The Good Kind of Plastic

We have one more chance—in Lincoln’s words, a “last best hope”—to bring our democracy back from the dead. It will be like a complex medical rescue that requires just the right interventions, in just the right sequence, at just the right speed: amputation, transfusion, multiple-organ transplant, stabilization, rehabilitation. Each step will be very hard, and we can’t afford to get any wrong or wait another hour. … Self-government still gives us the chance. Everything is in our hands. ~George Packer

I’ve come to learn that it’s hard to see when, exactly, you’re in a defining moment.

Whether they were defining moments in my personal life, or defining moments in our country over the last few years, I’ve found that it’s hard to pinpoint when “that moment” is happening – until it’s already happened, and it’s safely in the rearview mirror.

But in recent months (and, let’s be honest – in the last few years) nearly every day could be seen as a “defining moment.” Every day is awash with a new crisis, a new tragedy, and a new outrage. It’s hard to absorb the historic nature of literally every day.

Meanwhile, it seems that our criteria for what’s a “crisis” has gotten more stringent as the crises pile up. It’s hard to track them, and impossible to count them all.

And that is perhaps the most historic aspect of this moment – that every moment of it is historic.

There have been other times like this, I imagine (we have had a Civil War, after all) but none that we have all lived through, and none that we could all see and experience so intimately. Thanks to our ability to capture literally everything and everyone around us in bits and bites, and our ability to become self-proclaimed media moguls through our Twitter feeds and Facebook walls, we can see the development of movements and the destruction of democracy in excruciating detail.

This gives us the horror of seeing what’s being torn to shreds, alongside the benefit of seeing what needs to be repaired.

That’s valuable, even while it’s grotesque.

That’s why when I read America’s Plastic Hour is Upon Us I stopped at the description of this period as “plastic.”

There are in history what you could call ‘plastic hours,’” the philosopher Gershom Scholem once said. “Namely, crucial moments when it is possible to act. If you move then, something happens.” In such moments, an ossified social order suddenly turns pliable, prolonged stasis gives way to motion, and people dare to hope. Plastic hours are rare. They require the right alignment of public opinion, political power, and events—usually a crisis. They depend on social mobilization and leadership. They can come and go unnoticed or wasted. Nothing happens unless you move.

“Plastic” is indeed a good descriptor for Now. Plastic as a substance is both useful and abhorrent. It’s trash, but also treasure – when used properly. It’s an incredibly useful resource – that we often simply cast aside.

And when it’s exposed to heat, it melts. And it’s in that pliable state that you can bend it into fantastic shapes.

But on its own? On it’s own, plastic is just cold, hard, stiff matter. There is potential, but that potential requires some work to be realized.

Nothing happens unless you move.

And so here we are, friends.

We have a plastic moment before us, where the potential is oh-so-tantalizingly clear. Where we can easily see the chasms, the breaks, the fissures in our society – and we can also see how with leadership, with work, with dedication (our own “heat and pressure”) we could mold a new and better world. There is momentum for change. There are leaders who have answered the call. There’s a restlessness, like horses before a storm. (Those of you who know how much I love Steinbeck will appreciate that reference.)

All of the raw materials are there, right at our fingertips.

Now the question is simple, even if difficult.

What will we do with this plastic hour?

More importantly, what will you do?

Let’s not let this unique, powerful, valuable moment slip away.

Let’s move.

Let’s get to work.


Actions for the Week of September 15, 2020

Tuesday: Phonebank for Democracy!

Indivisible (which is coming up on its fourth anniversary, now that I think about it) has put together some fantastic projects gearing up to the election. One of those is a national texting bank, which is already at capacity! (Yay us!) But they do still need people to sign up to phone bank. It’s really simple to do from your home with Hubdialer; you’ll be calling races to flip the Senate, to keep the House – and obviously to Dump Trump. Sign up for a shift or two today – you can’t want to kick yourself on November 4 and wish you had done more. Sign up here: https://2020.indivisible.org/phonebank/

Wednesday: Help Floridians Vote

This week the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Florida can require felons to pay the fines, fees and any restitution tied to their sentence before having their voting rights restored. That disenfranchises an estimated 775,000 people who have served their time but can’t afford to pay those costs – and it likely means they won’t be able to vote in November.

Enter the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group of returning citizens who “know first-hand how financial hardships can prevent people from fully engaging in their communities. So [they] created a fund to help returning citizens with outstanding fines and fees complete their sentence and move forward with their lives.” Their fund has so far raised over $4 million!

By participating and donating to that fund, “100% of your tax-deductible donation will go to those who have completed incarceration and probation but still have to complete financial portions of their sentence.”

You can learn more and participate by clicking HERE.

Thursday: It’s Simple – Count and protect Every Vote

There are a number of experts that are expressing concern that because more Democrats are planning to vote by mail, on election night Trump may appear to be ahead based on same-day voting. If Trump claims victory on election night before *all* the votes are counted (and I wouldn’t put it past him) we’ll have a significant segment of the country believing the election is “stolen.” Not good.

Protect the Results is a joint project of Indivisible and Stand Up America to protect the valid results of the 2020 election.

The only action you need to take right now is to go and check out the project at https://www.protecttheresults.com. Sign up to get alerts from them, and to share the message with your friends and network: we cannot “call” this election until the votes have been counted.

Friday: Help Bring ancestral remains Home

A special thank you to Lauren S., a Texan and alum of the University of Texas, who brought this action to my attention.

The University of Texas at Austin is refusing to repatriate human ancestral remains to the Miakan-Garza Band of the Coahuiltecan people. These human remains are part of the University’s “collection,” and are stored in a cardboard box in a warehouse. Because the remains are so old, UT claims they are “culturally unidentifiable,” meaning UT doesn’t have to give them to the tribe to be reburied.

The tribe submitted documentation that the “Coahuiltecan people are original Texas Natives who have lived here continuously for the past 14,000 years”. The documentation the tribe gave UT was the same as that “accepted by Texas State University, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee, and the Secretary of the Interior, when those entities [returned] one of [the tribe’s] ‘culturally unidentifiable’ ancestors to rebury”. In other words, UT is holding out where all of those other entities found the tribe’s documentation sufficient.

This makes me so sad. Someone’s remains are in a cardboard box in a dark warehouse, when their ancestors want to honor them, give them the respect they deserve, and lay them to rest.

You can read more about this struggle HERE and HERE.

Here are the action steps requested by an organizer: Please go here to read the letter that has been drafted to petition UT, and then sign it using this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfrQTXV1xps_VidPNeuPg0FsXmL2UpruT1IJYuPRObXHF-xbw/viewform

Please share the letter with your network, especially anyone who lives in Texas or is a UT alum. Please ask them to do the same.

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.

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

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