On Courage, and Defiance, and Democracy

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing. ~ Emma Donoghue

I was standing at my kitchen sink last night, rinsing dinner dishes, when I realized that someone in Ukraine was doing the same thing.

Just rinsing dishes.

Or maybe folding clothes. Perhaps answering an email or two. Feeding the cat.

Just … living.

While waiting to see if their country will be invaded.

Two nights ago, my husband came into the kitchen (I obviously spend a lot of time in the kitchen), and looked at me, somewhat shocked:

“I just saw that people in Ukraine are just going about life … like nothing’s wrong. Going for coffee, going to work, whatever. I don’t …” His voice trailed off.

Neither of us really knew what to say.

Because what can you say?

It is both perplexing and inspiring to see people going through such turmoil with such stoicism.

If Putin doesn’t blink and does invade Ukraine, it will be significant for the entire world.

But for the people living in Ukraine, it is obviously the end of life as they know it.

And so, the act of living itself becomes a brave sort of defiance. It’s the ultimate middle finger to Putin and his attempts to intimidate and frighten them. Never cave to a bully.

Of course, their defiance is not isolated to calmly going about their lives.

Quite the contrary.

In the last few days, my Twitter feed has been full of grandmothers wielding AK-47s, explaining to shocked interviewers “your mother would do it too.” One pledged to cook borsht for the troops if she wasn’t needed on the frontlines.

Upon hearing that Wednesday was the date of Russia’s planned invasion, Zelenskiy declared it to be Ukraine’s Day of Unity, when Ukrainians would wear their national colors with pride and sing the national anthem in unison.

So that’s where we are right now.

At this very moment, everyday Ukrainian people are standing toe-to-toe with an authoritarian.

And they’re not backing down.

They’re truly fighting for democracy – perhaps fighting in the literal sense by the time you read this.

But also figuratively. They’re showing – proving – how important they know democracy to be with their actions.

And that puts me in a reflective mood.

Because, friend, we need to channel the same passion and dedication the Ukrainians have mustered to fight for our own democracy.

In theory it should be easier for us to mobilize. After all, we aren’t facing gunfire or forced evacuation.

But that makes the threats to our stability easier to dismiss, or discount, or wave off as something we’ll handle next year. They are invisible by design.

The anti-democratic forces chipping away at our foundation don’t want you to pay attention to what they’re doing, because then you might be motivated to stand, square-jawed and shoulder-to-shoulder with others like you, all united in the same purpose: to protect our democratic institutions.

So, their work is stealthy. Steeped in bureaucracy. As boring as they can make it.

But make no mistake that it’s happening.

You can see it in the anti-democratic, anti-voter bills passed in statehouses and city halls across the country – and even in Congress, where Senators crouch behind their sacred procedural rules while their own voters are disenfranchised.

So while the people of Ukraine are fighting their anti-democratic bully, we’re fighting our anti-democratic bullies here at home.

I hope we can muster the same passion, and dedication, and devotion that they have.

And in the coming days, no matter what happens, I’ll be keeping them close to my heart. I know you will be, too.

So this week, let’s redouble ourselves to fighting for our democracy, in their honor.

Let’s get to work.

Tonight! Join David Pepper (I’ll be there!) to Talk About Where We Go From Here:

I’ve mentioned it before: David Pepper’s book Laboratories of Autocracy is excellent.

Don’t take my word for it. Hillary Clinton just described it, saying “So gripping … I highly recommend it to everyone.” (Listen to her interview of David, someone she has “known and admired for quite some time” here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/our-democracy-in-crisis-state-and-local-power-with/id1531768983?i=1000551121518 Leave a review!)

Laboratories of Autocracy describes the state of our nation’s statehouses incredibly well. But it does more than educate. It inspires – and provides concrete action items.

And you know how much I love action items!

So I was thrilled to see that David is having TWO pep rallies/town halls this week to talk about what YOU can do right now to pitch in.

The first is tonight at 7pm eastern, and I will be there! Join by going HERE or by texting Pepper to 33777. An email will be sent to you with the registration links. If you can’t make it tonight, join on Thursday at noon eastern. (Or heck – come for both!)

Wednesday: Download the Moms Demand Action App

Moms Demand Action has a great app that helps you track action opportunities. Honestly, I’m really impressed – it’s got ways I can stay informed, get engaged, and track what I’ve done. Five stars!

And, as this week marks the four year anniversary of the Parkland shooting, it’s a good time to recommit yourself to fighting for common sense gun reform.

Download the app from the app store (search Moms Demand Action) and check it out for yourself here: https://momsdemandaction.org/app/

Thursday: Again With the Voter Registration? Yes!

You can tell that I’m really, really serious about making voter registration part of your mission statement this year. And I’m happy that Field Team 6 is making it easy for you to find actions that speak to your mission!

Field Team 6 has been all over voter registration since before it was cool. And they have actions in plenty of states in plenty of formats (in-person, phone, text – and even “social storming”). There is bound to be something that both fits your schedule and tickles your fancy. Go here to learn more: https://www.fieldteam6.org/volunteer-ops

Thursday: Reminder – David Pepper Town Hall!

If you didn’t get a chance to join David on Tuesday, he’s got a second opportunity on Thursday. You aren’t going to be disappointed. Check it out here:

Friday: Crowdsourcing Kindness

I think this action will put a smile on your face. I think it’s my favorite.

Jessica Craven of Chop Wood Carry Water had the loveliest Valentine’s Message. When she was carpooling to school, a woman holding a Happy Valentine’s Day sign gave the kids heart-shaped boxes of chocolate – just because.

The kids were thrilled… and inspired. One actually pledged that someday they’d do the same thing. As Jessica said: “And there you have it. Good promotes good.”

She went on: “It really is so easy to make a difference in someone’s day, and therefore in someone’s life. A kind gesture, an unexpected gift, a word of thanks to someone whose job is taken for granted…those are Valentines that really make a difference.

Candy, after all, is consumed in a minute. A kind gesture is never forgotten.

So let’s find a way to surprise someone with kindness today. Why not? The people we’re fighting are filled with rage and fear. Part of how we beat them is by flooding the world with the opposite.

Hope matters. Love matters. Modeling decency matters.”

Let’s take Jessica’s words to heart and, as she says, model decency.

I really can’t think of a better way to round out our week than to find something kind to do to someone today. Whether it’s shoveling a walkway, or writing a thank you note, or even sending an encouraging text. There are *so* many ways we can lift one another up.

And right now, when I think it’s pretty clear that we’re all a bit weary of the world, lifting one another up may be the most important action we take.

So today, be kind.


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 email! We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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