Raising Democracy

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together, we can do great things. ~Mother Teresa

“We give each other our labor… In the giving, nothing is lost, though, and much is gained.” ~Amish farmer and new barn recipient

Have you ever seen an Amish barn raising? (If not, go here to see a time lapse video of an entire two-building barn “raised” between 7:00am and 5:00pm.)

It’s truly impressive. An entire structure – and quite a large one at that – is erected in the span of just a few hours. The frame, the roof, the walls – all of it is installed by the time the dinner bell rings.

Impossible for one person to do alone.

As you can imagine, before the true “raising,” there’s quite a bit of preparation. Every board is cut to specification; every beam is readied. Every piece of what is essentially a gigantic three-dimensional puzzle is created in advance, so that the actual raising day is simply putting those puzzle pieces together.

But still – every member of the community attends the actual barn raising, and every member (every man, woman and child) has a place, a job, a task. Those with special skills or talents – whether they be strength or precision or organization or leadership – are given a place to express them while the community builds together. Young men skittle up beams and work at the top of the structure; older men hand up materials from below; craftsmen lead teams of specialists; nobody is left without a hammer and a clear direction. Women work throughout the day ensuring the community is fed and hydrated. Young boys clear debris and remove nails from old boards.

Using everyone’s talents and everyone’s labor, by lunch, a barn is ready to hold hay. By dinner, it’s completely done.

And through it all, they have a glorious time.

Barn raising are work, sure – but they’re also a time to get together, to catch up, to share and laugh and clap each other on the back.

They’re probably the best example of what Amish call a “frolic” – a community event that combines group labor and socialization. Everything from creating a garden to canning peaches to, of course, barn raising, can be considered a frolic – so long as there are community members to socialize with and a clear task for the group to accomplish.

Frolics are opportunities to improve the community not only by undertaking a physical project – but also by providing an opportunity to socialize and share in that experience.

We can learn lessons from barn raisings. We see the amount of detailed preparation that comes before the “big event” (like, in our case, an election). The entrusting of certain tasks to certain specialists, who work with teams so they can pass their knowledge down; the recognition that everyone has a role, a voice, a task that matters and that contributes to the shared outcome. The recognition that the actual result is important, but that the community benefits from this shared experience in ways that can’t be tangibly felt but that strengthen the fabric of the society.

We’re in a sort of barn raising right now, aren’t we? We’re just in the preparation phase – getting ready for the big event in November. We’re cutting boards. We’re leveling off the ground; we’re laying the foundation. We’re making sure all the right nails are in all the right pails, and that all the right tools will be in the shed come November.

And right now we’re calling all of the members of the community – our community – to make sure they know that we need them. To make sure they know that they’re important. They have a voice, a task, a job.

That you have a voice. You have a task. You have a job.

Because pretty soon it will be time for the actual barn to be built. And all of the frolics that we’ve had or will have (whether they be postcard parties, or voter registration drives, or canvasses) will have both strengthened our community and helped lay the groundwork for the final construction.

And in November, we will finally gather together to see all of the puzzle pieces that we’ve painstakingly crafted fit together… just so.

Friend, it’s going to be a mighty grand frolic.

So let’s get to work.



Tuesday: Undertake a Facebook Cleaning Project

Wow – this week has been … informative. We learned that many, if not most, of us have had our data breached and used by Cambridge Analytica to profile the American electorate, successfully suppress Clinton voters and elect a “moron” as President.


Now that we know this, let’s take some action.

If you haven’t decided just to get rid of Facebook altogether, and some have, then you should take a few steps to understand who has access to your data and restrict it going forward. Go to the “settings” section of your Facebook page. On the left hand side, you’ll see “apps.” Click that to go to a place that will give you the ability to restrict the information seen by a variety of apps that you may – or may not – have remembered you accessed. (I did not recall, for example, that I had a TripAdvisor app. So even if you don’t think you have any, you should check.) From there, you can choose what information apps have going forward. There’s also a section called “apps others use” – click there to dis-enable anyone else from being able to “carry” your information with them as they use apps.


Wednesday: Get Ready to March for Our Lives!

I’m sure that you’ve heard by now that there is a big march planned for March 24 – this Saturday. This march is to protest gun violence; it was organized by the Parkland high school students who have emerged on the scene as the purest and most impassioned voices on this issue. So here’s a great resource to find a march near you. If you don’t feel like marching, you can always kick in a few dollars to your local event defray costs of putting it on (they’re not inexpensive affairs – with permits, port-a-potties, etc. they can easily run $5k or more).

Thursday: Comment on Proposed Rules Permitting Religion to Dictate Health Care

Well, here they go again. The Trump administration has “proposed a broad and harmful rule allowing allow individuals and entities to use their beliefs to block patients from getting the care they need. This rule is the latest attempt by the Administration to enshrine discrimination in virtually all facets of health care.”

In a nutshell, as explained by the National Women’s Law Center, it expands existing law and “grant[s] new rights to those who believe their personal beliefs should determine the care a patient receives. It is the latest in this Administration’s attempts to roll back the rights of women and LGBTQ individuals—many of whom, in particular individuals of color and those struggling to make ends meet – already face barriers in accessing the full range of health services and coverage that meets their health needs.”

Lambda Legal adds – “The proposed rule doesn’t just protect health care institutions and medical providers who refuse care on religious grounds, it shields anyone who claims a “moral” objection, too. Not only is a government unit now tasked with ensuring that health workers get to refuse care, they will even be protected when they refuse to give a referral.”

Oh – and did we already talk about the fact that the rule would add a new HHS division called the “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division”? It would conduct audits and compliance reviews to “ensure that health care providers are allowing workers to opt out of procedures when they have religious or moral objections.”

You cannot make this stuff up.

And it’s been completely flying under the radar. Because, you know, nuclear annihilation seems more likely these days.

So please – head over to the comment page at Regulations.gov and register your objection. I don’t like to provide sample text here because I don’t want us to be “lumped” together and delegitimized. So just speak from the heart and tell them you see what they’re doing and you are not a fan.

And then share this issue with your friends! Not enough people know about this.

Friday: Check Out a New Resource!

I admit that I’m always interested by the data that’s collected on Trump’s approval, particularly when it’s broken down by state – and even more when it’s compared with approval ratings over time. So I was tickled when I learned of this new resource by the Morning Consult, which you can review to see the change in approval/disapproval by state, and over time. Check it out over a cup of coffee!

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.

If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.

Have a thought? A small deed to suggest? Share it here!

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