"okay my blood is boiling! what do we do, mar?"

My friend Stacy in Florida posted this comment today in response to my post detailing my frustration with the difficult political goings-on in the country right now. I was going to reply in comments, saying something like, "Well, gee, I don't know, I don't have all the answers I'd like to have to solve things and I..." and then I thought again. That's a cop-out, because if I have written something that has inspired someone to act, it's my responsibility to not leave anyone in simmering frustration. I don't have all the answers or ideas, but that's not important. Leaving readers with a few ideas about positive things each one of us can do to peacefully participate in our government is what I should have done at the end of that post! Lo siento, y'all.

Let's begin at the beginningest beginning of all...

1. Get INFORMED. This takes a LOT more effort than turning on FOX or CNN. You have to search a variety of sources, whether it's on the internet, your local library, or listening to or speaking with the people directly involved in the issues you are concerned about. As much as it might frustrate you (more), you must seek out the best-quality sources of opposing views as well, if you have interest in finding out WHY and HOW, to seek common ground or understanding, or know exactly what you are up against. Try hard to find neutral sources of information for data. Polls and stats can be spun endlessly by political factions. Get your hands on court documents and a legal dictionary, and see in black-and-white what laws are being proposed, passed, or are precedent. It's hard, but trying to dig out some kind of reality in the constant stream of information being thrown out there is YOUR job. You can't always leave it to someone else. And you have to be prepared to take in things that are going to upset you, from all sides. Think for yourself to know what you believe.

2. Register to VOTE and then ACTUALLY VOTE in EVERY election. Your right to vote is precious and powerful, but sometimes it takes the consequences of apathy to understand that. So many people see the bickering and see-sawing of Democrats vs. Republicans and think it's all is a useless merry-go-round and that the United States is owned by oil kings and Disney anyway. That doesn't excuse you from your responsibility as a citizen and to all your fellow citizens to be involved. What you do matters deeply; you just may not be able to see it or feel it at that moment you pull the voting booth lever.

3. Know who represents YOU and make contact. Most people, even people who faithfully vote, will never once contact their political representatives. But you should -- they are there to serve YOU, after all, and at the very very least, should make note of your particular concern. How can they know how you feel if you don't SAY something? Write, call, text, whatever, but make it count. That means that if you oppose or support a particular bill, law, or proposal, reference it by number or title so the staffer who takes your message can route it properly. Randomly ranting about how things suck will get you nowhere. Be brief but specific, be polite, state your concern, give your contact information, and wrap it up. The "be polite" thing goes extra-super-double when speaking to a representative whom you loathe. Have a couple of beers later or something.

4. Join up with other like-minded folks. As we have seen, even small groups, if ardent, well-organized, media-savvy, and consistent, can achieve tremendous results. Participating in a political organization can give you many different options of working for the change, and can be a great morale-booster when you are feeling down about the state of the world. It's important to know that you don't stand alone in your beliefs. You can choose your level of involvement, from something as simple as signing a petition to helping run a campaign. Whatever it is you can do to help, there's a group that needs you. For instance, I am not good with cold-calling voters; that's not my thing. But I can write a persuasive PR release and I can take decent photographs of rallies or meetings or speeches, and I can throw a few bucks in sometimes as well. I can make coffee and bake brownies, do research, and attend events. I can lead a group cheer that is not only incredibly loud, it's on-key.  And remember: you can form your own group, too! This is America, and if you want to gather up a bunch of your friends as "Go-Go Girls For Grift-less Government," you can! Frug on, ladies!

5. Be there or be square. Your physical presence can be an extremely strong political tool (see: Egypt). When there is a visual aspect to your political beliefs, whether you are the Silent Majority or Silent Minority or the Loud Median Folk or the Moderated Tones Fringe Aspect, when people can SEE you and COUNT you, it makes a big impact. Don't stay home and let others "be the change." YOU have to be it. Even if you are just standing there, you count more than you think to those in power, because they know that for the one that gets up out of the chair to attend a rally or a meeting, there are many many more who aren't there, but will back the ones who are. And it bears repeating: your behavior must be beyond reproach. That means you must conduct your business peacefully. Avoid slurs and swears. Absolutely no violence against person or property. Show respect, even if you aren't getting much in return. You can be angry and passionate about your cause, and speak your mind. But if you lose control of your emotions and your behavior, you make things a whole lot worse for everyone. If you are too much of a hothead and/or a slob, stay home and send in an extra donation check.

This all sounds obvious and simple, but it isn't. It takes real commitment and dedication, and the willingness to fit one more thing into what is probably already a very busy life. Even if you can do only one small thing, do it. Your voice is important. Make it heard.

As we can see from this very-extremely-recently unearthed clip, Governor Scott Walker just could not persuade the head of "Go-Go Girls For Grift-less Government" to sign off on his budget repair bill. Nice try, sir.