On the R-Nought of Courage, and Not Letting Them Keep You On the Sidelines

It is not that the good undoes the evil, but that we feel better when we know that others are acting, responding, not giving up. ~Timothy Snyder

An employee at Russia’s state “news” channel, Marina Ovsyannikova, briskly walked behind the anchor’s desk and held up a white piece of poster board.

It was the kind of poster board you’d see at any rally here in the US. It was covered with writing – large letters scripted in thick black marker, making them easier to read.

NO WAR was written at the top, in English.

Then in Russian:

“Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.”

It was signed, once again in English, “Russians against the war.”

As she held the sign, she peeked over it, her face fully visible. She wasn’t hiding. She was looking to ensure the sign was positioned at a good angle, not behind the anchorwoman and blocked from view.

She had colored a small Russian flag on one side of the poster, and, although the poster board edge had curled up to hide it, I think there was a Ukrainian flag on the opposite corner. (Anyone who has held a sign made of poster board can relate to this problem.)

Two seconds later, the “news” cut away to a recorded feed.

Before her unscheduled on-air appearance, she cut a short video expressing her regret for not acting sooner, and calling her fellow Russians to action:

“We were silent in 2014, when all this was starting. We didn’t go out to rallies and protests when the Kremlin poisoned Navalny. We just silently observed this anti-human regime. And now the whole world has turned its back on us. And ten more generations of our descendants will not be able to wash away the shame of this fratricidal war. We are the Russian people. We are thoughtful and smart, it is only in our power to stop this madness. Come out to protest, don’t be afraid of anything, they can’t arrest every one of us.”

Marina was not seen for many hours, even though defense attorneys searched for her until the wee hours of the morning. Now she’s been released (after 12 hours of interrogation) and has been fined 30,000 rubles (which isn’t terrible, as the ruble is worth about a penny right now).

I imagine this is just the beginning of trouble for her, though.

After all, right now the world is watching. That will soon change.

Immediately after the story broke there were a flurry of tweets praising her bravery. One, from Rick Wilson (former Republican and current member of the Lincoln Project – whether you love them or hate them) caught my attention:

“The function of political intimidation, violence, mobs, trolling, and political policing is simple: to stop the spread of political courage. But courage is contagious. If the R-Nought of courage is > 1, Putin is doomed. She’s right: they can’t arrest everyone.”

His pandemic reference – the R0 of courage – stayed with me. First because it’s interesting to see epidemiological language bleed over and be used in the political space. But it’s also astute to point out that the purpose of political ridicule and oppression is containment – to reduce followers, to “slow the spread” of bravery.

Because there is a purpose to that ridicule and oppression, you know. It’s not manufactured just because they enjoy it (though I think they often do). It’s because they want you to remain a spectator with your feet firmly planted on the sidelines.

I watched a TedTalk years ago about the building of a movement. You might have seen it – it’s clever, and short … and illustrates movement building using footage of a half-naked man at an outdoor concert.

The guy’s dancing wildly. Crazily. He’s all alone on the grassy hill, just rocking out all on his own.

Then another person joins, and the first dancer welcomes him with a flurry. Together they bounce around on the grass, wave their arms, jump up high in the air, and generally look … wild.

Fifteen seconds or so later, two others join. Then a few more trickle in. And then suddenly dozens of people are running and jumping over one another to become part of this now bustling scene of dancing energy before the song ends.

And this is where the presenter, Derek Severs, points out the lesson of the video: “The first follower is what transforms the lone nut into a leader.”

The leader was the one who had the initial courage and willingness to put everything on the line. That’s obviously important.

But it was the follower’s participation that enabled everyone else who may, too, have wanted to dance, to throw caution to the wind.

See, courage is contagious.

Now I’m sure Russia will be doing everything they can to tamp down anyone who was inspired by Marina – before the anti-war movement goes viral. They’ll try to silence them and make it look like there is no energy in opposition.

Maybe they’ll make her look crazy, addled, confused. They’ll intimidate her supporters. Make them look unhinged, treasonous, dangerous…

If that sounds familiar, it should.

Political trolling has become an art form for Republicans. Their grassroots minions sprawl across social media, gleefully attacking anyone who disagrees with them; Fox News brands opponents as liars, or lunatics, or hoodlums; elected leaders from Governors to Attorneys General openly use their positions to intimidate or single out political enemies – while riling their base.

And all of this is intended to “slow the spread” of bravery. To keep you a little leery. To keep you from taking that one step forward to be part of the movement to oppose them. They desperately, desperately, want you to stay quiet.

They need you to be unengaged.

It’s the only way this works.

As long as they can keep you on the sidelines (because they make politics too divisive, too confrontational, too stressful) they’ve won.

Every day you don’t take action is a day they’ve met their goal.

Don’t give them the satisfaction.

Get off the sidelines.

Stay in the game.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of March 15, 2022:

To read: This poem by a Ukrainian poet was published in the Massachusetts Review this month. It is worth your time.

If there is ink

by Carolyn Forché

If there is ink for this hour if there is something to say to write that would send

the tanks the convoys and transports into reverse on the roads they have rutted

send them back to the borders they crossed send them back, and the hours too that

have passed since dawn on the twenty-fourth day of the second month send those

hours with them, and the enemy soldiers dragging with them their crematorium

and the corpses of their fellow soldiers they have left behind and their own wounded

send them back if there is ink if there is something to write that would raise the cities

from the ruins the apartment blocks hospitals schools that would put the cities back

as they were I would give everything to fill my pen with it

From the Massachusetts Review

How to Help Ukraine:

Timothy Snyder has posted a number of charities and causes that you can support to benefit Ukraine. Check them out here: https://snyder.substack.com/p/how-to-help-ukraine-now?s=w

And here: https://snyder.substack.com/p/a-few-more-ways-to-help-ukrainians?s=w

And here: https://snyder.substack.com/p/a-few-ways-to-help-ukrainians?s=w

Events With the National Democratic Training Committee:

I’m a big fan of the NDTC, which has FREE, virtual, on-demand, excellent-quality trainings for candidates and potential staffers. It’s really worth checking out their modules, because I’m certain there’s a training that you’d like. Go to www.traindemocrats.org.

Their founder, Kelly Dietrich, will be hosting a Q&A about The Building Blocks of a Strong Campaign on Thursday, March 17 at 1pm ET.

Per their description: Join NDTC Founder Kelly Dietrich to learn about those necessary elements and how that will set you up for success. Kelly is ready to dive into this important conversation and help answer any burning questions you might have!

Because this is an interactive Q&A, space is limited. RSVP before spots fill up!

They’re also hosting How to Write Your Stump Speech on Wednesday, March 16 at 1pm ET.

Again from their description: when you’re running or working on a campaign, you need to articulate your message to voters quickly and effectively. Voters will support a candidate whose ideas they can get behind.

Join this training on Wednesday to learn all about identifying your core message and tying it into your stump speech.

Child Tax Credit Expiration Has Dire Consequences: State By State Analysis

First, read this incredible (and short!) piece about the consequences of the refusal to extend the expanded Child Tax Credit: https://popular.info/p/decisions-have-consequences?s=r. (This is also a great article: https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/taxes/child-tax-credit-white-house-shows-state-by-state-impact-on-families/)

Then you can go here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/03/08/fact-sheet-state-by-state-analysis-of-american-rescue-plan-tax-credits-for-families-and-workers/ to see the impact of the tax credits on people in your own state.

The Child Tax Credit was the main driver in the American Rescue Plan bringing child poverty to record lows in 2021. Since it phased out, child poverty kicked up again by 41% as an estimated 3.7 MILLION children fell into poverty. Now a full 17% of kids in America – that’s ~5 out of every typical classroom of 30 – are now in poverty. Families spent the credit they received on household essentials and food.

Armed with that information, pick up the phone and call your Senators. They need to support stand-alone legislation that will benefit the kids and families of your state.

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to ask the Senator to support a standalone version of the Child Tax Credit. There are _____ kids in our state that benefitted from the Tax Credit, and those funds literally put food in the mouths of children. If kids really are the Senator’s priority, then getting this standalone bill passed needs to be her/his priority too.

Take Some Inspiration from Disney! Ask: What Corporate Sponsors are Sponsoring Far-Right Fanatics in YOUR State?

If you live in Missouri (and even if you don’t) you’ve likely heard of the abortion restriction bill that would prohibit abortions in the case of ectopic pregnancy. Yes, you read that right.

There is no situation in which an ectopic pregnancy is viable. Zero. Nada. Never.

An ectopic pregnancy is incredibly dangerous, and a true medical emergency. A person who is experiencing one will die from it (or be seriously, seriously injured) if there is no surgical intervention.

Medical science to the contrary, Missouri Rep Brian Seitz offered up his bill prohibiting medical intervention in the case of ectopic pregnancy. He’s been schooled since then. It’s doubtful that the bill as drafted would pass. (But then again, it’s MO. So you never know.)

You also have probably heard of the controversy swirling around Disney, which has given millions in campaign donations to Republicans in Florida, and did not take a stance on the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that recently passed the Florida state legislature.

Since then, and due to the outcry, Disney has suspended its political donations.

That inspired David Pepper, of Twitter Whiteboard fame, to point out that an extremist anti-choice legislator in Ohio had been supported by GE, Nationwide and Pfizer.

And so that inspired me to look at the political donors to Brian Seitz. I’m hoping to inspire you to do the same thing in your state, with your local state legislators.

I looked at the Missouri Ethics Commission filings for Rep Seitz. Along with the usual suspects (right-wing PACs) was the consulting PAC for the Missouri law firm Lathrop GPM, which has given Seitz two donations of $300 each over the last year. (See https://www.mec.mo.gov/CampaignFinanceReports/Generator.aspx?Keys=B2G41dEVPKgI8cDcdGFsgJsm99XwPL2GAagM12YOGvJ3Z58e%2fyUzZ22d0oFzhjmHln%2fgPLWrMjSikoz6llXxSWY1l5WSyKtY (Lathrop GPM Consulting PAC).

Mind you, the law firm Lathrop GPM touts that over 60% of its employees identify as women, and that they have been named as a “top employer” for women by the Women’s Foundation for Greater St. Louis. https://www.lathropgpm.com/newsroom-press-72574.html

It boggles my brain as to why and how a law firm can justify supporting someone who is either so careless in his drafting that he neglected clear medical facts, or who intentionally endangered people’s lives and supported withholding life-saving medical treatment from them (which is depraved indifference homicide).

So, I reached out to a friend, who informed a partner at Lathrop, who has contacted the managing partner.

I also reached out to the team at the Women’s Foundation of Greater STL, which has named Lathrop a “Top Employer for Women” in the past and is undergoing their scoring right now. They deserve to know that this potential “top employer” is also supporting a legislator that is either careless or depraved when women’s health is at issue.

All this to say… When you see the crazy legislation in these statehouses, it’s time to start going to the corporate donors to tell them that their reputation is on the line, too. We can’t let them be anonymous anymore.

Your state ethics entity where legislators and candidates have to file their political donations will be easy to find, and reports are usually easy enough to read once you get used to them. In Missouri, it’s www.mec.mo.gov. Let’s start making noise, shall we?


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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