Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Appeal to the Politically Skeptical

Many people who care deeply about political issues and social justice question the efficacy of activism and being politically involved. It is a legitimate question and concern. People ask why should they bother sending an email/letter, signing a petition, or going to a demonstration. Is it a waste of time and why would someone care that you disagree and hold an alternative point of view?

As someone who has been an activist for many years, I can assure you that I have seen activism to truly work wonders. Does it always work? No. You should not be discouraged when things don't go your way, and with regards to civil rights and equality it comes in strides and not in one shot. However, that being said think about how rewarding it is when you are part of the solution and you can directly affect millions of lives or stand for what is right.

This post is an appeal letter to those who are interested in social change but feel that their efforts are a waste of time. I urge you to be involved send those emails, make those calls, lobby your representatives. Sure you are just one voice, but together we are a collective of voices and we make a dent. If you don't speak up, who will?

Why activism does work...

Business:

Many times companies/organizations take positions on issues that we disagree with. The reason activism can be successful is from a business aspect. The bottom line is companies want profit $$$, if they see a group of activists demonstrating, calling for a boycott or creating negative publicity for them, it is in their best interest to either give in to the activist or try to assuage their concerns.

Government:
Technically speaking elected representatives are supposed to represent the people of their district and thus vote accordingly with the will of the population. There are some politicians who follow this rule of thumb but many others do not. Politicians need your votes, they need credibility and thus will want to do what a vocal lobbying group will tell them to do. If your voice is not heard on an issue, a politician will likely feel no reason to support or take on an issue of concern.

Public Opinion:
If you are a successful activist you are bringing attention to the issue you are concerned with. This will garner media attention, political advocacy, and the like to your issue, you might find more support from others who will join the bandwagon. Even if people do not directly support your efforts you are creating awareness on an issue of importance to you.

So to make a long story short GET INVOLVED! That being said I will leave you with my favorite quote regarding activism.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has". (Margaret Mead)

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments on this topic.

11 comments:

Vanessa Leigh said...

I can definitely agree and identify with this point regarding activism. I know many persons in my local LGBT community, who feel like, "What's the use?", and as a result, sit back and don't get involved. I totally agree that it can make a difference; we here in PA are currently fighting against a legislative attempt to amend our state constitution, to define marriage as between one man and one woman, with exclusions of any other type of acknowledgement of gay relationships, such as domestic partnerships and civil unions. We got busy across the state, by calling, writing, and emailing our reps, and it is looking pretty hopeful that the issue, for now, is dead. The thing is, much of the time, the feelings that persons have about our rights, is related to their religious/moral views, and it has little to do with the civil aspects of it. Activism DOES work, believe me! And, it is NEVER too late to get involved..... Vanessa

Queers United said...

Yay Vanessa, I get so frustrated when LGBT people say they don't care about gay rights. Argh it gets me furious!

D.A. Slinkard said...

Activism is an imperative reason as to why Sarah Palin will become the next VP in the White House. Long live the McCain-Palin ticket!!

www.conservativecorner.wordpress.com

Seth said...

Thanks for the reminder! I find it pretty easy to get disheartened when I don't get responses to letters, information given to others doesn't seem to sink in, groups fizzle out, etc. Encouraging each other and building community is a vital component of activism, too, and I think your blog does a great job of it.

Queers United said...

In light of today and the fact that progressive grassroots activism has gotten Obama elected, I am urging you all to do the same with LGBTQ activism.

truthspew said...

I am what you'd probably call a hyper-activist. I've written homophobic pastors, company presidents, and politicians.

I've attended hearings on marriage equality. I've participated in a Gubernatorial political campaign including phone bank, working a 4th of July party, canvassing door to door, and stuffing envelopes.

People need to realize, our politicians do hear us even if they appear not too. It's especially effective if more of us do it.

Seth said...

Then there are people like me. So jaded and angry that they'll try ANYTHING to make an impact. ;)

Stephen from West Covina, CA said...

I've received a few responses to letters: one from Pepsi, assemblyman Mike Feuer who, as he states in the e-mail, "co-authored the marriage equality bill passed by both houses of the Legislature more than a year ago" and recently "led the effort to organize 44 members of the Assembly and Senate to file a friend of the court brief urging the California Supreme Court to overturn prop 8," and one from the mayor of Pasadena in regards to my proposal on behalf of Blue4Equality.

People do respond. I'm new to activism, but it has become a part of my life's vocation until I die. I am looking forward to getting more responses after I call and write more.

We just gotta get organized. I'm working on a plan. I wish that everyone would know of this website. Each grassroots group has to be a part of some heirarchy and work in conjuction with one other. We need to give fliers with info on how to be an activist for gay rights. I'm going off. another time. peace.

Stephen from West Covina, CA said...

Yeah, Seth. Believe me. I get angry too. It comes in waves. Those "Yes on 8" signs that sprawled up around my neighborhood everyday made me wonder if that was an underlying sentiment when I was growing up as a happy child unaware of gays.

It sucks that we have to work for what others (my dear straight friends) already have. I'm sure others laughed at MLK and thought his dream was impossible to be realized. And in our journey fueled by our dreams, there will always be someone waiting to shout that one word extinguisher (FAG) at us to bring our morale down.
We need to join support groups. I can't wait for school next semester to start. I gotta join the gsa at PCC. I gotta call up other gsa clubs from other colleges so that we can all do outreach on our campuses on selected dates with fliers that publicize the same info that supports our goals.
We should also get MILK to be screened for free at our colleges. Pathos/storytelling will help our cause.

GDad said...

I'd like to offer a slightly dissenting view on what the role of the elected official is. (S)he is not necessarily there to vote the will of the majority of the people if the people are wrong. Sometimes doing the right thing means standing with the smaller crowd or standing alone.

Otherwise, great post.

Queers United said...

Stephen thanks for your commitment to activism, I find that I get responses too. Not as often as I would like. I know that even when I don't get a response my voice is being heard. Nobody responded to me from HBO or change.gov but the gay community did get a response and they did change their schedule.

Gdad I agree, we have the elected officials to be the brains of our society and to do what they think is right. But, it is also a bit of a popularity contest so I find that many politicians will be anti-gay simply because it is popular and not necessarily in their heart.

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