What's the Most Patriotic Thing You Can Do this Year?
It's free, it's not easy, but everybody needs to be doing it.
This year has been a wild ride.
Not only has a walking prank been elected into leadership of one of the most powerful countries in the world, we've seen an upsurge of nationalistic bullshit from fascists the world over. Canadians are just figuring out that maybe their country isn't as perfect as they like to believe. Britain has turned into a bigger circus than usual.
Protest has become more important.
Political commentators have been getting a lot of flak since this guy was elected. They've been accused of needless attacks and making shit up. They've been told to "get over" the fact that "[their] candidate" didn't win and just accept things as they are.
Those same people—the bloggers, the late-night talk show hosts, the social media activists—may just be the most patriotic people out there right now.
It takes a lot of guts to stand up to your own country and say "enough is enough." It takes more intestinal fortitude to say "we are wrong" than any amount of "Make America Great Again" ever could. We're seeing that level of badassery among athletes, soldiers, celebrities, and everyday people that have taken to the streets to protest or have expressed their disdain for all the bullshit that's been going down.
That's not enough. It's never enough.
Be a Patriot: Contact your representatives.
With threats to the environment, health care, indigenous relations, and overall security, the people in charge need to be repeatedly told exactly what's on the minds of the people that vote for them.
In Canada, you can find your MPs on the Current Members of Parliament list. There, you can search by city and postal code. Every single MP's contact information is listed and letters can be sent to them postage-free. If you don't have the money for stamps, you can still mass-mail your MPs without worry.
Americans can find their representatives through the Find Your Representative page on the House of Representatives website. It requires you to search using your ZIP code, and if your rep's contact information isn't listed, you can contact the Clerk of the US House of Representatives to obtain what's missing.
Another excellent place for Americans to find information is GovTrack.us, which also allows users to create alerts and keeps track of legislation that's currently or will be moving through Congress.
Your Right to Protest
Whether you're American or Canadian, you have the right to protest. This right is treated differently on a by-province/state/city basis, and even peaceful protests have been targeted by police.
The ability to protest is an important part of the American Constitution and Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Protesting allows a large group of people to speak up about an issue in a very public, very visible way that may be more effective than other methods, though it isn't always.
For those that are physically and mentally able to join protests, they are often arranged through social media and occasionally through organizations like Planned Parenthood, various Civil Liberties Unions, and other social justice groups.
Political Commentary on Social Media
Most politicians have accounts on social media where the public can air grievances or otherwise get in touch with them.
Hashtags are often created on Twitter for protesting specific issues, and pressure from Twitter campaigns has resulted in actual change. The difficult parts of using social media to drive change are: the propensity for false information to gain momentum instead of the facts, the need for brevity due to posting limitations, and the tendency of many to refuse to take such use of these platforms seriously.
The last point requires more positive self-talk on the protester's part. You'll be told you're wasting your time. You aren't.
For more insight on social media activism, check out Sabina Khan-Ibarra's article: "The Case for Social Media and Hashtag Activism."
Blogging as a Vehicle for Change
I used to be part of a Progressive Bloggers network once upon a time, where people that wrote about Canadian politics from a decidedly left-leaning point of view gathered together. It provided a jumping-off point for bloggers to join hashtag campaigns, or set up guest posting opportunities, or learn about what was happening when they couldn't otherwise keep up.
Due to this network, I was able to participate in a mass smackdown of a Conservative MP's attempts to open up the argument of fetal personhood in Canada. Between the blogosphere and the #cdnpoli tag on Twitter, we were able to air our grievances and point out the reasons that this attempt at opening up the personhood debate was a stupid idea.
I am using much kinder words than what most of us used at the time.
Blogging is still a powerful tool for connecting people, getting information out, and protesting whatever awful shit attracts your attention. Blogging of a political nature may not be the most lucrative thing for most writers—monetization being the driving force of most blogging efforts—but those that are particularly good at getting information out there tend to be repeatedly referenced.
No matter how you speak up, just speak up.
The most patriotic thing you can do is protest.
No matter what form your protest takes—whether you're hitting the streets or hitting a hashtag—as long as you're making your voice heard, that's what's important. We need more voices to shout down the likes of #45, or to bring attention to indigenous issues, or to ramp up the fight for LGBTQ rights, or to destroy Nazis.
If you want to help and you're not sure about the causes or what you can do to support them, browse through The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and American Civil Liberties Union websites. Learn your rights. Get to know how your government works.
Educate yourself, educate others, and don't ever let the powers that be forget that they're supposed to be serving the interests of the people—not themselves.