts, with the proceeds supporting their cause.
  • Volunteer. The list of non-profits to donate to will also double as a list of places to volunteer (and triple as a list of places to find information). I currently occasionally volunteer doing environmental cleanup, but I want to find a volunteer cause that is a better fit for me, and get involved more often.
  • Protest. I haven’t taken part in a protest since moving to Tampa, but I might in the future. While I agree with protesting as a movement for change, I do question whether it’s the best use of my time, especially while I’m living in a smaller city where the protests often do not make it into the news.
  • Spread the word. There are different ways to do this (and plenty of arguments about how effective it is or isn’t), but I believe sharing information is important. None of us live in a vacuum, and we all influence and are influenced by the people we come into contact with daily, whether online or in-person. That is why I’m blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and instagramming. That is also why I plan on buying a Black Lives Matter tshirt and ACLU gear.

Okay, that’s all I have right now. If you have any ideas that I haven’t listed here, please please please put them in a comment!