Tag Archives: human rights

Step 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.

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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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Step 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:

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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.

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Step 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.

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Step 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.

Step 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.

 


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photo credit: Greg MacVean 

 

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 Vote.org.

Not sure if you’re registered to vote? Vote.org 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 

Step 7: What will we do with a drunken justice?

Margaret Atwood wrote that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.”

When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”

Whatever the outcome of this morning’s vote, today will change history.

Last night, I cried, but this morning, on my birthday, I woke up 50 and full of rage.

For weeks, I’ve been putting my fury into grassroots organizing and releasing the steps from From Dictatorship to Democracy – a pamphlet based on forty years of non-violent methods of demonstration – written and printed by Professor Gene Sharp. Now in its fourth edition, the pamphlet has been translated into thirty-one languages. It was passed hand-to-hand as a photocopied pamphlet from Burma to Indonesia, Serbia and most recently Egypt, Tunisia and Syria, with dissent in China also reported. Surreptitiously handed out amongst youth uprisings the world over, this how-to guide played a role in successful uprisings across the globe.

Just 3.5% of us engaging in sustained non-violent action – that’s what this takes.

Steps 1-6 were on the list of formal actions, but today we move on to the nonviolent informal actions, the actions that might seem harmless, but are on the playlist of every successful nonviolent campaign.

This is where we laugh at them.

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– images courtesy of Marilyn Wood, a fellow activist and friend, taken during DC demonstrations on Thursday. Senator Elizabeth Warren was the only person who joined them in the streets. 300 people were arrested. Marilyn wrote to me: “It matters most that we fight back.”

Step 6: We will not yield

It’s the eve of the vote that may confirm Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice, and if the collective wave of rage and grief is about to pull you under, I’m here to ask you to hang in there. Not because I want to try to convince you that what seems inevitable won’t happen – but because our voices deserve to be heard.

In the words of Senator Maxine Waters, “I will not yield.”

Thirty years from now, I want to look be able to look back on this night and remember that I didn’t stay silent. Here are the calls I’m making, and if you want to join me, stop by and tell me what happened when you called.

Call these Senators tonight

Lisa Murkowski: 202-224-6665

to urge her to stay the course / VOTE NO on Kavanaugh

Susan Collins: 202-224-2523

to tell her she has just betrayed every survivor, and she can still VOTE NO on Kavanaugh

Jeff Flake: 202-224-4521

to remember the women in the elevator, and he can still VOTE NO on Kavanaugh

Joe Manchin: (202) 224-3954

to remind him that he can change his mind VOTE NO on Kavanaugh

Lindsey Graham: (202) 224-5972

to remind him that John McCain is watching

Joe Donnelly: (202) 224-4814

to ask him to VOTE NO on Kavanaugh (and grow a pair while he’s at it)

Then I’ll call my own senators, one Democrat (“thank you”) and one Republican (“Pennsylvania will vote you out”) and call it a night.

No, I will not yield.

 

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Why do I keep posting these steps? Because research shows that no government can survive if just 3.5% of the population maintains:

active

sustained

non-violent

participation.

 

There’s a playbook, and I’ve got a copy. Societies have passed it around the globe, and it works. Every time.

Call your Senators, then pour yourself a drink or order a pizza and come tell me about it.

We are here for each other.