On Weariness, Weakness, Time, and How You Can Defend Democracy In Five Minutes

“The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous” ~Winston Churchill

The bad things are disproportionately destabilizing and the good things are insufficiently fortifying.” ~Julia Ioffe, quoting a friend

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” ~Jack Kornfield (Buddha’s Little Instruction Book)

I ran across two quotes this week that made me pause.

The first spoke to the exhaustion we all feel. It was actually a quote from a friend of Julia Ioffe: “The bad things are disproportionately destabilizing and the good things are insufficiently fortifying.”

I saw that statement and nodded, slowly. There’s a lot right now, isn’t there? I don’t need to list it all out for you, and if I did it would only remind you of the magnitude, and perhaps exhaust you even more. But seeing that simple distillation of our collective weariness was validating.

Then I saw another quote that stopped me in my tracks. Actually, it was more a passage than a quote.

It’s from Winston Churchill’s memoirs. There, he describes the time leading up to the Second World War, and explains that “[t]he structure and habits of democratic States, unless they are welded into larger organisms, lack the elements of persistence and conviction which alone can give security to humble masses… We shall see how the counsels of prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal danger; how the middle course adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may be found to lead direct to the bull’s eye of disaster.”

And then the kicker: “The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous”.

Those words were certainly profound at the time. They’re chilling, and equally profound, now.

The basic premise of it all, as I read it today, is that democracy is fragile, and needs to be fortified. People are constitutionally driven to seek safety and peace – and will actively advise calm and restraint, even when driving headlong into catastrophe.

Sound familiar?

Although both quotes/passages are very different – in time, in topic, in messenger – I happened to see them in close proximity to one another. And seeing them together made me recall a conversation I had with my husband last week, as we learned more about the Master Legal Plan Trump’s people had to overthrow the government and install him. Because that’s what we learned – that they had a written plan, drafted by a lawyer with a fancy law degree, which was presented to Trump and acted upon by serious people.

My husband was shocked that he hadn’t heard about it.

Seems like something that I should have heard about, he said.

I think we’re so used to everything being so awful, news like this just doesn’t register like it should, I replied. I didn’t see much coverage either. People are tired. Maybe a little numb. And maybe a little sick of hearing about how bad things are. I’m not sure how to fix that.

We both got really quiet.

Friend, we are so tired and so thirsty for calm that this news – this bombshell, earth-shattering, pants-on-fire news – wasn’t emblazoned on every front page, in 40 point font. They attempted – and are still attempting, in many ways – a coup. They nearly got it. They still might. Just give them a few years, while we counsel one another to remain calm and carry on.

“The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous.”

We can add to that quote now, can’t we? The malice of the wicked is reinforced by the exhaustion and despair of those of us who would fight back.

I said early on in the Trump administration that theirs was a shock and awe campaign, designed primarily to unsettle us, keep us angry and scared and too busy tending to one thing that the other terrible-awfuls slip by. I’m sorry that I was correct.

But, to be fair, even I did not anticipate their endurance. I underestimated their imagination.

I hope I have not overestimated ours.

It was never time to stop working toward a better democracy. It is certainly not time to do so now. There is … well … everything at stake. (I say this with all seriousness, because without Democratic majorities we do nothing about the planet, and that is on its own a pants-on-fire emergency.)

So, what to do about all of this, you ask? When we’re already weary and overwhelmed?

Well, that’s where few small actions (5 minutes!) taken by thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of us, make a great deal of difference. There are far more people who care about this democracy than there are those who want to destroy it.

But without action, the fact that we have more people on our side means nothing.

That’s why the path forward is as simple as it is difficult: we need to act as though our democracy is in peril, because it is.

That means getting out your phone again, if it’s gathered dust. It means replugging into your activist groups, if you’ve taken a bit of a break. It means rededicating yourself to a specific issue – redistricting, voting rights, fair taxation, reproductive justice, combatting systemic racism – there is no shortage of issues that need your time, attention, and energy.

Pick one thing to do each day. Just one. A small thing. A tiny bit of time! A little step.

Commit yourself to just five minutes. Go to each day’s actions below. If nothing floats your boat, head over to Jessica Craven’s list at Chop Wood Carry Water and see what she’s got in store for the day. It’s always thoughtful.

It is good to stay informed. Critical, I’d say. But if you take five minutes you’d otherwise spend scrolling social media to call your Representative or Senators, that would actively move the needle.

Friend, stop doomscrolling, and give just five minutes of yourself for democracy.

You can do this.

Correction: We can do this.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of September 28, 2021

Tuesday: National Voter Registration Day!

Today is National Voter Registration Day! Quick five minute action: Check your own registration. Visit the National Association of Secretaries of State here: https://www.nass.org/can-I-vote. From there, click Voter Registration Status. You’ll be directed to select your state, and you’ll go directly to your state’s Secretary of State voter registration lookup.

Have a little more time? Go to the National Voter Registration website and check to see if there are any events near you: https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org/events/

Even simpler! Check out the social media-ready graphics, memes, and posts (some of which are pretty cheeky, if I do say so!) at https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org/national-voter-registration-day-2020-sample-social-media/ These are post-worthy not just for this week as a countdown to NVRD, but year-round.

Bonus: Head over to https://thecivicscenter.org/plan-events to check out – and share – High School Voter Registration Week materials. There’s GREAT data out there about the impact that registering high schoolers and college students would have on saving our democracy.

Wednesday: Dust Off Your Phone and Call Your Republican Senator A Coward

Did that get your attention? 🙂 Many (most?) of us have a Republican Senator (or two). Yesterday, Republicans filibustered the measure that increases the debt ceiling. Basically, they are preventing us from paying our credit card bill.

It’s a massive game of chicken, playing with the full faith an credit of the US to achieve a gross partisan goal.

Again – Republicans do not want to govern. They want government broken, paralyzed, and underfunded.

So today, call your GOP Senator and tell them that you’re disappointed they don’t think debts (that they racked up) should be paid.

Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because I’m embarrassed that Senator ___ helped filibuster legislation that would raise the debt ceiling. You’re risking the entire economy to try to tank an agenda that 70% of America agrees with and wants. That shows me the Senator is too afraid of that agenda to face it head-on, and instead wants to drive our economy into the ground. What a cowardly way to govern. It’s shameful. I’ll be working to support a Democratic Senate and House majority. Tell him/her thanks for giving me that motivation.

Thursday: Pass Voting Rights Legislation, Now.

Really, voting rights is a must-win issue. Should voting rights be a partisan issue? Absolutely not. Has it become a partisan issue? Absolutely. Will it take all of us working together to pass voting right legislation? Absolutely.

Republicans nearly got away with a coup in January 2021, but they’re running a slow-motion version through the states, where they are making it really tough for people to vote, and giving the legislatures authority to override election results. In other words, they’re creating a method by which they could legally change election results.

Again, this is pants-on-fire stuff.

So this is going to be an evergreen action. When you’re feeling frustrated and angry and want something to do, pick up your phone and call your senators and ask them what they’re doing to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

If they’re a Democrat, remind them that arcane Senate rules (aka the filibuster) should not be able to “trump” constitutional rights – like voting. For God’s sake, we made spending legislation filibuster-proof! The argument against reforming the filibuster is getting more and more weary.

So, give your Senators a call and tell them that voting rights is your big issue, and you want to see them get that done. If they’re a Democrat, you can throw in that you think the filibuster is not sacred, but voting is.

Friday: Women’s March for Reproductive Justice on Saturday, October 2

Get out those marching shoes! The Women’s March will be marching in every state ahead of the Supreme Court reconvening. Women’s March and more than 90 other organizations, including National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood, SHERO Mississippi, Mississippi in Action, Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, The Frontline, Working Families Party, and SisterSong, are organizing a national call to mobilize and defend our reproductive rights.

Go to https://womensmarch.com/mobilize to learn more about what events are happening in your neighborhood.


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.

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