I’m back in the saddle.
The first phase of this blog started as a distraction from grad school and a series of life transitions. I walked the streets at all hours, talking to people of all kinds. Here is a sample of those interactions. In exploring my relationship with citizenship and with place, I learned three key things:
- People are generally approachable. Everyone wants to be seen, heard and accepted. To really do that takes attention. How much do you pay attention (really pay attention) to people you interact with or to strangers you pass by?
- Place influences how we connect with one another. Our sense of and genuine commitment to place is a product of our votes and our individual efforts. We matter, whether we like it or not. For example, Occidental Park went from a neighborhood dustbin that no one would cross in broad daylight (1999), to an open park where homeless and professionals who work there play ping pong together (2016). Not all change needs to take that long if we are actively engaged. How do you contribute to the place you live and work?
- Citizenship is adulting–plain and simple. Like wearing our seatbelt, flossing, and eating kale–citizenship is an activity that needs to be done on an ongoing basis in order to be effective. Like you, there were many days when I was too busy to observe changes my neighborhood, pick up trash when I saw it, go to city council meeting, or even greet people I passed in the street. And when that happens this place loses vitality. What daily practice do you do, like flossing, for your neighborhood?
When Bernie Sanders ran, I was energized. It looked like the party would hold itself accountable in a new way (or, there were enough other people activated that I could remain an interested spectator). When Hillary lost, it should have come with a trigger warning. Gross incompetence and misinformation won out over experience and preparation, again. Politicians across the board had failed to effectively connect with their base. But it wasn’t all their fault. We weren’t always there to greet them.
In the past several election cycles we are treated like subjects, not citizens. Things are done to us, not with us. We’re not co-producers, and we’re not engaged in a co-creating a story, day in and day out with our government. Even with social media, it’s a one-way conversation with one notable exception: during elections. All of a sudden people are engaged in the conversation. We court politicians. They want our vote, they want our money, they want us to volunteer for whatever the cause is, the initiative or their own campaign. But right when that election’s over, when we are most amplified and engaged, our voices are turned down all of a sudden. Disappointed, we go back to this broadcast model: We vote; Politicians like Trump decide. Conversation over.
When I was in D.C. protesting this weekend, it became clear that this framework and relationship needs to radically change. It needs to start early and never end.
So this blog is evolving to be an eye on what citizens of PSQ are doing to claim their responsibilities as active citizens (#peopleofpsq). Over the next few weeks and months, I’d like to challenge us to commit to 10 ACTIONs, as prompted by the Women’s March on Washington. Small, consistent actions lead to effective change.
All of us, myself included, need to start training ourselves to acquire the adulting practices of good citizenship. Rights are liberties are on the chopping block daily now. Politicians need to know that midterms are on the horizon.
10 Actions for the first 100 Days
Action 1 / 10
THE FIRST ACTION
Where: Altstadt Seattle, 209 1st Avenue South
When: 3-5 pm, Sunday January 29th (mark your calendars!)
How much of my time? 5 minutes, or support Altstadt and have a drink a beer or a brat!
- Write your representatives about an issue you care about. Prompts will be available. Send as many cards as you like as long as you donate postage. You don’t have to commit to staying long, just writing a postcard.
- Connect with people in the community. Meet the faces of those that live and work here. Engage with what makes this neighborhood special. Main Street has always been a place of pioneers. Come meet some.
- Make effective change. Change the election dynamic. Keep the conversation going. Our representatives need to know we are not going away!
Write a postcard to your Senators about what matters most to you – and how you’re going to continue to fight for it in the days, weeks and months ahead. We’re offering printable postcards for you to download.
You can go it alone, or come to Altstadt for a drink or dinner to talk about your experience and fill out your postcards.
Before you send it, take a photo of your postcard and use the #WhyIMarch #PeopleofPSQ tags when posting it to social media.
Our senators are:
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
I can’t keep quiet. Can you?