The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.
– Yann Martel, Life of Pi
A handful of friends and neighbors gathered for a second time. We got together in my living room to share ideas and support each other in our efforts to become more politically active.
Our first meeting took place in early February. We kicked off with drive and energy and a fury of commitment. In the intervening six weeks, our national disaster escalated and many of us lost momentum. Speaking candidly with friends and peeking into my own heart, I notice that many are experiencing the outrage fatigue we predicted. The Republican administration continues to throw all its might into dismantling regulation, research, democratic checks, civil liberties, protection of the commons, and social safety nets. Those of us committed to these institutions as well as to the values that undergird them have lost our sense of direction. How do we respond when everything is a crisis?
First we admit the sense of loss.
Then we remember that these power mongers win if they paralyze us, so we must keep moving.
From this starting place, our second gathering began. We sat with a quiet admission of our hopelessness. By giving voice to our shared experience, we could think together about crafting small, achievable goals. We talked for three hours. By the closing, we were laughing together and talking about what makes us smile. Each woman left with a manageable action plan and a little more lift in her wings.
For anyone interested in assembling a circle of emerging activists, please feel free to draw on the objectives and agenda we created. The basic outline is below. If you’d like to see a more comprehensive guide, let me know in the comments.
This format welcomes people wherever they are on their journey of engagement — from first-time voters to long-time revolutionaries. Of most value, the KC builds connections of relevance between members of a community.
The Kitchen Conversation, Sunday 1:30-4:30pm
This Kitchen Conversation aims to establish an environment of reflection, inquiry, and support for those seeking to expand their civic engagement and take effective action in preserving democratic values.
Participants in today’s KC will have the opportunity to…
- Share and hold one another’s stories, questions, and perspectives on civic engagement and political activism
- Define “effectiveness” with regards to civic engagement and political activism
- Discuss the role of civic society in resistance to totalitarian creep and in strengthening democratic institutions.
- Identify ways to nudge our individualistic tendencies towards involvement in collective efforts
- Create a list of local entry points (organizations with a local focus or presence) and assess where we can each realistically get involved
- Brainstorm mechanisms of support for one another’s plans of action over the coming weeks and months
- Inspire a sense of hope and energy for the long game
1:30-1:45 Gather and Gab
1:45-2:05 Welcome and Introductions (20 minutes)
- Your name
- One historical event that inspires you
- One activity or area of your life that makes you feel powerful
- Your dream day or week
2:05-2:20 Objectives and Touchstones (15 minutes)
Establishing the tone and expectations of our conversation drawing on the Circle of Trust touchstones, and expanding on the day’s objectives by adding individual goals.
2:20-2:35 Defining Effectiveness (15 minutes)
Think-pair-share: “What actually works?”
Three minutes each sharing thoughts on what it means for our efforts to work. What does effective resistance look like?
2:35-3:00 Civil Society in Resistance (25 minutes)
List the organizations at the forefront and behind the scenes, paying special attention to local efforts
3:00-3:10 Break (10 mins)
3:10-3:35 Motivation and Connection (25 mins)
Individual reflection, sharing in pairs, then group discussion of themes
- Where do you want to plug in?
- What you would need in order to show up? (support, time, information, reminders, a babysitter…?)
- What manageable steps can you take in the next 14 days to move towards the work that calls you?
3:35-4:10 Plugging In Locally (35 minutes)
Tasks, personal goals, how can we support each other?
4:10-4:25 Closing (15 minutes)
One thing in your life that makes you smile
Image: “The first picket line – College day in the picket line,” 1917. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-31799