Step 3: Declarations by Organizations and Institutions

A few days ago, Martipants asked this question about my recent post: 

“Why can we not share our fury and still protest non-violently?”

Martipants, I’m glad you asked – I’ve been wanting to dig into this.

We CAN and SHOULD be outraged, but as I keep reminding myself, it’s what we do with it. (To cut to the chase,* see below the handmaids photo.) For the past 2 years, I’m the person who shows up to a party and rants, which usually produces this kind of response. I’m a total buzz kill. However, when I ask friends if they’re willing to help get out the vote for midterms, the response is basically: “where and when?”

Here’s a phenomenal example on what to do with fury. Last week, when VP Mike Pence visited Philadelphia for a fundraising dinner, activist Samantha Goldman of put the word out that they were recruiting 100 handmaids to organize attend a protest. As Sam wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

One of the “handmaids,” Michele, said to me, “I protest for any person that feels that this administration is gunning to strip them of their rights and who live in fear as to what’s going to happen next … I will not just calm down. I will not avoid what’s going on just because it hasn’t impacted my privileges …. yet.”


When applied quickly and consistently, this is the kind of nonviolent action that takes down regimes, and history is on our side. The point * is that whenever possible, our outrage needs to be fueled, because over time, it has the psychological effect of weakening our resolve – and that’s when the members of a regime often choose to act. As UC Berkley Professor Robert Reich reminds us,

“Keep your message positive. They want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies grow. No more helpless or hopeless talk.”


Step 3: Declarations by Organizations and Institutions

Step 3 of Gene Sharp’s blueprint for removing a dictator is listed as one of six formal actions. The American Psychological Association (APA) and American Psychiatric Organizations have been leading examples of how to use your organizational power for good. The APAs have released statements on everything from Post-Election Stress Disorder to the GOP Administration’s position on Standing Rock or the attempt to enact a transgender military ban to the separation of immigrant families at the border to gun violence:

The president of the American Psychological Association, Antonio E. Puente, PhD, issued a statement decrying President Trump for ref

erring to attacks such as the massacre at a Texas church on Sunday a mental health problem, opining, “Calling this shooting a ‘mental health problem’ distracts our nation’s leaders from developing policies and legislation that would focus on preventing gun violence through a scientific, public health approach.”

Today’s Action

SHORT GAME: Set aside 10 minutes to research some of the organizations you’re invested in, and learn more about their positions on current GOP Administration policies. Focus on the causes that matter most to you. (You might remember when a “rogue” National Park Service employee had something to say about climate change.)

LONG GAME: If you think your favorite organization could be stronger on specific policies, send a letter and let them know. If it applies, remind them that you’re a longtime supporter/donor and how these policies impact your life. If you’re up to it, you can even stop by their local offices and ask to speak to someone directly. This is the kind of nonviolent action that really makes an impact.

If you think your favorite organization is doing a great job, tweet it out, write them a letter, or send a donation with a thank you letter.

If this message speaks to you, share this post on Instagram or Facebook.




What’s On My Nightstand: July 2018


Two Spoons of Bitter | Sonja S. Mongar

The Catcher in the Rye |JD Salinger *

*missed it in high school


Short Fiction

Under the Wave | Lauren Groff

Pause | Mary Ruefle

The Blackout | Kelly Thompson



Emergent Strategy | Adrienne Maree Brown

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Account Right Now | Jaron Lanier

Energy Transmutation Between-ness and Transmission | Richard Rose

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities |Rebecca Solnit

How to Love | Thich Nhat Hanh



Pastrix | Nadia Bolz-Weber



The Paris Review, Summer 2018


Essay / Interview / OpEd

Why I helped organize the ‘Handmaids’ protest of Mike Pence| Samantha Goldman

American Garbage | Marissa Korbel

From Dictatorship to Democracy | Gene Sharp

The Saddest Children’s Book in the World | Yevgeniya Traps



Call Me By My True Names|Thich Nhat Hanh

Running| The New Yorker | Joy Harjo


Magazine / Newspaper

Lesbian Connection: free to lesbians worldwide, but the suggested donation is $7/issue (more if you can, less if you can’t)

The New Yorker

The Week



pine cone







Step 2: Letters of Opposition or Support

Before I tell you what I was up to today and move on to Step 2 of the blueprint, here’s  a question from one of my subscribers:

“There are countries where people have experienced genocide and other hardships way worse than what we’re going through. Are you sure we should call this a dictatorship?”

No, I’m not sure. On a technicality, this could <just> be fascism, “a government that exalts nation and often race above the individual” headed by a dictatorial individual who forcibly suppresses opposition.

UC Berkley Professor Robert Reich offers suggestions for how to manage talking about this, including the recommendation to replace T’s surname with “The GOP Administration” every time you mention him. Historically speaking, the GOP is behaving like a regime. It’s more effective to put the pressure on them. Either way, we’re witnessing the precursors to and/or direct dictatorial and fascist behaviors on a daily basis.

If you’re like me, you’re part of the 3.5%, so we’re not sitting on our hands while we wait to see what happens next. (For more reasons about why I’m using the d-word, see Jim Powell’s How Dictators Come To Power In A Democracy from Forbes magazine way back in 2013.)

Step 2: Letters of Opposition or Support

Last week, I introduced Gene Sharp’s blueprint for removing a dictator with a list of 198 methods of nonviolent action and persuasion. Step 2 is listed as one of the “formal” actions.

Wait – number 2? Does letter-writing actually work?

If it’s part of a wider strategy, YES.


Since June, my local coffee shop has been hosting a weekly letter-writing campaign, so today I stopped by to help. When I walked in, every table was filled. As I was looking for a seat, a woman who stopped by during her lunch break offered me her seat, along with a pen, a stack of postcards, and a suggested script.

Today’s focus was on getting out the vote for the midterms by sending hand-written postcards from community members to neighbors. The event was organized by a local organization connected to the state-wide coalition Turn PA Blue.

Here’s a bit of the buzz:

Today’s Action

If your community hosts letter-writing events, go whenever you can – and keep showing up. I found mine on Facebook, so check around to see if your state has something similar. It felt good to have an outlet for my outrage, and it was inspiring to be around people who felt the same.

Until today, all of my letter-writing has been a solo act, so if you can’t find anything local just yet, here are the ACLU’s tips on writing to your representatives. 

  1. Keep it brief: Letters should never be longer than one page, and should be limited to one issue. Legislative aides read many letters on many issues in a day, so your letter should be as concise as possible.
  2. State Who You Are and What You Want Up Front: In the first paragraph, tell your legislators that you are a constituent and identify the issue about which you are writing. If your letters pertains to a specific piece of legislation, it helps to identify it by its bill number (e.g. H.R. ____ or S. _____).
  3. Hit your three most important points: Choose the three strongest points that will be most effective in persuading legislators to support your position and flesh them out.
  4. Personalize your letter: Tell your elected official why this legislation matters in his community or state. If you have one, include a personal story that shows how this issue affects you and your family. A constituent’s personal stories can be the very persuasive as your legislator shapes his or her position.
  5. Personalize your relationship: Have you ever voted for this elected official? Have you ever contributed time or money to his or her campaign? Are you familiar with her through any business or personal relationship? If so, tell your elected official or his staff person. The closer your legislator feels to you, the more powerful your argument is likely to be.
  6. You are the Expert: Remember that your legislator’s job is to represent you. You should be courteous and to the point, but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. Remember that often your elected official may know no more about a given issue than you do.You can get the contact information for your Members of Congress at


If you need more fuel for your fire, read this.

Your voice matters. Every word counts.


Step 1: Public speeches

On Tuesday I promised you a blueprint, and today, I’m passing it around. It’s called From Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation, by Professor Gene Sharp. Sharp was the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the study of nonviolent action. This 1994 essay is a critical analysis of how to destroy a dictatorship and to prevent the rise of a new one. It includes a list of 198 methods of nonviolent action and persuasion, found on page 79.

You’ve probably heard the expression “If you’re not OUTRAGED, you’re not paying attention.” If you’re a 3.5%er, you’ve been outraged since the summer of 2016. Dictators know that daily outrage leads to feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness. When we share our fury, while it feels good to know we’re not alone, it also means we’re doing the dictator’s job for him. This is what dictators do – whether you’re for or against them, they mobilize people around a collective energy of hatred. When we unite in a common mission for equality and peace and sustain that wave of hope, the collective energy increases our number.

Step 1: Public speeches

Every time I share a step from this blueprint, it will come with a suggested Call to Action, something immediately doable and sustainable – with the understanding that “I’m part of the 3.5%” means that when one of us gets tired, someone standing next to us will be there to pick up the torch.

Today’s Action

Michelle Obama_Nelson MandelaSHORT GAME: Watch and/or share any one of the speeches below, or find another one you love. (Barack Obama’s 2004 speech is one of my all-time favorites.) The power of speeches is in their ability to mobilize large groups of people, so when you share the voices from the past with your children and friends, you are reminding them that true power unites us. 

Nelson Mandela said that “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” When you talk with friends are share on social media, experiment with what happens when you shift your words to messages of empowerment.

Fill the 3.5 percenters with the inspiration needed to cancel out the noise.

LONG GAME: Be on the lookout for opportunities to attend public speeches in your community and invite your friends and family to attend. Make it a social event. Bring drinks and snacks and folding chairs. Show up in numbers. Make your presence seen and heard.

Gandhi challenged his country: “No clapping is possible without two hands to do it.” In other words: “There IS no government if the people refuse to be ruled by it.” Today, anyone with a social media account has a platform, so if your hands refuse to clap, make them click and tweet and love or like, but let all your words confirm our power.

We are building our base.

The podium is yours.

“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America.” – Barack Obama, 2004

July 17, 2018

– resources: From Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation, by Gene Sharp, Appendix One, “The Methods of Nonviolent Action”

“No clapping is possible without two hands to do it,” from On Nonviolent Resistance by Mohandas K. Gandhi

Nonviolent does not mean passive.  twitter-bird

Did I miss one of your favorite speeches? Feel free to post the link in the comments.

I’m part of the 3.5%

“I’d like to ask you to imagine that you live in a very repressive country. There are elections, but they are fake. The leader wins 100% of the vote each time. Security forces beat up opposition leaders with impunity, and they harass everyone else.” – Dr. Erica Chenoweth, September 21, 2013


Imagine that you live in a very repressive country.

There are elections,

but they are fake.




In 2011, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan published a groundbreaking study about the impact of civil resistance in the 21st Century. Chenoweth admits that she began the research as a bit of a skeptic, she felt that nonviolent action education “well-intentioned, but dangerously naive.”

Over two years, Chenoweth and Stephan examined 323 nonviolent and violent campaigns throughout the world, all of which took place between 1900 – 2006. They focused on actions that involved at least 1,000 participants and resulted in the overthrow of a government or a territorial liberation of some kind.

What their research concluded that the nonviolent opposition campaigns were actually more than twice as successful in achieving their political objectives.



from Why Civil Resistance Works The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, by Erica Chenoweth, Maria J Stephan


Nonviolent opposition

is more than


as successful.


The research also showed that this trend has been increasing over time, even in those extremely brutal authoritarian conditions where the researchers expected non-violent resistance to fail.

In her 2013 TED Talk, Chenoweth said:

“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



participation of just

3.5 percent of the population.


In the US today, that’s about 11 million people.

On average, non-violent campaigns were

four times larger

than the average violent campaign and they were often

much more inclusive and representative

in terms of




political party,

class and

urban-rural distinction.

Civil resistance allows people of all different levels of physical ability to participate.

This can include

the elderly

people with disabilities


children and

anyone who else wants to.


If you think about it, everyone is born with a natural physical ability to resist non-violently.  Anyone who has kids knows how hard it is to pick up a child who doesn’t want to move or to feed a child who doesn’t want to eat.”


Imagine that you live in a very repressive country.

There are elections,

but they are fake.




Now let’s say you’ve had enough.

That’s where I am tonight.


It turns out that there are blueprints for making this kind of thing happen. And if you’re ready to act, I’ve got a map and a flashlight.

Tonight’s action:

If you’re part of the 3.5% of the population who are willing to engage in active sustained nonviolent participation, tag 3 people on social media you know you can count on to join us. Feel free to tag this post or a link the video below with the words:

I’m part of the 3.5%.twitter-bird

Invite your friends to watch the video below, and ask them to tag 3 people they know who can be counted on to join us.

I’ll be back soon.

What’s On My Nightstand: June 2018


There, There / Tommy Orange


Short Fiction

“Without Inspection” | Edwidge Danticat

People Like You | Margaret Malone


Emergent Strategy | Adrienne Maree Brown

Who Will Speak for America? | edited by Stephanie Feldman and Nathaniel Popkin

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities |Rebecca Solnit

Tao Te Ching | Lao Tsu



The Paris Review, Summer 2018


Essay / Interview / OpEd

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Comes to Terms with Global Fame | Larissa MacFarquhar



If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho | Ann Carson

For You / Sharon Olds


Magazine / Newspaper

Lesbian Connection: free to lesbians worldwide, but the suggested donation is $7/issue (more if you can, less if you can’t)

The New Yorker

The Week

The Shuttle – Weaver’s Way Coop



rock: “There will be rough times and hard times, but you can never be put down” – Alexander, age 8

180 | Mnemosyne notebook

Blessing Spray: palo santo + selenite | Ark Made

June 30 flyers







What’s On My Nightstand: May 2018


La Bastarda, Trifonia Melibea Obono

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

brown girl dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson


Short Fiction

Without Inspection, by Edwidge Danticat

The Long Black Line, by John L’Heureux



we are never meeting in real life. by Samantha Irby

Energy Transmutation Between-Ness and Transmission, by Richard Rose



The Paris Review, Spring 2018


Essay / Interview / OpEd

Why Are We So Fascinated by Cults? by Kirstin Allio (The Paris Review)

What Just Happened in Malaysia? by Tash Aw (The New York Times)

Stop mocking Kim Kardashian West for caring about prison reform, by Chandra Bozelko (Los Angeles Times)



The morning after / my death, by Etel Adnan

The Universe in Verse, by Maya Angelou

Testament Scratched into a Water Station Barrel (Partial Translation), by Eduardo C. Corrall

Reconsolidation: Or, It’s the Ghosts Who Will Answer You, by Janice Lee

Marina, by Cynthia Zarin



A Commonplace Book, by Christina McPhee


Magazine / Newspaper

Lesbian Connection

The New Yorker

The Week

The Shuttle – Weaver’s Way Coop



paper cranes


map of Portland, OR

map of Powell’s Bookstore

day planner, Mon Carnet de Poche

Rosebud Salve

purple pony