Gun violence in the U.S. has been surfacing over and over again. First terrorism – an attack on the LGBTQ community – the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Last week, another incidence of police brutality caught on camera – an innocent man shot dead by police. And the backlash of that murder that livestreamed on Facebook – a sniper killing five officers.
As individuals, many of us wonder: is there something more impactful I can do?
When horrific events like these happen, it’s apparent that as a society, we are affected. If you have a Facebook account, you expect to see heartfelt posts and petitions scrolling across your feed. You may contribute with your own post. Or, you may click on a petition and sign your name. As a community, there is some comfort in sharing our grief and outrage on social media. But as individuals, many of us wonder: is there something more impactful I can do?
Don’t get me wrong posts and petitions can be powerful. Signing petitions from sites like MoveOn.org have made people aware of a multitude of issues. They have offered a platform for a large number of voices to quickly and easily show their support or disapproval of political reform affecting our environment, healthcare, social justice, and politics itself. And their efforts have affected real changes, but those changes were not due to online petitions alone.
But what else can you, as an individual, do to take actions on issues that matter to you? Specific answers, of course, depend on the issue you want to tackle. However, there are general actions that apply across issues.
Top Ten Ways to Take Action on Issues that Matter to You
1. Join Legal Defense Funds and Activism Groups Online
Joining an organization online is often as simple as submitting your name and email address in an online form. Once you join, expect to be contact via email to participate in important campaigns. This may involve signing and sharing petitions, or participating in local events and rallies. Be prudent about the groups you join. An overabundance of email can cause campaign fatigue, making you less liable to read and respond to activist email and more likely to view it like SPAM. Remember that joining these groups is only impactful if by doing so you will be more likely to donate your time and/or money. If you have no intention of responding to their calls to action, don’t join. You can also find groups you support on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter if you are more responsive to posts and tweets than to email.
2. Donate to legal defense funds and activism groups
These groups can always use money.
3. Contact Congress
You can contact your congressional representatives by signing your name on online and mail-in petitions that are being sent to them, by sending them tweets, by writing letters or emails yourself, or by calling them on the phone.
Often organizations will run campaigns that offer multiple ways to get a specific message out, and this can be a great way to participate if you haven’t thought through a specific message yourself.
4. Join Local Organizations
Chances are there are a host of local changes that can be made in support of the issues you care about. Local organizations often have a more direct route to change, albeit on a smaller scale. Plus, working with others in person is a supportive environment and allows you to be a part of your community.
5. Contact Local and State Officials
In addition to contacting your congressional representatives to give your voice to federal policy issues, you can can contact state and local officials for policy issues being debated in your state and county. You can contact your local officials by phone, email, and letter, and in person. Since these policies are being debated on your local turf, you have the chance of addressing officials directly at town or county political committee meetings.
6. Display Your Support with Social Media, Bumper Stickers, and Other Gear
Spread the messages you support using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Purchase bumper stickers and other gear directly from organizations you care about to give them free press and support them financially.
7. Vote in State, Local, and National Elections for Candidates Who Represent You
Keep yourself educated about state, local, and national elections and make sure you vote. Also, make sure friends and family are aware of elections as they approach. A large portion of voters never make it out to the polls. Oftentimes, this is because they weren’t aware of the upcoming election, didn’t connect it to something important to them, or didn’t make a plan to vote. The more people are aware of elections, the more time they have to think about, care about, and plan their vote.
8. Know Your Rights
This is as much for you as it is for others. Know how to diffuse a hostile situation so you can avoid being in danger, or be a hero for someone else who is being antagonized for their race, sexual orientation, or gender. Be ready to record injustice with your smart phone as evidence and ask others around if they would provide testimony. If you know what to say ahead of time, it will make speaking up easier and reduce the chance of a violent outburst.
9. Gamify Good Habits
Being an activist means staying active, staying aware of issues, and being the good you want to see in the world. Cultivating good habits and behavior is easier said than done. That’s why I love gamification. Sometimes we don’t see immediate rewards for our efforts. Often, the world rewards our campaigning and intentional living with bad news – more of the injustices and tragedies we are fighting to end. Gamification is a great way to stay motivated and keep it light.
10. Vote for the World You Want with Your Wallet
Don’t forget that you cast a vote for the world you want every time you take out your wallet. You can spend hours outside cleaning up a local park and then buy a hamburger for lunch, not consciously aware that your lunch is a vote for factory farming – one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, animal cruelty, and deforestation.
Why donate to an organization to end global poverty and then buy products that exploit workers living in poverty when there are alternatives? Make your spending choices part of your activism.
You can donate money to an organization that aims to combat global poverty or you can spend extra money on fair-trade clothing, coffee, and other goods. Both are contributions that empower impoverished people. Why donate to an organization to end global poverty and then buy products that exploit workers living in poverty when there are alternatives? Make your spending choices part of your activism.
Take Action on Specific Issues
While researching for this post, I came across several organizations and posts offering ways to take action on specific issues:
End Gun Violence
Every Town for Gun Safety – This organization has a large online movement as well as concrete steps you can take to help end gun violence. See their 7 Actions You Can Take to Prevent Gun Violence After the Orlando Shooting.
End Police Brutality
Protect Our Environment
5 Gamified Environmental Apps For Sustainable Living – When it comes to the surprisingly difficult challenge of making small but important lifestyle changes, I love gamification. This post covers five apps designed to gamify a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
Getting to the Heart of the Matter – Electing Representatives to Enact Change
BE The Bern – We are Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution – This is a recent post of mine and mostly covers resources for helping elect responsible representatives who share Bernie’s platform. By doing so, we will see changes in all of the above areas and more. Check out the post for resources to keep Bernie Sanders’ political revolution going.