Method 18 + Ukulele Challenge + #SmockingGun

Today’s post in 3 points:

Ukulele Challenge: On Thursday I posted a new ukulele tune: “Mueller, please hurry up.” People tell me it’s “adorable” and that definitely wasn’t the plan, but whatever – maybe the collective vibe worked, because:

Mueller Investigation: From the Washington Post: “Russians interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and transition,” along with this fun graphic. (credit: WashingtonPost) Sh*t’s going DOWN.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 11.56.23 AM

Step 18 in Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy is “Display of Flags and Symbolic Colors.” Some more examples that we’re not just making this sh*T up:

Since November 17, 125,000 protestors have taken to the streets of Paris wearing the yellow vests required to be carried in every vehicle by French law as a protest to rising diesel costs. Although the movement hasn’t been without violence – windows smashed, cars burned, and shops looted – the movement’s core aim “to highlight the economic frustration and political distrust of poorer working families, still has widespread support.” On Friday, the French retail federation told Reuters that retailers have lost about $1.1 billion since the protests first began on November 17, and that the restaurant trade had declined by between 20% and 50%.

As I covered two weeks ago, sustained, silent, nonviolent protest of just a small group of committed members can make lasting change. Kindergarten teacher Sam Goldman is at the helm of Philadelphia’s “Resist Fascism Philly,” and last weekend I’d planned to pull on a red handmaid cloak and do some caroling until the event was cancelled to protest in another location. Pink pussy hats and red handmaid cloaks make a statement wherever they appear. When I’m wearing my kitty hat in my Philly neighborhood, I get smiles and nods, but on the boardwalk in a conservative county New Jersey? Stares. Silence.

That’s the power of Step 18.

Stay the course.

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3.5% Project



Method 17: Mock Elections / DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN

The ALL CAPS front page of the April 9, 2016 edition of Boston Globe read “DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN,” and was dated April 9, 2017. The front page was an imagined the dystopian world under Donald Trump, and it included articles like “Market sinks as trade war looms,” a new libel law targeting “scum in the press,” and an address by Trump to the nation, saying illegals would be deported “so fast your head will spin.”

In a scathing editorial, the Globe called the mock-up “an exercise in taking a man at his word.”

“Donald J Trump’s vision for the future of our nation is as deeply disturbing as it is profoundly un-American,” it read.

And here we are.

Step 17: “Mock Elections,” from the blueprint to start a revolution, is a nonviolent tool that allows people’s voices to be heard before the real damage is done. One week before Election Day in 2016, the American Statistical Association released the results of a mock presidential election comprised of the votes of high school and college students from 19 states. A whopping Ninety-seven percent of participants favored Clinton – with 49.3% of the popular vote versus 43.3% for Trump.

We know the bad news.

The good news is that many of those underage voters will have turned 18 by 2020, and they’re pissed.

What to do? Pay attention next time you see news about mock elections. Don’t underestimate their power when you see their reappearance in early 2020 – let them be a warning. Make that sh*t go viral.

Step 17: Mock Elections

3.5% Project



Method 15: Group lobbying + “In these shoes?”

This week I’m doing my best not to spiral into hopelessness at the news about the wildfires in California, where 1600+ people are still missing. Or yesterday’s shootings. Or the DOW. Or the emails. If you want to know what you can do about all of these issues, this is your post.

When I look back on my time on Capitol Hill, the first thing I remember is the shoes. Very high, very pointy shoes. (It was the implicit dress code – unless you were a dude.) Up and down the marble halls of Russell, Dirkson and Hart, grab a quick panini and a shot of espresso before hustling over to Longworth and Rayburn. After a day of fifteen 30-minute pitch meetings, by the time I got to Union Station, my feet were on fire.

I worked for a social policy “think tank,” where we thought about things like prisoner reentry, literacy and education reform, how to improve the effectiveness of nurse/family partnerships, and youth development. Nonprofits are prevented from lobbying, but the approach isn’t so different: feel passionately about a cause, research or develop a theory of change, meet with a member of Congress to explain why you’re so committed to the issue, and reinforce the position you’d like that elected official to take.

You hear politicians complain about special interest groups, and that’s because the big ones often misuse their power. A recent study found that when it comes to climate change, major polluters spend 10 times as much on climate lobbying as green groups. But there are just as many smaller political action committees that have made a major impact by joining together to support a common cause. In the midterm elections, anti-gun groups outspent the NRA.

Learn more about the groups supporting the causes that matter to you, and throw them a few bucks. Small donors raised $1.6 billion dollars for the last election cycle, and now Congress looks like this:


Sure, composting and saying no to plastic straws and stocking your rock-ringed firepit with with a bucket of water and a shovel make a difference, but when lobbyists act more like advocates, this practice can be one of the most effective practices for convincing politicians to vote for the issues that ensure lasting change.

3.5% Project



Method 14: Mock Awards / Psychological Profiles of the World’s Dictators

Margaret Atwood famously said: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Herein lies the power of Step 14 from the blueprint to take down a dictator: mock awards.

As is the case of the psychological profile of many dictators, Trump’s narcissism, while dangerous, is also a point of weakness. The US Government has been conducting psychological profiles of the world’s dictators for 75 years or more, and Trump has been a point of interest for psychologists since before he was elected to the office of President.

Baby in the crib
Getty/AP (Salon)

In 1943, the CIA’s World War II-era predecessor, commissioned Henry A. Murray of the Harvard Psychological Clinic to evaluate Hitler’s personality based on remote observations. In an unsparing 240-page assessment, Murray and his colleagues concluded that Adolph Hitler was an “insecure, impotent, masochistic, and suicidal neurotic narcissist.”

Nikita Khrushchev: “Immoderately sensitive to slights.”

Fidel Castro: “So highly neurotic and unstable a personality as to be quite vulnerable to certain kinds of psychological pressure. The outstanding neurotic elements in his personality are his hunger for power and his need for the recognition and adulation of the masses…”

Joseph Stalin: narcissism and paranoia

Kim Jong-il: a North Korean psychologist who had “advanced psychological research training and intimate and established knowledge of Kim Jong-il (and wished to remain anonymous,  for obvious reasons) believed that the dictator possessed all of the “the big six” personality disorders:

  • Paranoid
  • Antisocial
  • Narcissistic
  • Sadistic
  • Schizoid
  • Schizotypal

Saddam Hussein: paranoid, antisocial, narcissistic, and sadistic. Like Hitler, the Hussein study revealed probable schizophrenic symptoms as well. (source: “The Scientific American”)

And Trump?

For psychologists, it is almost impossible to talk about Donald Trump without using the word narcissism. Asked to sum up Trump’s personality for an article in Vanity Fair, Howard Gardner, a psychologist at Harvard, responded, “Remarkably narcissistic.” George Simon, a clinical psychologist who conducts seminars on manipulative behavior, says Trump is “so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example” of narcissism. “Otherwise I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.” – The Atlantic, June 2016 Issue

Truly “vulnerable,” or more “neurotic” narcissistic types have relatively fragile egos and are both anxious and hypersensitive when it comes to their social image. They tend to be constantly comparing themselves to others and “have something to prove” about themselves. It’s hard for them to experience joy in someone else’s success, especially if they think it makes them look bad or inferior by comparison ( Dr. George Simon).

Which is why Gene Sharp’s research shows that mock awards are ranked #14 on the list of effective nonviolent actions. When dictators are shown to be vulnerable, the resulting effect is a continued weakening of power in the eyes of those who continue to keep them in power. (Yes you, GOP.)

Trump is infamous for mocking his opponents, so “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” put together a list of bogus titles that Trump has given himself over the last few years. “The least racist person you have ever interviewed” is, of course, among them.

Your Turn

I polled friends to see what awards they’d give Trump – find their comments on Instagram, and feel free to add your own.

3.5% Project



Method 13: Deputations / protests, sex strikes

In less than 24 hours after the midterm elections:

  • Trump fired Jeff Sessions and replaced him with a man who wrote a 2017 op-ed that said Mueller’s investigation was “going too far.”
  • Trump revoked CNN Reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass for questioning the president’s characterization of a migrant caravan of roughly 4,000 Central American immigrants who are walking through Mexico to claim asylum in the U.S.
  • 13 people are dead after a mass shooting at a bar in California.

I went to bed worried and woke up crying. Today, this feels insurmountable, but we cannot give up. Trump’s actions yesterday were a diversion from the positive gains made during the midterms, and I won’t give him airtime because I want to focus on what we can do to address gun violence in America. This may be the most important post I’ve written about nonviolent action, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it and share it with people who might work with us to make change.

Method 13: Deputations

Method 13 in the Methods of Nonviolent Action is called “Deputations,” a critical step to making widespread change. Similar to a delegation, a deputation is a group of people organized around a social concern who engage in specific actions to make change.

A brilliant example of this comes from the year 2000, when a group of Christian and Muslim Liberian women joined together to protest against the outbreak of Liberia’s second civil war. In reaction to the conflict, social worker Leymah Gbowee brought the women from her church together to protest the war. Within the first week, 2,500 women staged protests on the lawn of the local fish market. Every day, President Charles Taylor’s motorcade passed the women as they joined hands, sang and danced for peace.

Like the Greek play Lysistrata, the women decided to hold a sex strike, denying their partners intimacy until the war had ended.

Seeing that men were the perpetrators of the violence, the Liberian women felt that if they were to withhold sex, their partners would also pray for peace and support an end to the war.

The women named themselves the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace and issued a position statement on the crisis. The women stayed outside the political realm for fear of persecution, stating that their goal was simply that of peace. (Read a brief case study here.)

Over the next two years, the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace group worked with the government to bring about democratic elections. They registered voters and set up polling stations, and on November 23, 2005, the Liberian people elected their country’s first female president, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Immediate Action

It is estimated that between 3,300,000 – 4,600,000 of us participated in the Women’s March, and up to 5 million worldwide.

Imagine what could happen if 1.1 million of us3.5% of the U.S. population – worked together until the gun laws are changed to protect our children and friends from being killed in schools, in places of worship, in places of celebration? What would it take?

There are delegations working to enforce stricter gun control in every state. Support them in whatever way you can. Share, donate, join.

Don’t give up the fight.


3.5% Project




photo credit: Greg MacVean 


Method 11: Get Up Stand Up

Tonight’s post comes with a playlist. Step 11 of Gene Sharp’s 198 steps of nonviolent action emphasizes the vital role of television, radio, and music in creating effective political action. I’m posting this a few hours after CNN announced that explosive devices were delivered to the offices of CNN, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. Just a few days ago, this news pretty much stopped my heart. T– Who Shall Not Be Named talked of the need for the nation to stay united, saying that “threats or acts of political violence have no place” in the US. Then, he turned around and continued his attacks on the media during a rally in Wisconsin.

Because I feel like we could all use an anthem right now, this post focuses on the power of music. In times of political turmoil, music is about more than entertainment – it serves as a tool for voicing the political positions of the people, and it’s an effective way to engage and ignite the energy of large crowds.

It’s 9 pm here in Philadelphia and I’m posting this as a reminder to all of us that THIS WORKS. These are some of my favorites – feel free to leave yours in the comments.

“If there’s any hope for America, it lies in a revolution. And if there’s any hope for a revolution, it lies in Elvis Presley to become Che Guevara.” – Phil Ochs

“Mississippi Goddam” – Nina Simone

“Free Nelson Mandela” – The Special AKA

“Free Nelson Mandela” was a Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom for The Special AKA in 1984, and it instantly became the unofficial anthem and slogan for the international anti-apartheid movement.

“Why is Your Heaven So Small” – Susan Werner

My brilliant friend Susan Werner’s song, “Why is Your Heaven So Small” has been ringing in my ears all day. If it gets inside you, please share it.

“Get Up Stand Up” – Bob Marley and the Wailers

“Drawing from their troubled island’s political strife and its musical traditions, Marley and Tosh built their track on a bedrock of groove and a strong lyrical statement of fact: unalienable rights are not reserved for a special class or for those who wait patiently for greener pastures; rather, all human life under the sun is of equal value, right here and right now. At once a cry to rally and a call for prayer, “Get Up Stand Up” still remains an all-purpose change anthem, nearly 40 years after it was first sung.” – Paste Magazine

“March of the Women” – Dame Ethel Smyth

Dame Ethel Smyth wrote the March of the Women (1911) for the Women’s Social and Political Union, the leading organization of the suffragists in Britain. Not only was she the first woman composer ever to be made a Dame, she was the first (and possibly only) composer of any gender to conduct her own music in prison using a toothbrush for a baton.

“Quiet” – Milck

In January 2017, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Milck (real name Connie Lim) released a song that became an unofficial anthem of the Women’s March in Washington DC. “Quiet” was a reflection of Lim’s frustration over societal expectations for women to remain quiet, unseen and unheard, and a reaction to her own experiences of domestic violence and having an eating disorder. She timed its release to coincide with the series of Women’s Marches being held around the world.


“Revolution” – The Beatles

“Count me out if it’s for violence. Don’t expect me on the barricades unless it’s with flowers.” – John Lennon, 1980, about how “Revolution” still stood as an expression of his politics.

“Ohio” – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Days after the Kent State massacre, Neil Young saw a photo of 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of college student Jeffrey Miller. He poured his rage and sorrow into the lyrics to “Ohio” and called his bandmates into the studio the following day to record the new song.

“Putin Will Teach You How to Love” – Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot is flatout badass, and their approach to protest mirrors effective practices in other nonviolent movements: the leadership and membership is fluid. Founded in August 2011, it has a variable membership of approximately 11 women ranging in age from about 20 to 33. Given the staging of this year’s World Cup tournament in Russia, it seemed inevitable that a Pussy Riot protest would take place. The group chose the final game for their protest – which was screened to an audience of millions across the world – and the group later confirmed that it had taken place in protest of human rights abuses in Russia.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” – Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (1971) protests political passiveness and is a commentary on the inability of pop culture and mainstream media to address the real concerns of the people.

“People Have The Power” – Patti Smith

Patti Smith, American singer-songwriter, artist, and inimitable poet: “People Have The Power.”

“War” – Edwin Starr

War. What is it good for?

“Killing in the Name” – Rage Against the Machine

In 1992, Rage Against the Machine released “Killing in the Name” as their debut single, a song about racism, police brutality and defiance. I admit I wrote this song off until recently, but lately its crept into my head. Rolling Stone wrote that “it has the power to stir up a crowd like virtually no other song in human history.”

Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”

Got to give us what we want (uh)
Gotta give us what we need (hey)
Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say
Fight the power (lemme hear you say)
Fight the power
Fight the power

“We Shall Overcome” – Pastor Albert Tindley / Pete Seeger

“We Shall Overcome” has been a civil rights song for 50 years now, heard not just in the U.S. but in North Korea, in Beirut, in Tiananmen Square, in South Africa’s Soweto Township. But it began as a folk song, a work song. Slaves in the fields would sing, ‘I’ll be all right someday.’ It became known in the churches. A Methodist minister, Charles Albert Tindley, published a version in 1901: “I’ll Overcome Someday,” and in 1963 Pete Seeger created a version that became an anthem for the civil rights movement.

“Give Peace a Chance” – John Lennon

I almost put “Imagine” in place of this song, but tonight I needed something to stir me up.

“Give Peace a Chance” was written during Lennon and Ono’s “Bed-In” honeymoon in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.[2] When asked by a reporter what he was trying to achieve by staying in bed, Lennon answered spontaneously “Just give peace a chance”.

What would you add? Feel free to leave them in the comments or on Facebook.

Method 10: Newspapers and Journals

Before I move on to Method 10 in From Dictatorship to Democracy, a quick note of thanks to reader Audrey Ling for sharing my post I’m Part of the 3.5% with the Green County Democratic Party newsletter in Ohio. Audrey and others of you have written to me to share about the grassroots work you’re doing around the country. I’m about to head over to my local weekly postcard writing event, and if you’re looking for a way to help get out the vote on November 6, Postcards to Voters is a great resource. To date, 20,000+ volunteers in every state have written more than 3 million postcards to voters in over 100+ key, close elections.


Step 10: Newspapers and Journals

Step 10 in my ongoing project is one of the most critical steps in maintaining a healthy democracy, and in the Trump Administration, it’s been the most widely attacked. (Can you hear “fake news” without cringing?) Media shape how we interpret and observe political information, and because citizens play a crucial role in the political process in democracy, one our access to information is cut off, it impairs our ability to make educated political choices.

Two weeks ago, FRESH AIR’s Terry Gross interviewed Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Greg Miller about his coverage of the Trump Administration, and it the interview is absolutely chilling. For almost two years, President Trump has denied Russia interfered in our election in spite of the evidence presented by American intelligence agencies and journalists. Washington Post reporter Greg Miller has broken stories that have revealed new information to the public about that interference and about connections between the Trump campaign, and in this interview, he talks about receiving death threats and being trolled as a result of his commitment to report the truth.

Screen Shot 2018-10-18 at 8.13.39 PM

source: Author Of ‘The Apprentice’ Talks Of Getting Trolled And Sourcing Stories

What’s at Stake

For more than two weeks, the world has been watching the story of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. As I write, Turkish investigators wearing hazmat suits are searching the Saudi consul general’s residence in Istanbul. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain papers that would have allowed him to marry his Turkish fiancée. The insider-turned-critic of the Saudi government has not been seen since. Turkish officials have told CNN that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered after he was killed in the consulate.

Jamal Khashoggi wrote this OpEd two weeks before his disappearance.

All the words I can think of to write today come up empty. If you want to do something, listen to the interview with WaPo Greg Miller about what he faces in this country, and consider writing a thank you letter to The Washington Post thanking them for their service. As Greg shared, they read their mail, and their commitment to keeping all of us informed about the truth is what keeps them doing what they’re doing.

Update: tonight, the Washington Post’s Global Opinions editor published what will be Jamal Khashoggi’s final published piece:

A note from Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor

I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.

Source: “Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression.”

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – The First Amendment

song: 1st Amendment, The Most Perfect Album

Step 9: “Resisting plot is a political act”

When Lidia Yuknavitch spoke these words at her workshop last May, I scribbled them in my notebook and something broke loose. My entire life has resisted plot, and seeing my writing life in this context was more than pivotal – it’s become a daily mantra. (If you’re nodding your head, you know.) Art as an act of political resistance is the theme of Step 9, but first, a quick announcement:

melidleighIn November, I’ll be joining Lidia Yuknavitch as an online workshop leader for Epistemologies: Writing to Unmake and Remake Meaning. Over the past year, I’ve been a columnist and the curator of Corporeal Clamor, a curated series at Corporeal Writing. Part of the CW philosophy is “leading people into new and unknown territories from which they can make art,” and because I so love collaborating with other writers, this new role at Corporeal Writing sets my heart on fire.

Class begins November 4.

Over the past two years, the writers I’ve met through Corporeal Writing are part of a revolution. They’re publishing pieces like this one by my friend Marissa in Harper’s Bazaar, and last week, NPR featured artist Laura Gibson’s song “Domestication.” Laura was working on lyrics to the song when she took the “Exhausting Metaphor” workshop at Corporeal Writing a year ago. As an added bonus, Anya Pearson, who she met at the workshop, plays a character in the video.

This is what Lidia means when she calls Corporeal Writing “a creative process that values participant collaboration.” If this idea sets a fire inside of you and you’ve got something to say, come write with us.


Step 9: Leaflets, Pamphlets, and Books

Step 9 in the “blueprint” From Dictatorship to Democracy emphasizes the critical role of artists and intellectuals in making political and social change. Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan was released just after T– entered the White House, and the post-apocalyptic nature of the work struck a chord with the public.

From the New York Times Book Review:

“Telling the truth with precision and rage and a visionary’s eye, using both realism and fabulism, is one way to break through the white noise of a consumerist culture that tries to commodify post-apocalyptic fiction, to render it safe.” – Jeff VanderMeer, A Brilliant, Incendiary Joan of Arc Story for a Ravaged Earth, The New York Times

Throughout history, times of political turmoil have been influenced by works of art. My project 3.5% was inspired by a pamphlet by Gene Sharp that has been passed around the globe since its release in 1993. Others on the list of transgressive game-changers:

The Republic – Plato

Liberty Leading the People – Eugène Delacroix

A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Wolfe

The Jungle – Upton Sinclair

1984 – George Orwell

Beloved – Toni Morrison

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

When Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

50 books that changed the world.

15 Banned Books

What’s on your list?

Share it in the comments.

Step 8: Girl, hold my earrings

Before I move on to Step 8, you’ve probably heard that today is the last day to register to vote in most states. A lot of people still haven’t. On Sunday, Taylor Swift’s Instagram post encouraging her 112 million followers to vote saw a flood of new registrations nationwide.

“We are up to 65,000 registrations in a single 24-hour period since T. Swift’s post,” said Kamari Guthrie, director of communications for

Not sure if you’re registered to vote? makes it easy. Pass the link around – send an email, post it on social media, or text your contacts with the link.

Once you fill in your address, here’s what you’ll see. It’s that easy.

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Step 8: Banners, Posters, and Displays

Step 8 in the blueprint for democracy does two important things: it sends a visible, often viral message and it strengthens the resolve of the 3.5%. That’s how this plan works: when one of us needs more coffee, there’s always someone waiting with refills.

“Girl, hold my earrings.”

– Statue of Liberty, Women’s March on Philadelphia, January 2018


photo credit: Leigh Hopkins


“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth 

About the 3.5% Project

The purpose of “The 3.5% Project” is to provide an ongoing context for Harvard professor Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action––a blueprint for nonviolent resistance. Each of the 198 methods can be used at any time, in any order, by anyone. (Read the blog for the most recent post.) If you’re part of the 3.5%, feel free to subscribe at the top right to receive your weekly method, and please share liberally.

“Researchers used to say that no government can survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it, but what the research showed is that no single campaigns failed during the time period after they’d achieved the active sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population.” – Erica Chenoweth


from the Albert Einstein Institute:


Formal Statements
1. Public Speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public statements
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions

Continue reading “About the 3.5% Project”