A comment I wrote on AlterNet in response to a post about Obama's recovery plan got me started on a line of thought about how we approach advocacy and activism. I guess, since my flame-retardant garments are at the cleaners, that I should begin by saying "not all of us" and "no, I don't mean you!"
Activism and Change
Listening to President-elect Obama the other day during his conference to announce his nominees for the security arm of our government, I was very impressed with his responses to the reporters who questioned him about his recovery plan and the reception his plan is getting on the Hill.
In keeping with his campaign and what he's told us about himself, he was quite clear. He's not wedded to his plan if there's a better one, but, with the information and resources available to him, this is the best plan as he sees it.
One of the reporters quoted an article by someone on the recovery package and Obama shot right back in his welcoming way that he and his advisers will be happy to consider any serious plan or even portion of a plan that someone wants to offer, including one from the author.
One of the easiest things in the world to do is to critique and criticize the work someone else has done. I did it when I responded to the article that was written about the plan itself. It's a lot easier to comment on what the author wrote than to sit down and do all of the work that goes into writing the article itself.
We post to each other on lists, we talk to one another over lunch or coffee, we meet at our conferences - but are we also consciously reaching outside of our comfort circle to seek solutions and partnerships? Are we so invested in being able to claim that something is ours that we're not willing to work in a truly collaborative way with others? There is a wonderful saying (I forget who said this) that it's amazing how much you can accomplish when you don't care who gets the credit.
If we're not happy with something the administration is doing are we only complaining to each other or are we offering opportunities to get the word to the people who can actually make a change?
I know there was little to no point in even putting this out there under the Bush debacle. But Obama has challenged us to communicate with him, with his administration. He didn't promise that he'd take our suggestions, but he has promised that we'll be heard. It's our responsibility to offer the suggestions and to keep offering them if we really believe we have a solution. Not a complaint - a solution.
None of this is meant to criticize - it's just meant to prompt thought and discussion.
As I was typing that I was reminded of a story I heard long ago and I don't remember the whole thing, but it was about someone and G-d. The person kept asking G-d to do things and the things didn't happen. When the person died and went to heaven, they confronted G-d and said they were really angry because G-d had never listened to any of their prayers. G-d responded that he had listened - and the answer had been "no".
Our world depends on us and this is our chance - this is, as Beth Zemsky declared, our "Movement Moment".