The nation is divided – half patriots and half traitors, and no man can tell which from which. ~Mark Twain
On our drive to school, my son and I sometimes listen to podcasts. And we recently re-discovered an old favorite, called Stories Podcast.
It’s chock full of original, entertaining stories – with some fables and folk tales peppered in. The other day we listened to one of my favorite episodes, called The Moringa Grove. And it made me think of all of you, and all of us.
I won’t tell it as beautifully as they do on Stories Podcast, but here goes:
Deep in the savannah, a terrible drought had drained all of the ponds, and the lakes, and the rivers. The last pools of water lay under the shade of a grove of Moringa trees that were fed by a spring deep beneath the earth.
In the shade of the trees, animals of all kinds gathered to drink. Lions and zebras, cheetahs and warthogs. There was an uneasy truce among them, but still – tempers flared.
Get out of my way! Shouted a cheetah. I need a drink, and I need it now!
Pipe down, shouted a warthog who was closer to the front of the line. Wait your turn!
The cheetah stepped back.
But a vulture spied the cheetah’s expression, and flew down to console him.
Are you going to take that from some striped warthog? It whispered into the cheetah’s spotted ear. After all, you have spots! – the finest fur in the land. I should say you deserve more respect – and more water. You should be at the front of the line…
The cheetah nodded, and simmered.
Then the vulture lighted near the striped warthog, and whispered: Ahh, just look at your stripes! The most beautiful fur in all the land. Surely stripes deserve more water than spots – you are clearly superior, you know. It’s good that you are getting your fill before those spotted creatures.
The warthog nodded, and snorted.
Soon enough striped animals and spotted animals were arguing among each other as to which deserved more respect – and more water. Giraffes claimed to deserve more water because they were clearly the most beautiful while zebras claimed to have dominance because of their clearly defined stripes.
The vulture above fluffed his feathers and smiled.
Dinner would arrive soon.
Finally the cheetah pushed his way into the pool to take a drink … and was met by a young tiger of the same size. They circled one another, exchanging insults about stripes and spots – until suddenly they were fighting.
End over end they tossed, through water and dust and mud. On one side the striped animals cheered and encouraged the tiger. On the other, spotted animals cheered and encouraged the cheetah.
Before long, the mud and blood disguised both cats, and the crowd grew confused as to when to cheer and when to boo.
Eventually the cheetah and tiger were so tired they couldn’t fight anymore. The cats fell to the ground, exhausted, batted and bloodied and bruised.
The crowd remained silent.
Until a young warthog stepped forward, and quietly took a broken moringa branch from the ground. He dipped the leaves into the water, offering it first to one cat and then the other, so that each cat could lick water from the leaves.
Seeing the striped warthog offering water to both cats, the zebra shouted out in protest – Hey! Stop! You could be helping the spot!
The warthog turned to the zebra, and to the rest of the animals.
Spots or stripes – who can tell and who can care? They both bleed as red as all of us. Spots and stripes are nothing but a covering we’re born to. It’s what’s inside that matters, and inside we all have hearts. And it’s those we should be using.
He went back to tending to both cats, and soon enough the other animals joined in too. The strong helped the weak, the spotted helped the striped and the striped helped the spotted – and they all got a drink.
I am sorry, said the zebra to the warthog.
When we fight between spots and stripes, it only serves the vultures.
And with that, the disappointed vulture flew away.
It’s a powerful story, both for children and their adults.
And it’s a story that has resonance right now. Our country is splintered between red and blue, between religions, races, cultures… There are no shortage of vultures looking to fan the flames of anger and allow ourselves to do the dirty work of tearing each other apart so they can feast on the carnage.
And as we get further into the primary season, the Democratic party – big tent though we might aspire to be – has shown its capacity to tear itself limb from limb. And depending upon what people like you and I do over the next year, we can do it again.
Already we’re seeing the media set the stage, aren’t we? Articles tee up debates between progressives and “conservative” Democrats, with each side saying that it’s got the best chance to win, that it’s the future, or that it has the most passionate supporters.
And then reporters step back to watch the debate and the fight they’ve teed up so they can report on the outcome to views and clicks and advertising revenue.
It’s easy to take the bait. It’s easy to be angry with people who don’t agree with us, who want a different candidate, who see a different vision.
But the stakes are so very high, friends.
I’m not asking anyone to compromise their vision or their candidate. But I also don’t want us to do the job of the vultures.
They do that just fine on their own.
So let’s stay united, and let’s get to work.
Actions for the week of August 27
Tuesday: Amplify the Children
Today’s action (sorry I’m so late today, guys!) is a new resource: amplifythechildren.org.
Project Amplify is a new project that will highlight the abuse that children have sustained at the border. In a few weeks they’ll be sharing the children’s stories with the public in a variety of amplification events during the week of September 12-22.
But the project has a number of suggested ways that you can spread this important message. Go to their Take Action page (https://amplifythechildren.org/take-action) to see a list of ideas.
I like this page because it reminds me (and us) that there are a lot of creative thinking-outside-the-box ways to get our messages across. Please check it out and consider using some of those suggestions for other projects that you might want to amplify.
Wednesday: Interested in Youth Vote? I’ve got a webinar for you!
Want to boost turnout and understand more about young voter participation and what we can do to boost involvement?
Then I have a webinar for you! On Wednesday, August 28 at 7:00PM, the Democratic Party will host a webinar to discuss young voter participation, overcoming the challenges facing young voters, and how young voters can get involved as poll workers and voter protection volunteers.
Sign up at Mobilize.us at https://www.mobilize.us/dnc/event/109483/
Thursday: National Organizing Call
I think it’s incredibly important to know what other people are doing in different organizing spaces. So I’m looking forward to a call this Thursday at 7pm eastern. MoveOn will be hosting a national organizing call with United We Dream and the National Immigrant Justice Center to let people know what we can do to tell Congress to #ClosetheCamps, hold ICE and CBP accountable in the upcoming federal budget, and #DefundHate.
Sign up HERE.
Friday: Not Letting Up on Gun Reform AND let’s nominate someone to the FEC
Another week, another round of gun violence in our country. And yet again for us to call our Senators to get them to do something about it.
By way of reminder, the House has already passed background check legislation – and the Senate can take that up right away when they return from recess. Let’s keep the pressure on!
It’s no secret that Senator Mitch McConnell has been sitting on two pieces of gun legislation that’s supported by a huge majority of Americans and would save hundreds (thousands?) of lives per year. (You can read about the bills HERE.)
Call your Senators – let’s keep this pressure on.
And while you’re at it, encourage our Senators to put pressure on this administration to nominate someone for the FEC. With the most recent departure, the FEC is now without a quorum – meaning that it can’t open new investigations, it can’t issue advisory opinions, and it can’t issue rules. Am I excited about this administration nominating people to this important committee? Nope! But at least the FEC has to have equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. So let’s encourage our senators to put pressure on this administration, ok?
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m calling with a message for the Senator. Like a majority of Americans, I agree with common sense gun reform. There are two bills that passed the House and are sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk – both addressing background checks for people who want to buy guns. Neither of those bills is controversial to the American public or the people of this state. What is Senator ___ doing to move those bills? [Optional follow up response: Can you tell me why the Senator is not prioritizing the lives of the people in our state?] …. And while I have you on the phone, the FEC is so important to our election security that I expect the Senator to put pressure on this administration to nominate people to the FEC. It’s ridiculous that there aren’t even enough people on that committee for a quorum.
WHEW! GO, TEAM! SUPER PROUD OF YOU!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
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!
P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.
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. Don’t you forget it.