Fine Lines

Writing about this experience, as it happens, makes for a very fine line that I’m navigating. Right now, as my social world expands with connections through the campaign and the county central committee, I am not posting this blog as publicly as I could, or want to, because there is a part of me that is concerned that my views and perceptions will be either taken out of context or misinterpreted. I’m not trying to rock the boat, but I am trying to write my experience as I live it, as authentically as I possibly can. For those reading this, my views are my own, my experiences are how I feel them, and I do not want anything I write to reflect poorly on those I encounter along the way.

That being said, I don’t want to temper my experience or my feelings about them. It’s been an emotional few days for me and I want to be honest about that. I felt mistreated on Saturday. I also had an experience on social media related to my canvassing that left me drained and exposed in a very uncomfortable way.

No one said that living your values is easy. Sharing them might be even harder.

As I’ve said, I’m not pushy or aggressive, and I don’t often share my thoughts immediately. That might be my personality, but I also wonder how much of that has to do with my experiences as a woman. In fourth and fifth grade, I was part of a special education class for “gifted” students. Two days a week I was in a smaller class doing special projects learning critical and creative thinking. It separated me from my regular class, leaving me ostracized and different. If you think that I found safe haven with the “gifted” class, you’d be wrong. I was one of only 3 girls in a class of 15, and while the teacher was a woman, she did not encourage the girls to lead or share our thoughts. I was often pushed to the side by the boys, unable to truly participate. Even now, so many years later, I am still wounded by that experience. I learned that it was easier to stand in the back than fight for a place at the table.

I’m still fighting to overcome that tendency. I want a place at the table. I want to be in the room when decisions are made. I have something to offer. I can’t be silent anymore. I think back to my fifth-grade self, standing outside the “gifted” classroom, tears streaming down her face because no one would listen to her and I want to say to her “It’s going to be okay – one day soon you’re going to have a voice. One day, you’re going to have a partner who loves you, friends that cheer you on, and a platform to share your experience.”

My hope is that as I share my experience of democratic engagement, others will step into the arena in their own ways, because it’s going to take all of us. It’s going to take all of us knocking down barriers, walking fine lines of respect and honesty, and authentically engaging in the world.

Rallies, Triumphs, Roadblocks and Learning Curves: Part Two

I went to canvas for a campaign for the first time on Saturday. As a new campaign volunteer, I expect to face some steep learning curves along the way. In fact, I welcome them. I want to be learning. Talking with people, both over the phone and at their doors, is intimidating, especially when you have never done it before.

I won’t speak specifically about what happened Saturday, and I know that in no way does my experience or my feelings reflect or represent the campaign. I do believe what happened was unintentional. What I will say though, is that I felt like I was treated differently simply because I am a woman.

It hurt, deeply.

Not that long ago, the type of treatment I felt I received would have dissuaded me from ever participating with that organization again. If I feel that way, it’s not a leap to say others treated similarly would feel the same. This is not okay. The barriers to participation are already high enough without adding disrespect to women, intentional or not.

After gathering the canvassing material, I went to the neighborhood with my partner (also referred to as my fiancé, for those wondering). It took me a while to gather myself, and yes, I even cried. I told my partner I wasn’t sure if I had thick enough skin for this. I told him I didn’t know if I could really handle this type of treatment. I told him I didn’t know if I could even knock on doors at that point.

But I did. I shook it off to focus on the task at hand.

We went to about 50 houses, and had some great conversations along the way. Were there people who didn’t want to talk to us? Absolutely. But there were more who thanked us for doing what we were doing, and for that, I am eternally grateful. It was the experience of shaking hands with voters, looking them in the eye, and hearing what they had to say that turned the experience around.

The truth of the matter is that it takes a lot of energy for me to put myself in front of others. I’m not pushy or aggressive, and often I’d rather stand to the side and listen rather than wave my hands for attention. I was fortunate to have a job the last five years that required me to be more outgoing, and so I’ve learned how to be better at it in many ways. But it doesn’t take a lot to derail me, and Saturday could have easily been a derailment.

And so, I want to learn how to navigate these disheartening experiences better so that I can address them in the moment, in hopes of bringing this, most likely, unintentional treatment to light so that it doesn’t happen to others. The barriers to participation are too high and I want to work on lowering them as much as I can.

If you’ve had an experience like this, or worry about an experience like this, what advice do you have to those of us trying to overcome them? It’s not an easy question to answer, but let’s start the conversation so that we can.

Rallies, Triumphs, Roadblocks and Learning Curves: Part One

I could write a book about the last four days. It’s been exhilarating; it’s been exasperating; it’s been emotional; it’s been exhausting. I’m struggling to put my thoughts down in a cohesive and concise post, so bear with me as I do have to break this into two parts.

Last Thursday, I went to the state capitol to rally in support of Senate Bill 305, which would allow the 56 counties in Montana to decide if they wanted to have a mail-in ballot only for the upcoming special election for Montana’s only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. If you’re curious how we got to here, I recommend watching this 20-minute segment by Rachel Maddow. In general, this would have been a quiet bill except for the fact that the Chair of the Montana Republican Party decided to send a letter to his members about how this bill would favor the Democrat candidate because more people would vote with a mail-in ballot than with a go-to-the-polls ballot.

Estimates are that a mail-in ballot across the state would save between $500,000 and $750,000. On top of that, it does increase access for all Montanans, especially those working full time or more, the elderly who don’t have transportation, and rural communities that might have a polling place 50 miles away. This is a bi-partisan bill with bi-partisan support, and yet, after the State Senate passed the bill, it was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, where it most likely will die without any action. I went to the hearing to support the bill and rally with others speaking up for fiscal responsibility and access. I’d never been to a legislative session before, never attended a hearing over a bill that could become law. I was out of my league, in over my head, and unsure of my surroundings.

It was amazing.

I even spoke in front of the committee, albeit just to give my name in support of the bill. But I watched and participated in the process. And it wasn’t a pretty one – this is why you don’t want to see sausages or laws being made. It’s messy. It’s unforgiving. It’s misogynistic. I really cannot put into words how being there fed my passion. And yet, that is exactly what it did. Going to watch the hearing, and without planning to, participating in it, solidified that I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I used my voice in the hearing, and shared my experience through social media, and I will most likely never be the same.

After that experience, and the inability of the U.S. House Republicans and the Administration to move forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I was excited to go knock on doors for Rob Quist (running in the special election) on Saturday. While I was nervous, I was also excited to connect more with the people that I would be working with and gain some experience with canvassing. What I didn’t anticipate was that my confidence and commitment would be shaken, that I would have to work even harder to overcome barriers to participation, and that things will dampen my spirit and enthusiasm along the way.

But, for today, I will leave you with this – roadblocks and barriers that dampen the spirit can be overcome. Stay tuned…

P.S. Pat yourself on the back if you reached out to your representatives regarding the terrible bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. If you emailed, called, sent a post card, or rallied in support of the ACA, thank you. You made a difference. This is what democracy looks like.

Into the Arena

With each week, I take at least one more step forward into the world of activism and politics. Each time I take a step, I am more empowered and more enthusiastic about what I’m doing. This week was no exception. And yet I am also reminded that this is all new to me. This is the first time I’ve put myself out there in my own community. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I want to keep doing it so that I can learn.

I took a break this week from the D.C. cluster to focus on more local issues and actions. I’m still very much paying attention, listening to some of the Gorsuch hearings, following the attempt to repeal the ACA, and wondering what the heck is going on with Russia, but I didn’t dwell on it too much. Instead, I pushed myself into the room, into the arena, of local and state politics. It was exhilarating.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I put my name in for consideration to become a precinct committee woman for the county Democrats. On Wednesday, I went to my first committee meeting to see if I would be selected for the position. It was a packed house in the conference room, and the energy in the room was palpable. For the first time since I started down this path, I was in a room full of engaged and enthusiastic citizens. Before Wednesday, out of the 32 precincts in the county, only 13 had a committee person. After Wednesday, that number doubled to 26 precincts. The best part? Many of the new precinct people are young professionals. And yes, I am one of the new precinct committee members.

After the voting/selection of new precinct people was completed, the chair of the county Democrats shared some words of wisdom. He said, to be most effective in politics, one must listen more than speak. To be a leader, listening is the way forward. It is important advice to remember, one that I intend to follow through on. My precinct is the subdivision that I live in, and I do not know my neighbors. I don’t know what it will be like to knock on doors, but I will do my best to listen to those willing to share their concerns and insights. In this way, I hope to learn more about and engage with my community. We all have something to learn from one another (although I do admit there are exceptions).

I stepped into the arena this week. And by doing so, I realized that I am not actually a “stay at home” dissident, but rather an awakening one. I have a dear friend to thank for this realization, and I greatly appreciate her suggestion. Remember, we have something to learn from one another, and we will all help each other along the way.

Gaining Perspectives

My Facebook news feed has changed drastically in the last three months. Before, I would see updates from friends about their personal lives; now, I see news articles, political cartoons, and posts to closed action groups. I now get my news from The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, The Global and Mail, Al Jazeera, The Economist, The Atlantic, FiveThirtyEight, NPR, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, AP, The Week, and News and Guts. And while I don’t follow them, I also do check Fox News and, begrudgingly, Breitbart (which I can’t even bring myself to link to). It’s information overload, but I need to see the headlines from across a spectrum of sources. I need to see how information is presented in hopes of finding the heart of the matter.

In this way, while it makes for a messy and often overwhelming view of current events, it’s helped me find what matters most to me. It’s also helped me continue to hold true to a pluralistic view of the world. I want to hear and try to understand multiple perspectives, because that is the only way that I will learn compassion and demonstrate empathy. Because that’s how I’m going to fight.

I’ve been watching The West Wing again (maybe for at least the 20th time, seriously), and after 9/11, the show did an episode that was outside of the plot. The episode, Isaac and Ishmael, walks the audience through a lock down of the White House during which time a group of high school students have the chance to talk with the staff about terrorism. In the end, Bradley Whitford’s character, Josh, tells the students that the only way to fight terrorism is to hold multiple world views, to be pluralistic.

Holding one world view, believing that only one possible way of life exists, limits our understanding of our world, and traps us in a small and boring box. I challenge you to think about your box and your world view and ask yourself “Am I getting different perspectives?” If the answer is no, look outside your box for a perspective you have not considered before, and open yourself up to at least trying to understand it. I truly believe that if more people did this, we would seek to compromise and build coalitions rather than shutting out “the other”. It would no longer be about pandering to the base but about reaching across the aisle to find common ground. It would become more about our similarities rather than our differences.

It isn’t going to be easy, but this is my hope for the future. What’s yours?

Push Your Comfort Zone

In my last post, I left you with the idea of pushing your comfort zone. This new life I have, one that doesn’t involve a traditional 8am-5pm job, pushes my comfort zone every day. Each morning, I wake up and set my priorities for the day, knowing that I alone am responsible for what I accomplish. I have no one watching over me, keeping me accountable. I’m two weeks in to this new world, and there have been days where this freedom has been exhilarating, and days that it’s almost been crippling. I’m learning to be comfortable again with myself, in my own skin, with my own thoughts and motivations. That’s part of the reason I’ve started writing again.

Another reason I’ve started writing is because I want to share my struggles and triumphs in being an engaged and active participant in this democracy. This is completely new to me, and very much outside of my comfort zone, as I’m sure it is new and uncomfortable for many others.

I recently stumbled upon an opportunity with my county Democrats that is going to push my comfort zone even more. I submitted my name for consideration to become a Precinct Committee Woman, and I’ll find out next week if I will take on this new responsibility. I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting myself into, to be perfectly honest. I think I will be canvassing in my neighborhood, sharing information on the upcoming special election and then mid-terms in 2018, and possibly even organizing fundraisers and rallies for Democrat candidates.

I decided to throw my name in the ring for this position because I’m worried about losing momentum. I’m worried that we’re already seeing a downturn in passion and outrage over actions by the Trump administration. I felt this position, getting involved with the local Democrats, was a way to continue to push myself and hold myself accountable in maintaining this marathon. Because that is what this is. It’s a marathon. And just like with any grueling activity, it takes training and pushing yourself beyond what you are comfortable with, beyond what you think you can do.

There are also times, in this marathon, that we made need to sprint, times where we must push so hard and so quickly that it may seem like a blur. For Montana, right now that sprint is the special election for our only seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. This sprint is only a little more than two months long, but the impact could be significant for both Montana and for the country.

So, I challenge you to think about how you can push yourself to something you aren’t comfortable with. I challenge you to go beyond what you think you can do. I challenge you to start your training for this democratic marathon, knowing the stakes are high and the rewards might not come to fruition for years (or even generations) to come.

In writing this post, an article came my way that speaks to the very heart of what I’m getting at. Rebecca Solnit, in the Guardian this week, wrote “Actions often ripple far beyond their immediate objective, and remembering this is reason to live by principle and act in hope that what you do matters, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious.” She also reminds us that “You will have to believe in your own power and impact anyway.”

So, what will you do? What will you impact?


This past weekend, I dived in to my new role as social and political activist. It was exhilarating. It was inspiring. It was frustrating.

The day after the inauguration, women and men around the world rallied in solidarity of women, in protest of the election, in support of all the important things that are under threat. That day, I was so proud of my country, my state, my community. Living in one of the least populated states in the U.S., organizers were expecting maybe 4,000-5,000 marchers on January 21. Instead, 10,000 showed up. It was incredible. I saw people from all walks of life in the capital, and it was exhilarating to be a part of it. My fear is that the momentum from that day is fading.

Since the Women’s March, I’ve done the following:

What has been so frustrating about many of these events I’ve gone to is that while I am there, not many of my peers are. I recognize that I’m in a unique position compared to many (I no longer have an 8-5 job, for one thing). I recognize that everyone is busy with competing priorities. I get it. But, my peers were at the Women’s March in January. They are on social media, voicing dissent. They express concern in one-on-one conversations. So why aren’t they at more of these events? If it’s because they don’t agree, I’ll respect their perspective and hope to have a clarifying conversation about why. If it’s because they don’t know where to start, I get that. If it’s because they are too intimidated to put themselves out there, let’s talk.

Some of these things were incredibly intimidating, most notably the phone banking for Rob Quist’s campaign for U.S. Congress. It was terrifying to cold call voters in Gallatin county, even knowing that most wouldn’t answer the phone, and those that did were likely Democrats and would be receptive to my call. I’ve grown up in the generation that doesn’t use the phone – we use email and social media to connect with our friends and peers, so the phone is intimidating and in many ways, unfamiliar. And yet, after a while, the person on the other end wasn’t as scary and I took less and less time between dials to work up the nerve to press send.

But I must keep pressing send, and I must keep showing up, because if I don’t, if we don’t, our democracy will continue to disappear. We must keep the momentum strong, and we must keep doing things that push our comfort zone.

Your First Step

The first step is always the hardest one, and that is no less true than when you are talking about getting active and sharing your voice. For me, the final straw in recognizing that I couldn’t be silent anymore was when the Trump administration issued the first executive order on a travel ban, effectively cutting off immigrants and refugees from 7 predominately Muslim countries. For me, this is against everything that the United States stands for. I can’t help but think of The New Colossus, which captures the heart of immigration to these shores:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We are a land of immigrants, and yet we’ve been here before. This is not the first time in our nation’s history that a group of immigrants has been targeted; Irish Catholics, Jews, Chinese, Germans, Polish, Japanese, etc., all faced similar discrimination that Muslims are now subjected to. When are we going to learn from our history?

Without having an answer to that question, I realized I needed to act, and so, for the first time in my life, I called my representatives in Washington, D.C. It was terrifying. I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was going to say. Luckily, someone had pointed me to a wonderful resource that makes this just a little bit easier; gives you the issues, the script and the phone number of your representatives so that you can share your concern and demand action. I can’t tell you how important this was for me to take my first step. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise. And since that first step, I haven’t been able to stop.

This was my first step, and I’m going to share my consequent steps along the way, but I can’t do this alone. You may have a different issue that inspires you to act. You may have a different first step. You may need a different tool. But, you need to take that first step. You cannot be silent anymore.

Waking Up

I woke up on my 31st birthday this year and felt an overwhelming desire to speak out and act against the injustices that I perceived. Two days before my birthday, the Trump Administration issued an executive order that, in essence, banned citizens of predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, even those with valid visas. For the first time in my life, I called my representatives. For the first time in my life, I shared my political values on social media. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had a voice.

Since then, I’ve been reading as much as I can about the actions the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress are taking, speaking out when I can, and joining rallies, town halls, and Democratic events in the hopes that I can make a difference and stand with my peers.

The problem, though, is that I don’t see my peers. At least not at everything I’m going to. I went to the Women’s March, and saw my peers there. But then I went to a state legislature recap and I saw none. I also don’t see my peers when I look at those elected to represent me. What’s most disappointing is that even when there is a chance for someone to represent me that is closer to my peer than anyone else, she’s not selected because those voting are not my peers either.

The danger here is that I’m impatient. I woke up on January 29 wanting the world to be different, because I was different. I saw the world differently and knew that I needed to act to make it better, more inclusive, more open. But I can’t change the world overnight. Change takes time, and I must be patient. But I will not be silent anymore. I must remain present and show up to events. I must continue to educate myself. I must share my voice, in hopes that others will share theirs, and together, we can make a difference.

So, it’s time to wake up, once again, and recognize that I’m going to have to keep waking up every day and watching and acting when I see injustice and fear taking over my country and my world. I will no longer be silent.