Building Confidence Through Experience

I’ve been meaning to get back into blogging for a while now. There’s so much, I’m really not sure where to start. And there’s always the intimidation of a blank page… I’ve gone to start a new post many times, then backed out.

Nearly every time, this saved draft has come up. I’ve tried deleting it – I wrote it in early June for crying out loud! – but still it remains. I read it this morning and nearly cried at the end. I’ve come so far since writing this. I’m gonna go ahead and let it speak for itself:

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I’ve been working in the local Bernie Sanders campaign office for at least a week now: recruiting volunteers, training people to canvass, even going out and knocking on doors myself. It used to be fun while K was there; we just seem to click, you know? Similar interests and personalities, it’s like we’re on the same wavelength. His jokes were what helped me overcome my anxiety about calling random strangers to ask them to volunteer. His leadership is what freed me to go out knocking on random strangers’ doors. He has expressed appreciation for my efforts, considered my ideas, empowered me to organize in my town, given me leadership roles. It’s awesome.

But now he’s not going to be around most of the time (he’s helping another office), and instead M is running the joint. She seems nice enough, but her entire demeanor is different. She’s very down to business. “That won’t work, you should do this.” Maybe it’s just that I’m tired; I had a very busy day yesterday and my heart wasn’t entirely in it – I really didn’t feel like making calls. So I emailed people who signed up for events without giving us their number and called potential volunteers. Nada.

I hadn’t planned on canvassing because my feet hurt from the day before, but I grabbed the list I’d started and went out anyway. Door after door after door, not home. Not home. Not home. Someone finally answers. “No, they’re not here.” “We’re having dinner.” “We’re all voting for Hillary.”

I swear, this is like a gambling addiction. I keep looking at the list: “Okay, they’re 23, they’ll probably be a Bernie supporter.” Not home. Or moved. “The light is on.” Not home. “Well, you never know, my mom’s in her 60s and she’s voting for Bernie.” … that one never ends well …

But every so often, for a few shining moments, I get to talk to someone who says, “Yeah, of course I’m voting for Bernie!” Those people tend to be “too busy” to volunteer, though. And on rare occasions I get to talk to an undecided voter and hopefully sway them toward Bernie, even if just a little bit. Last night, when someone said he supported Bernie but didn’t plan to vote, I asked why. He said he didn’t think he could vote in the primary because he’s not registered as a Democrat. Well, it turns out that in my state he can – he’ll just have to declare at the polls – so I told him. Hopefully this will mean 1 more vote for Bernie. Enough of those, and we win.

(Go to CanIVote.org to verify your registration and party affiliation, and for information about how to vote in your state’s primary. It’s a nonpartisan site.)

It’s hard, holding on for those moments. Just one more house. Maybe this will be it! No… oh, well, maybe this next one. Maybe this next one. My feet hurt, I’m hungry, I’m tired, and I’m using my phone as a flashlight. But I push myself to go to the next house, to be warm and friendly when I greet its occupant(s).

At one of the last houses I went to, there were 4 or 5 names on my list, but only one answered. She seemed determined to block access to the others. I introduced myself, asked my questions. “Well I’m definitely voting for Hillary.” “Can I give you a flyer for the other members of your household?” “No, we’re all well informed. We’re all voting for Hillary.” I might have raised an eyebrow. “And you know, I really think he should drop out. He’s made his point, now he should just stop!” I blinked, and talked about how I’m glad Bernie’s staying in the race so – after over a year of supporting him – I’ll finally get to vote. I don’t think she was listening, she seemed to think I was trying to persuade her to vote for him.

I checked in at the office, grabbed the stuff I’d left there, called my husband to apologize for being the worst spouse ever, and came home. I went to bed fuming.

I think, if I get another person like that, I might not be so polite. I get it, I’m knocking on your door completely out of the blue to talk to you about a candidate you don’t support. Fine. Most of the Hillary supporters I’ve talked to have been friendly. Many have thanked me for my activism. Some have even wished me “good luck.” (Which seems a little ironic, but I’ll take it.) It’s not so difficult to say “No, thank you.” I’ll even accept it if you simply refuse to talk to me.

But to tell me that Bernie should drop out of the race is completely unacceptable. If you have that opinion, fine, but it’s very rude to say so to a canvasser.

Bernie Sanders has spent his entire political career – longer than I’ve been alive – fighting for nearly everything I believe in. He is about as close to my ideal president as it’s possible to get. I have enthusiastically supported him since the day he announced he was running for president. I have donated to his campaign multiple times. I have held my breath awaiting the results of every caucus and primary. I have beaten myself up over the anxiety that prevented me from volunteering sooner. I have pushed myself a million miles outside my comfort zone and overcome agoraphobia (okay, “agoraphobic tendencies”) so I can participate fully in the political revolution.

Now Bernie’s campaign is in my state, and I’ve essentially made it my full time job. I’ve put everything else on hold for it. I’m tired, but I’m showing up at the office anyway. I haven’t eaten in 6 hours, but I’m standing on your porch smiling while you tell me that coming here was a waste of my time. My feet hurt and my shoes are crappy, but I’m walking down street after street anyway.

I’m doing all these things because I believe Bernie Sanders’ campaign – and especially the political revolution he’s incited – is the most important thing that has happened in my lifetime. I am proud to be a part of it and I will do everything I can to make sure it succeeds. I sincerely believe that he can win the general election even if he has to run as a third-party candidate. That he is the president this country needs. The world needs. I and my family and the millions of Americans who are less fortunate than we are need. Universal healthcare, pronto. Lower interest rates on student debt, or we may never be able to pay it off. Addressing climate change as the threat it is. Using the tax revenue from the wealthiest nation in the history of the world to educate our people, build up our communities, ensure the veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedom have homes and income and receive any and all treatment they need.

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who is talking openly about the need for better, immediately-accessible mental healthcare.

And I can think of nothing more feminist than an old white man who could easily retire and live comfortably doing everything in his power to empower those of us who have been marginalized, disenfranchised, made invisible, tread upon, taken for granted, and stolen from for decades.

Bernie promised that he will take his campaign all the way to the Democratic Convention; he needs every pledged delegate he can win to make the strongest case possible for why he should be the Democratic nominee. He has said, multiple times, that everyone in every state should have the opportunity to vote in this primary, to have our voices be heard. Every state – including mine. Every voice – including mine.

I have waited for over a year to vote for the person who I believe is the best presidential candidate this nation has ever seen. If you disagree with me, fine. Vote for whomever you please. Just do not tell me that my voice should be silenced. I have just as much right to vote for my candidate as you do for yours. I deserve to have a say in who the Democratic nominee for president will be.

To say anything else is completely and utterly disrespectful, a slap in the face, and I claim every right to defend myself.

Transformation

Wow. I spent 2 days totaling 12 hours registering voters outside my town’s public library. 4 new democrats, 7 unaffiliated (who can declare party affiliation at the polls). I handed out several additional registration forms and information about my state’s and town’s upcoming primary.

Okay, the not-so-great stuff first:

  • I got a mild sunburn even though I was in the shade the whole time.
  • I spent most of my shift yesterday having a conversation with someone who talks like a Bernie supporter but actually supports Trump because she hates immigrants and people in the US who are undocumented. Despite being an otherwise reasonable, educated person, she would not listen to rational arguments about why a Trump presidency would be disastrous for her and “[her] people.”
    • That person seemed to be manipulating my voter registration efforts, worst of all by saying bad things about Latinos while people who looked like they might be Latino/a were walking by.
    • She said stuff about LGBTQIA people that made me feel uncomfortable – and misgendered me.
    • I didn’t know how to ask her to leave.
  • I seem to have developed a cyst in a most awkward location as a result of sitting for too long wearing tight jeans. It’s painful enough to affect how I walk. I’m reluctant to go to the doctor because 1) I might have to wait a long time for them to be able to see me 2) I don’t know if I’ll be able to set the boundary that I only want them to deal with that specific problem 3) the word “surgical” was included in the description of how the cyst is typically treated. (If you’re so inclined, please pray, send positive energy, etc. for it to heal on its own.)
  • I seem to have forgotten what “regular meals” are.

In much better news, I feel like I’ve transformed overnight. I had been “developing agoraphobic tendencies,” feeling unmotivated to do anything, intimidated by the idea of contacting voters or recruiting volunteers, and depressed that I was “wasting my life.”

Then I started working with the current regional manager for the campaign and everything changed. I spent 2 days outside where anyone could see me calling out to random strangers and talking to them about the primary. I dealt gracefully with people who said weird things to me, like implying that my efforts were futile or that I had “nothing better to do” with my time. (grr.) I received a number of compliments from people who were grateful for the convenience, found my information sheet informative, or found me helpful. I even got the satisfaction of knowing that high school students who are too young to vote are interested in it. I’d love to recruit some of them for Bernie’s campaign! (Dunno where/whether it’s legal for me to do that, though.)

After my shift yesterday, instead of being exhausted and wanting to get away from people, I was eager to get back to work for Bernie’s campaign. When doing voter registration I couldn’t represent the campaign – at least not officially – so I couldn’t wait to shed the illusion of “impartiality” and go talk to people who aren’t walking contradictions. I got to the office late because I needed to eat something, but then I spent a couple hours recruiting volunteers – many of whom were enthusiastic to have the opportunity to go knock on doors of potential voters.

Remember when I said knocking on the doors of strangers was the last thing I wanted to do? Now I can’t wait!

I also figure I should do it myself at least once before I get to be the one training people and sending them out Monday night.

I am so happy I’m alive because I get to do all this stuff! I love feeling so energized. I get to do something about all the things I’ve wanted to change in the US for years now; I get to act on the things I’m most passionate about. There’s a real, meaningful role for me to play – and I’m doing it right now.

I’m also thinking a bit about my career: The leadership opportunities I’m engaging in will look great on my resume. My current and upcoming regional managers, as well as the co-leader for my town, may be willing to serve as references. Resume and whatnot aside, the experience I’m getting is fantastic for my personal and professional growth. I feel so much more confident that I can do this stuff – because I’m doing it!!! This is fantastic!!!

I’m very fortunate in that I can decide this is the most important thing for me to do, and I can choose to pour all my time and energy into it. I’m determined to make a difference!

Run, Bernie, Run (all the way to the White House)

I recently posted about why I’ve joined the “Bernie or Bust” movement – why I will not compromise regarding my vote for U.S. President. A lot of people say it’s important for Democrats and people who lean Democrat to unite behind the nominee – regardless of who it is – in order to avoid a Trump presidency. The concern about what could happen if Trump were to become president is valid, but I don’t want to be dictated by fear, or to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” And frankly, a lot of polls have been consistently showing that Bernie is the Democratic candidate who has the best chances of winning the general election (Bernie has +13.4 chance vs Hillary’s +6.5).

a chart with a blue line representing Bernie Sanders' poll results above a red line representing Trump's

chart from RealClearPolitics.com showing Bernie’s considerable lead over Trump in polls since January 1, 2016

 

a chart with a blue line representing Hillary Clinton's poll results above a red line representing Trump's

chart from RealClearPolitics.com showing Hillary’s less impressive lead over Trump in polls since January 1, 2016

I’ve been saying for a while now that those of us who support not only Bernie but the political revolution, who want our government to be truly for and by the people, need to unite and vote for him in November – regardless of whether he is the Democratic nominee. In my post (link above) I asked readers to email an individual who is building a campaign for Bernie to run as an Independent, should the need arise. (Our first goal, of course, is for him to win the Democratic primary.)

an image of Bernie Sanders with a blue background and the text "Petition Bernie to run as Inependent"

a screenshot of the 4Berni.com website

Well, it took less than 2 weeks for the movement to gain over 2000 supporters! We now have our own website – 4Berni.com – which features a petition for him to run as an Independent if necessary. Our goal is to reach 2 million signatures in time to deliver the petition at the Democratic Convention in June.

If you’re a Bernie supporter, if you need access to healthcare, if you are not a multi-millionaire, if you are a member of a group that is regularly discriminated against, if you have student debt, if you want our planet to remain hospitable to human and other life, if you want people’s well-being to be prioritized over profits, etc. Please get involved in Bernie’s (official) campaign (for the Democratic nomination). Please commit to voting for him – in your state’s caucus or primary if you haven’t already, and in the general election on November 8th. (Visit CanIvote.org for information about your voter status, how to register, and how to vote.)

Please also sign the petition for Bernie Sanders to run as an Independent if he is not chosen as the Democratic nominee.

An image of a form including text boxes requesting one's email address, first and last name, zip code, and information about willingness to volunteer. Below the text boxes is a check box to receive updates and the submit button.

an image of the petition form on 4Berni.com

The form to sign the petition includes a space where you can describe the level of involvement you want to have in building a campaign for Bernie to WIN the presidency as an Independent candidate. It automatically registers petition signers to receive updates via email, but you can opt out by un-checking the box. This is an independent petition not linked to any of the popular online petition sites.

I think, if it’s ever been likely for a 3rd-party candidate to win an election, this is it. Bernie is the only candidate with a positive favorability rating. He’s “YUGE”-ly popular with non-affiliated and young voters. He’s been drawing massive crowds at rallies, inspiring marches, people have even made murals of him. He’s the person who has really made this campaign about the issues that are important to everyday Americans from day one. He is running a successful grassroots campaign that is entirely dependent on individual donations, and he has inspired record voter turnout.

He is also the only candidate who has outright stated that mental healthcare should be easily accessible for everyone.

So, yeah. Bernie or Bust! Are you in?

The Revolutionary Won – with Help

Fox and I just got home from an organizational meeting for the Bernie Sanders campaign in my state. I introduced myself in front of a group, shared why I support Bernie and admitted to some of the insecurities that have kept me from being more involved, attended training to be able to canvas and phonebank … and signed up to be a co-leader of the campaign in my town. Wait, what?

We were talking about stuff I’d been considering anyway. It was so motivating to hear the message: these things are important and we’re going to support you in doing them. And if I’m a leader I’ll be helping people organize who already share something in common with me: we’re all Bernie supporters (as my therapist assured me on Friday). There will be less pressure to reach out to people who may not share views or may even be hostile to them.

It was so cool to be surrounded by people – there were about 30 of us – of all different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds who all believe in Bernie and the political revolution. We talked about how it’s particularly relevant to us as individuals, to our towns, and to our state as a whole. I felt energized, connected, powerful, like I can make a difference. It felt good.

It’s a first step. The other co-leader said he’d call me tomorrow so we can begin organizing. I’ll need to start figuring out how to do things like registering voters at local schools and securing meeting places and setting up events to canvas, phonebank, etc. It will be work… but it will be good to have something meaningful to do, something that will make a difference. And something social.

Fox helped me get out the door & figure out where to go. He reassured me when I felt uncomfortable. He cheered me on when I was outgoing and proactive. He backed off when it became clear that I was engaging fully and with confidence. It was everything I needed. And he said he’ll support me in my leadership position, which is really awesome.

Find out about events near you at Map.BernieSanders.com/

Also please check out feelthebern.org for information about where Bernie stands on the issues, how to vote, and how to get involved in the campaign.

All In – Why I’ve Joined the Bernie or Bust Movement

There’s been another battle going on inside me, between the Revolutionary and the joint forces of anxiety and “practicality”. The Revolutionary is a diehard Bernie Sanders supporter who is dedicated not only to electing him President of the United States but more importantly to the political revolution he has sparked. He is the only 2016 candidate for President of the United States who is talking about the serious issues facing 99% of its citizens and has a consistent record of standing up for everyday people – particularly those who have been marginalized. He is the only candidate who has spoken up about the importance of accessible mental healthcare and has a plan to implement comprehensive universal healthcare. He has run a successful grassroots campaign that relies solely on small individual donations, drawn massive crowds to rallies, motivated thousands if not millions of young people to become engaged in determining the policies that affect us (largely via innovative use of social media), AND he has inspired other progressive candidates to run for political office.

If the Revolutionary could take sufficient control over my actions, I would be Phone Banking regularly, registering voters, participating in campaign events and doing other volunteer work… possibly even knocking on people’s doors to encourage them to vote for him (and other progressive candidates). I would have been posting about him fairly regularly on this blog, even though I hadn’t really intended it to be political (though it kind of is, with the mental health advocacy I’ve attempted, and even just by being candid about mental health issues). I would be researching and promoting progressive candidates who are running for other offices, particularly the U.S. (federal) House of Representatives and Senate; by the way, most of the current members of Congress (including the entire House) are up for re-election. Please check out BallotPedia to learn who’s running for what office(s) in your state.

But social anxiety has been keeping me home and keeping me relatively silent when opportunities to advocate for Bernie have come up. I fear being ostracized, bullied, possibly even attacked (physically or otherwise) – or drawn into an unhealthy codependent relationship. In my CBT sessions I find myself talking a lot about not knowing the “rules” for interacting with a group I want to join; I don’t know what to expect so I don’t know how to behave to maximize my likelihood of being accepted (or at least not abused). At the same time I want to be able to express myself freely, but recall that in groups my voice tends not to be heard (both literally and figuratively). That makes the prospect of attempting to join a group (or attend an event) all the less appealing: why take the risk and put in the work if I’m just going to go home feeling frustrated because my attempts to contribute/interact weren’t even acknowledged?

Then the depression speaks up – I think the “practicality” I mentioned earlier is really depression: “I should have done this earlier, it’s too late to make a difference, voter suppression is going to kill his campaign even if he is the popular choice, and besides what difference can I really make?” I’ve also been isolating myself because of depression; whether it’s because I truly lack the energy or not I just haven’t wanted to interact with people lately (unless I know there’s a good chance I’ll find it enjoyable, meaningful, or both). Joining groups involves too much risk without enough guarantee of reward, and interrupting someone’s day to call them or knock on their door is completely out of the question.

Umm… but if you feel up to doing such things, more power to you. I don’t mean to discourage anyone from actively engaging in Bernie’s campaign – quite the opposite, actually!

The Revolutionary isn’t giving up that easily. The Revolutionary remembers being annoyed with Democrats during the first Clinton administration and the second Bush administration because they (the Democrats) were constantly giving in to the Republicans’ demands. The Revolutionary remembers feeling a surge of pride when President Obama and other Democrats started standing up to the Republicans and promoting progressive policies and values. But the Republicans have been becoming increasingly extreme, to the point where it’s really in everyone’s best interest to avoid listening to them, and to vote them all out of office immediately. And the mainstream Democratic party seems to be trying to meet them in the middle again, apologizing to them again, at best paying lip service to progressives while making deals that benefit their wallets at everyone else’s expense.

During the Democratic Primary 2016 debates, whenever Hillary Clinton spoke, by the time she was done I wasn’t sure what the question was anymore. Sometimes aspects of her answer sounded good, but they also sounded a lot like what Bernie Sanders has been saying loud and clear through his actions as well as his words for longer than I’ve been alive. I could vote for Clinton if she’s the Democratic nominee – she would definitely be better than anyone the Republicans have to offer – but I have no idea what she would do… except probably get us involved in another expensive war. Oh, yeah, and maintain the status quo while playing lip service to progressive values – and maybe, if we do well in Congress, signing legislation that might actually lead to useful change.

“Enough is enough.”

The Revolutionary won’t settle for making sure there is “a Democrat” in the White House. I can’t live with 8 more years of the status quo. Don’t get me wrong, Obama has been an excellent president, especially considering the obstructionism he’s faced. But I don’t see Hillary building on the progress he’s made – at best I see her maintaining it.

The Revolutionary thinks the best case scenario the U.S. can face is for both parties – Republicans and Democrats – to tear themselves to shreds and burn. From the ashes a truly progressive party for and by everyday people will rise. Perhaps there will be other parties, too – to be honest I wouldn’t mind a true conservative party, because in my experience fair-minded conservatives tend to share perspectives that can be very useful for shaping effective policies.

Whatever their perspectives or party affiliations, the focus of our political leaders must be on the real issues: promptly and effectively addressing climate change, ensuring everyone has equal access to healthcare, reducing student loan debt, caring for our veterans, making sure everyone can have a quality education, making sure everyone can vote, ensuring civil rights (addressing systematic racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQIA policies, etc.), reducing wealth inequality, and so on. There’s something very important no one has brought up during this primary season and it’s bothering me quite a bit: the issue of why certain Americans (almost exclusively white heterosexual cis men) commit unspeakable acts of violence against other people (often women, children, and members of racial or religious minorities). The candidates can all talk until they’re blue in the face about whether and what regulations should be applied to guns and who should be held accountable and so on, but we need to address the cause(s) of gun violence – including suicide.

I want to see our political leaders, whatever parties they may form and general perspectives they may take, tackling these issues on a regular basis. And who better to lead us all than Bernie Sanders, who brought these issues into the public eye – or more accurately, brought us together under a common banner so we’re talking about them on a national level – through his campaign in the first place? (Despite the mainstream media blackout.)

So, this is it, I’m all in. “Bernie or Bust.” I will not be silenced in the name of “party unity.” I will vote for Bernie Sanders in my state’s Democratic primary and then again in November, even if I have to write him in. It’s a big risk, I know – and part of me is terrified of what could happen. But part of me is hopeful, too.

In all honesty, I really hope Bernie will get the Democratic nomination and then he’ll wipe the floor with whomever the Republicans put forward in November and we’ll have 8 years of awesome. I’m working to be able to help make that happen, and I encourage you to do so as well (find out how at BernieSanders.com).

But if he does not get the nomination, his supporters need to collectively decide what we’re going to do, so the vote doesn’t get split (too much). I say we all vote for him anyway, and there’s someone trying to help make sure that happens. Please check out their post on Facebook and email them at (no spaces): Bernie Revolutionist (at) g mail (dot) com with the subject “BERNIE SANDERS INDEPENDENT RUN.” Let’s make this a real revolution!