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Brick by brick - Swan Tower

Nov. 14th, 2016

10:00 am - Brick by brick

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More knowledgeable readers please correct me if I’m using this wrong, but I think the Jewish concept of tikkun olam may be the most succinct way of describing what I’m thinking about these days.

When I try to think about the situation of the world at large, I despair, because opportunities to make a large-scale difference don’t come along very often. We just had one; it went the wrong way. Many people have been saying we therefore need to look for other ways to improve the world, or at least to hold it together against the forces trying to crack it. Tikkun olam: repair of the world. Good deeds, acts of kindness, all the little ways we can each do our part, and maybe no single one of those things is that epic, but just because a good is small doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.

For the foreseeable future, my intent is to make an open thread on the first of the month, inviting people to talk about the things they’ve done to repair the world and the things they intend to do. Anything good is worth mentioning: most of us can’t give a thousand dollars to an important charity every month (or even once), but helping your elderly neighbor with a strenuous bit of yardwork is more within reach. Donations, volunteering, even changes in your own life that aren’t so much about reaching out as about making yourself a better citizen of the world. I think it might be a comfort to read about the good things other people are doing, and maybe even an inspiration — “oh, huh, I never thought about doing X myself, but that’s a great idea” — plus, for myself at least, it’ll be a reminder to not just wish the world were in a better state, but to get off my duff and do something about it.

So consider this the first of those posts. My husband and I made two donations the other day, to the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council (we’re already members of the ACLU). I bought a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, not just as a public statement, and not just as a reminder to myself, but because the place I bought it from makes donations to some good charities. We also just had solar panels installed on our roof, doing our own itty-bitty part to move society toward renewable energy. In the upcoming weeks I’m intending to supply something to a local food drive and to ask around about volunteering for some kind of literacy or English proficiency program. Please use the comments on any iteration of this post to share your own efforts and to talk about what you might do going forward. Remember: nothing is too small. Anything you did to improve the world around you, I would be delighted to hear it.

Right now, we need those points of light in the darkness.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/780750.html. Comment here or there.

Comments:

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From:rosefox
Date:November 14th, 2016 07:10 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for doing this.

I got a Black Lives Matter pin from a Black-owned Etsy shop that donates to BLM.

I took the baby to visit my mother. We all really needed intergenerational hugging time. It was very therapeutic. I also downloaded a site-blocker plug-in for Chrome and redirected Twitter and Tweetdeck to an eight-hour video of actual birdsong, which is doing wonders for my mental health.

I made plans with a friend to go to a civil rights speak-out on Wednesday that's being hosted by my state senator. I want to get to know my local elected officials, and encourage my state senator to support a bill for New York State to provide statewide single-payer health care, which I think is especially important given the Republicans' plans for gutting the ACA and privatizing Medicare. (There are similar efforts in most states.) And I really really need in-person activist community right now.

Edited at 2016-11-14 07:10 pm (UTC)
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From:swan_tower
Date:November 14th, 2016 07:19 pm (UTC)
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I want to figure out how to keep myself informed about things my local officials are doing, yeah -- people on the city and state level. I'm actually not sure how best to do that. I'd do best if I could somehow get it delivered to my inbox, but I don't know if there's some kind of mailing list I could be on or what.
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From:rosefox
Date:November 14th, 2016 07:21 pm (UTC)
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Every senator, congressperson, state rep, city council member, etc. has a mailing list, definitely print and probably email. You can call their offices to ask how to get on it if it's not obvious from their websites. I found out about Wednesday's event because I called my state assembly member's office asking what I could do and her staff told me about it.

Edited at 2016-11-14 07:24 pm (UTC)
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From:swan_tower
Date:November 14th, 2016 07:24 pm (UTC)
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Excellent, thank you.
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From:rosefox
Date:November 14th, 2016 07:45 pm (UTC)
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Oh, and there's probably a mailing list for your community board/school board/neighborhood association, too. If nothing else, it'll tell you when meetings are and which subcommittees are on the agenda.
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From:rosefox
Date:November 14th, 2016 08:56 pm (UTC)
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This reminds me to add: I'm offering free training over Skype for anyone who wants to learn how to effectively call their elected representatives and ask them to support bills or otherwise take useful action. If you're interested, PM me. Feel free to let others know about this offer; it's available indefinitely.
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From:thanate
Date:November 14th, 2016 07:16 pm (UTC)
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I donated to the Sierra Club last week since they had a huge matching gift going. Adding NRDC to my list of future options.

Helped give comfort at home & online where I could. Lit candles on the Altar of Good Sense.

Working on making some other things actually happen off the list of eco-friendly outreach that I've been meaning to do for a while now, so with luck I will have more next month.

Thank you for posting this.
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From:jenett
Date:November 14th, 2016 07:51 pm (UTC)
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Excellent idea, thanks.

I've got an appointment this afternoon about volunteering at a local org that does anti-racism and women's education and empowerment work. If that doesn't pan out, I'll be looking for other options, but I'm thinking it will.

I'm also rearranging my budget for regular donation to a half-dozen places, but that's a 'will start next month' thing.
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From:dr_whom
Date:November 14th, 2016 08:18 pm (UTC)
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I made donations to the ACLU and SPLC, and (just a few minutes ago) phoned my representative to ask him to speak out against Steve Bannon, and one of my senators to thank him for already having done the same.

A Talmudic proverb relevant to this model of tikkun olam is this, loosely translated: "It's not your responsibility to complete the work yourself, but that doesn't mean you're free to not contribute to it."
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From:wshaffer
Date:November 14th, 2016 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Last week, I increased my donation to the ACLU, and downloaded their CA Justice mobile app that allows you to record incidents involving law enforcement and upload them straight to the ACLU.

Today I sent an email to President Obama asking him to grant a pardon to Chelsea Manning.

Next item on the to-do list is to contribute some financial support to organizations that do investigative journalism and fact-checking. I'm planning to donate to The Guardian, and am looking for one or two other such organizations to throw some support to.
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From:swan_tower
Date:November 14th, 2016 09:07 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, "figure out how to support good news media" is high on my list of priorities.
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From:kita0610
Date:November 14th, 2016 08:57 pm (UTC)
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This is awesome!

I have signed up for automatic monthly donations to Planned Parenthood. I found a neat group- Bend The Arc, Jewish based. It interfaith, with the single goal of justice for all. I'm trying to find a local interfaith group that wants more than just money donated but so far no luck. And I am learning Spanish to be a better ally.

I really love this post and this thread. We need more like this. Ideas for doing the work. Thank you for it.
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From:swan_tower
Date:November 14th, 2016 09:09 pm (UTC)
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Estudiaba español en la escuela, pero no recuerdo mucho. Ahora hablo el japonés mas bién (I have a feeling I just committed a grammatical error there, but see sentence number one).
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From:livejournal
Date:November 14th, 2016 09:04 pm (UTC)

"God damn it, you've got to be kind"

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User rosefox referenced to your post from "God damn it, you've got to be kind" saying: [...] tikkun olam open thread [...]
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From:juliansinger
Date:November 14th, 2016 09:23 pm (UTC)
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I'm (probably) losing my job come the end of December, so I'm not going with financial options for support at the moment (and would go with volunteer options as well as financial ones anyway).

I'm checking with a non-Planned Parenthood clinic to see if they need volunteers; if, as I suspect, they say no (or don't get back to me), I'll talk to Planned Parenthood.
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From:cgbookcat1
Date:November 14th, 2016 09:57 pm (UTC)
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I donated to the ACLU last week, and will donate to Planned Parenthood next month. Our grocery has little food bank donation coupons at the checkout, and I intend to start using those more regularly.

I'm still too angry to have mutual-listening conversations with Trump voters, but that's on the distant horizon. So are letters to my representative/senators.
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From:gaudysalamander
Date:November 14th, 2016 10:08 pm (UTC)
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Here via rosefox. This thread is a great idea!

I have:

Signed up for a N-400 training clinic with my local immigration and refugee advocacy group and will be volunteering at their citizenship application clinics once I'm trained.

Started organizing a street/protest medic training for BLM members/supporters in my town

Made a donation to Bend the Arc in my father's name just to spite the bastard (okay that's a mixed one because I know it will make my anti-semite father very unhappy but it's still a donation to a group doing good work right?)

Spent the weekend at a friend's cabin helping with repairs and making the place sound for the winter. It's off the grid and a mile hike in over rough terrain, and the friend who owns it has an injured ankle and can't get there. Without help maintaining it she's worried the forest will just reclaim it over the winter.

Spent some quality time last week with one of my partners and their adorable tiny new baby.
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From:tiger_spot
Date:November 14th, 2016 11:00 pm (UTC)
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Last week I donated some extra money to the ACLU. Future donations are going to be mostly pushed through my spouses' work to take advantage of the charitable matching; we need to sit down and go over what our priorities are and what's on the list that they match, plus our budget. That will probably happen this week, but if not we can do it over our Thanksgiving trip.

Today I brought banana bread to the teachers at my daughter's preschool.

In the next month I am planning mostly to sit down and figure out how I can help in small, sustainable ways. I expect there will be a lot of calling legislators in my future, but I want to figure out a structure for making that happen in an effective way, with appropriate priorities, so that I can keep it up over the long term.
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From:swan_tower
Date:November 14th, 2016 11:06 pm (UTC)
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Keeping it up over the long term is key. I know that the level of engagement I've had today is not sustainable; if I try to do it without pause, I'm going to burn out and do nothing at all.
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From:tiger_spot
Date:November 14th, 2016 11:15 pm (UTC)
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Yup. I think a lot of people are in that position.
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From:mrissa
Date:November 15th, 2016 12:06 am (UTC)
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I am feeling very exhausted and small right now, but I wrote a letter to my friend's class of new immigrants, mostly Muslim women, who are feeling unwelcome. I told them that as a science fiction writer, it's my job to imagine that future, and that they are a welcome part of not just this America but the America I imagine. That's today. Tomorrow is another day.
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From:sovay
Date:November 15th, 2016 01:05 am (UTC)
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Anything you did to improve the world around you, I would be delighted to hear it.

So this is precisely the sort of thing that is difficult for me to answer, because for years now it has been difficult for me not to believe that about the best I can manage is not actively worsening the lives of people around me, which I need to get over because objectively I think that's ridiculous.

I called the office of Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts this afternoon and left a message with an aide encouraging the governor to make—and live up to—the same offer of refuge as Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and the California Legislature. I pointed out that I paid taxes and voted and that I would not want to vote for a governor of Massachusetts who supported the ideals and programs of Donald Trump. I got the idea from a college friend on Facebook. I hope that enough people write letters and call that it makes a difference to him, if only in the disappointing returns of his midterm election.

Once I have paid this latest round of bills and know what my finances look like (horror and desolation, generally), I will donate to the ACLU. Otherwise I have mostly been sharing information and talking with people and sometimes providing support for them. I need to figure out what I can do on a regular basis and a sustainable schedule that is not just talking.

Edited at 2016-11-15 01:06 am (UTC)
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From:swan_tower
Date:November 15th, 2016 01:18 am (UTC)
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Sustainability matters. For people as well as for the planet.

And I know mere words can't erase the problem, but I pinky-swear to you that even from the other side of the country, you have improved my life via your highly intelligent and enlightening posts.
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From:sovay
Date:November 15th, 2016 03:16 am (UTC)
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Sustainability matters. For people as well as for the planet.

Without a miracle (and I do not expect a miracle), this is a long-haul situation. If we all blow out in the first month, we won't be any good to each other or ourselves. This is also my reasoning for self-care and general staying alive. We need all the resources we can get.

And I know mere words can't erase the problem, but I pinky-swear to you that even from the other side of the country, you have improved my life via your highly intelligent and enlightening posts.

I never know what to say to statements like this. Thank you.
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From:sheff_dogs
Date:November 15th, 2016 05:43 pm (UTC)
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"I never know what to say to statements like this. Thank you."

Forgive a total stranger pushing in, but practise saying just 'Thank you', without adding anything self-depreciating, it is hard I know, but to me it's the best way to accept that someone means what they are saying without diminishing their intent and generosity.

And I read that phoning politicians is more effective than email or even a letter.
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From:aishabintjamil
Date:November 15th, 2016 02:50 am (UTC)
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It's not in response to the election per se, but about a month and a half ago my wife and I got a call from an old roommate saying he needed help in getting away from a borderline abusive situation in Missouri. He had no car, and we're in NH. Four of us pooled resources to cover expenses for a 5th friend who had time and a car, but very little money to drive out, collect him and as much stuff as they could fit in his car and a uhaul trailer, and bring him back here where he has more support network. Finding him a permanent place to live that he can afford on his disability check is the next hurdle to overcome, but he does at least have a temporary roof over his head and a safe place for his cats. It's a start.
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From:juliansinger
Date:November 15th, 2016 02:56 am (UTC)
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Thank you, says a stranger. Seriously. It's the folks in isolated situations I worry about most, so... a tangible good is a good.
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From:lowellboyslash
Date:November 15th, 2016 03:12 am (UTC)
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Thank you for this thread.

I gave money to Lambda Legal, and I'm planning on giving to some other charities soon. I made a bunch of rainbow-beaded safety pins and explained what they were to my family; they're wearing them now, and so am I.

At work, I signed up for an accessibility training session and an LGBT+ safe space training session. I also gave my students an extension and am planning some ways to help them deal with this situation.

I also bought them chocolate, because Remus Lupin was right.

Edited at 2016-11-15 03:14 am (UTC)
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From:swan_tower
Date:November 15th, 2016 03:26 am (UTC)
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I've seen criticisms of the safety-pin thing (that mostly seem to boil down to "people will put these on to make themselves feel better and then not do anything more substantial"), but I hold to my principle as stated above: even a small good is a good. If shifting a pin from shirt to shirt reminds somebody to think about issues, or seeing a pin on someone else creates even a fleeting feeling of ideological kinship, then that is good. And it in no way precludes doing more.
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From:gelsey
Date:November 15th, 2016 04:38 am (UTC)
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I haven't had a chance to do much lately, or the energy. But I did buy a shirt from a local group that makes up kits of school things and Harry Potter books for local foster kids and I'm going to try to look into volunteering with them, once I'm working day shift again.


And I gave a handmade baby blanket to a coworker I barely know, because she had mentioned once in passing she didn't think she'd have one since her grandmother had passed. I'm glad I did it, even if she's far from my favorite person.


I have a list of things I need to look into, this week. Starting with seeing who is doing what about all the fires in the Southeast right now.

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From:ashnistrike
Date:November 15th, 2016 05:38 am (UTC)
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Thank you.

We gave to ACLU, and went in on a group buy for yard signs that say "You are welcome here" in three languages. Checked in with our neighbors, and our daughter's school, and made sure everyone knows we've got their backs. Having our landlord over to dinner tomorrow, followed by finally getting a quote on solar panels. (We've been meaning to coordinate on that for over a year, but we've got kids and he's got a busy contracting business and it stayed on the "someday" list. But we are mutually agreed that it's time now.)

Our household debated over the safety pins. End result: some of us are wearing Stars of David or rainbow necklaces to be visible and spur ourselves to action. The middle school teacher is wearing her safety pin in solidarity with her diverse class of sixth graders who are all doing likewise. Our housemate who's hard of hearing is going unpinned, lest someone mistake her failure to hear a situation for bystander apathy, but promises to be a "stealth supporter" who'll step up when she does perceive a problem.

We've hugged our daughters a lot. They're both too young to understand, but like The Nation's Pets, they're just going with it.
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