It’s been over two months since my last post. To tell the truth, I’d actually been struggling since July or August about whether or not I wanted to keep blogging. I like writing and connecting with people, but writing specifically about my finances and student loans just wasn’t feeling like the right topic anymore. I considered slightly altering the topic of the blog. I considered drastically altering the topic of the blog. I considered deleting the blog altogether. I considered simply ignoring the blog.
And then the election happened, and my perspective—on a lot of things—shifted.
To be clear, I do still think student loans and personal finance are important topics to think and write about. Learning how to pay attention to my money was a great step forward for me in becoming a Responsible Adult. And if you’ve been following my posts up until this point in order to cheer me on as I pay back my student loans, then I appreciate that, and I truly thank you. And rest assured, I’ll continue to pay them off. I’m just not going to write about them anymore.
But I am going to keep writing. On a different topic, one which you may like a lot, or may not like at all.
Last weekend I went to the Boston Women’s March. Going to this event was important to me because it was an opportunity to march in support of a number of causes, including racial justice, women’s reproductive rights, the protection of immigrants’ civil rights and liberties, and the critical need to take action against climate change, among others. Plus I just wanted to exercise my right to freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble. My original plan was to catch a train downtown, meet up with friends, hear Elizabeth Warren and the other speakers, participate in the march, and grab some lunch.
Haha. What actually happened was that I stood on a subway platform with hundreds of other people for over an hour, watching as full-to-capacity trains rolled in and out of the station towards Boston Common. When I finally squeezed onto a train, I had already missed the speakers, and the crowds and near-total lack of cell service made it impossible for me to actually locate anyone I had been planning to meet. Eventually I decided to just be there and experience whatever I could experience.
It’s difficult to convey how many people were at this event. I’m very familiar with Boston Common and the surrounding streets, but I kept getting disoriented because everything looks different when it’s covered by a vast, tightly-packed blanket of human beings holding large signs. I read later that the crowd was estimated at 125,000. When the actual march began, it was more of a slow shuffle. I took photos mostly by holding my camera above my head and clicking blindly, like this:
I really wish I’d planned ahead enough to bring a sign. But that’s okay. I had never been to a march or protest before, at least not that I can recall. Next time I’ll be prepared.
Because yeah, there will definitely be a next time. And that’s what I’m going to be writing about here from this point forward.
Like a lot of people in the United States (and beyond), I’ve been growing increasingly upset over the past two months about our new administration—and by “upset” I really mean a whole shifting array of emotions, including panicked, depressed, angry, distressed, appalled, disbelieving, and helpless. This past week since the march has only intensified my feelings. (Now we are banning refugees and immigrants?? And cutting off funding to life-saving health organizations?? And pretending climate change isn’t happening?? And being asked to accept “alternative facts”??)
You could argue that one option would be to just turn off the news and assume everything will blow over. But that approach doesn’t feel realistic or responsible. If there is anything I can do, I have to—and want to—do it.
The thing is, I’m pretty new to all of this. My background in political activism is mainly of the “I’m a liberal, so I discuss important social and political issues at dinner with my liberal friends” type. And, okay, discussing issues with friends who mostly agree with you is all well and good. But, as I should have realized earlier, it’s definitely not enough.
So as of today, this is a blog where I write about my journey figuring out how to become politically engaged, how to better understand the issues, how to fight for causes I believe in, how to be a better citizen. I’m not a journalist, I don’t have any special information, I’m not an expert on any political issue, and I’m not especially politically-minded. What I am is a regular U.S. citizen who wants to figure out how she can help make a difference.
Here is what I’ve done so far:
- Voted in the presidential election. (For Hillary Clinton, in case that wasn’t clear already.)
- Donated to the ACLU, NAACP, Sierra Club, and Planned Parenthood.
- Signed a whitehouse.gov petition asking the president to release his tax returns.
- Called my senators to ask them to vote against several Cabinet member nominees.
- Contacted my senators and U.S. House representative to ask them to work to get rid of the global gag rule, which is endangering the health and lives of women and others worldwide.
- Contacted my senators and U.S. House representatives to ask them to work to get rid of the new immigration ban, which, in addition to being totally unnecessary, is in complete opposition to the spirit of this country.
- Called my MA state representative to ask her to support a bill preventing future discriminatory registration systems for Muslims/anyone and a bill preventing private phone/Internet use from being monitored without a warrant. (Thank you ACLU Massachusetts for this suggestion.)
- Attended the Women’s March.
- Read the Constitution. I’m pretty sure I had not read this before as an adult. I will be re-reading it again soon.
By the way, I highly recommend putting your senators’ phone numbers into your phone. Calling is scarier than emailing, but from what I understand, it’s the best way to get your point across. Here’s an article on why calling is better than emailing.
Some next steps I’m planning are:
- Attend the March for Science if I can (I’m waiting for the date to be announced…).
- Watch for other protests/marches/events that are happening locally. I’ve missed several already due to not finding out about them beforehand, so I need to figure out what mailing lists to get on.
- Continue to connect with other people around the city/country/world for ideas and inspiration and organization. So far I’m doing this partly through mailing lists, but primarily through Twitter. For all its faults, Twitter is an amazingly powerful tool for spreading information and building movements.
- Vote in all elections. Not just the big ones.
- Improve my knowledge of U.S. history, which is sadly lacking. I have a looooooooooong reading list. First up is The People’s History of the United States.
- Improve my understanding of the history and current state of racism in the U.S., which is also lacking. Same with feminism. More loooooooong reading lists.
- Figure out which issues are most important to me so I can target my efforts a little more. This is tough because there are so many issues at stake right now.
- ??? (I’m looking for more suggestions!)
I’m sure this new topic will continue to evolve over time, but that’s the beginning of my journey. I understand if you don’t want to join me, but I hope that you do.
If you have any suggestions about actions that I (or others) can take, please let me know in the comments! And if you’d like to post a comment in disagreement with anything I’ve written above, I only ask that you do so politely and respectfully. I promise my reply to you will be polite and respectful as well.