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Happiness Tuesdays

Politics & Governance

How to Use Your Voice in Politics

The political world can be overwhelming. Regardless of age, education, party or perspective, it can be intimidating to enter into, and most people don't really even know how. What was designed to be a democratic system that gave equal voice has become, in short, a chaotic mess. The only way we're going to develop any kind of order is to work together and use our power and responsiblity to build a better world.

An easy way to start this is by simply reading the news. Note: not on social media. Read information from trusted news outlets, and if you're up to it, read multiple perspectives so you can actually get a full picture. Listen to understand, not to form an opinion, and let your thoughts form around what you actually know to be true of a situation. 

Talk to the people around you. Friends, family, and neighbours, and engage in genuine conversation about the world, it's issues, and it's strengths. Have real discussions on what's being done poorly and well, and once again, don't come at it for a debate. Share your perspective, ask questions, and talk over solutions and ways you can be part of a resolution. 

When you're involved in your community, what you say and think about it carries a lot of weight. So as you stay active in your neighbourhood and relationships, use your voice. Write to your leaders. Ask questions at town halls. If something is unfair, speak up and demand justice. Fight for better in your community.

Yes, it can get messy -- but all politics really is is deciding who you trust to take care of your family. So stay active, alert, and involved. If not you, then who? Take advantage of your privilege and rights and use them to do all the good you can. 

Recommended Book

Your Voice Your Vote

Mar 10, 2012
ISBN: 9781470165536

Interesting Fact #1

85% of Americans think political conversations have become drastically more negative over recent years.


Interesting Fact #2

Over 3/4 of Americans think that political debate has become less based in fact.


Interesting Fact #3

60% of Democrats say that they've stopped talking politics with someone because of something that they said.


Quote of the day

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

- Neil Gaman

Article of the day - 3 ways to make your voice heard besides protesting

More Americans are trying to make their voices heard these days. 

Approximately one in five Americans participated in a protest or rally between early 2016 and early 2018, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. A similar proportion reported they expected to become more involved in political causes in the next year. 

Similarly, the number of women running for state and federal offices soared during the 2018 midterm elections. The ease of using social media appears to be ramping up virtual protesting too.

In addition to making your objections heard in the streets or with tweets, there are many other ways you can influence public policies.

1. Talk to your leaders

One approach is telling government officials what you think about public policies and services. Ordinary people can do this many different ways.

You can write letters to your local paper, serve on task forces, email elected representatives or provide input on proposed new policies.

You can also speak up at public events like school board and county board meetings. In some cases, this feedback can make a real difference.

For example, a group of Baltimore teens formed a group called Free Your Voice when they learned of plans to build the nation’s largest trash-burning incinerator less than a mile from their high school.

The local school system, other city agencies and local nonprofits had already signed contracts to buy energy from the incinerator. But once members of the group made a passionate plea at a school board meeting about their concerns regarding the potential pollution in an already contaminated neighborhood, those officials reversed their decision. Other organizations soon followed the school district’s lead. 

Members of Free Your Voice succeeded following years of hard work and countless more meetings, mobilizations and innovative attempts to make their case. The company planning to build the incinerator eventually lost its permit.

2. Partner with the authorities

Another approach is to get involved at the grassroots level by helping local governments and nonprofits solve problems. Establishing and caring for community gardens is one way to do this in a country where roughly one in eight lack regular access to affordable, nutritious food. 

To address this problem, community activists in New York City founded BLK ProjeK – one of dozens of such projects involving partnerships between nonprofits and local authorities formed since 1978 through the city’s Green Thumb program. The New Yorkers who plant, till and harvest more than 500 community gardens are producing 87,000 pounds of food each year.

With about 18,000 community gardens planted across North America, there are opportunities everywhere to get involved.

3. DIY nonprofit

A third alternative is to join a nonprofit board or even start your own organization.

There are more than 1.5 million U.S. nonprofits, including thousands that are working hard to make communities better by helping vulnerable groups like the disabled, victims of domestic violence and at-risk youth.

All of them must have a board of directors that helps guide the nonprofits’ goals and programs. In most cases, the people serving on these boards are unpaid volunteers. Another option is to form a new nonprofit to address unmet needs. 

As the Baltimore battle against the incinerator suggests, even kids can do this. 

In 2007, Mackenzie Bearup of Alpharetta, Georgia, found out that a local residential treatment facility was trying to start a library because the children there did not have books. Bearup, a 13-year-old suffering from an incurable disease, organized a children’s book drive and collected books from friends and neighbors to donate to the library.

The project quickly grew. Along with her brothers Alex and Benjamin, she founded Sheltering Books. By March 2015, the nonprofit had donated 460,000 books to shelters.

Do your homework

Whatever strategy suits you best, get your facts straight before getting started. Managers at public and nonprofit agencies told us that members of their communities sometimes made suggestions that were unrealistic or would violate current policies or regulations. 

Learn as much as you can about the issues you are passionate about, whether it is the environment, education or the opioid crisis. Just as importantly, do your best to understand what the local needs are and what services are already available in your community.

That way, you can ask better questions about what is missing, and your feedback and recommendations will be more helpful.

Local authorities often dismiss engagement and activism as NIMBYism – a reflexive not-in-my-back-yard response to any local construction project.

But we believe these voices can be legitimate. This quieter kind of activism, in our view, is at least as important as mass protests

Question of the day - Do you talk about politics with your friends?

Politics & Governance

Do you talk about politics with your friends?