The Jan. 6 insurrection, this week’s grandstanding displays by Republican members of Congress (including Sen. Bill Cassidy redefining science to mean “whatever my fossil fuel backers desire”), statehouse actions to drastically restrict voting rights, and other recent events illustrate that the attack on democracy is not specific to the former guy’s presidency. A month ago, I asked the Community what’s next, now that our four-year fight to evict Trump has succeeded. Over 100 commenters offered answers that parallel one by stayingsilent: “Next, we fight like hell to ever prevent such a horror from rising again.” Another commenter, ahumbleopinion, elaborated, “Our messaging must be strong and the teamwork flawless to defeat the propaganda machine of white supremacy. We have to keep it together against our common enemy.”
The Town Hall Project (THP), one of my volunteer efforts, addresses a basic component of democracy—ensuring progressive voices are heard by legislators. I discovered THP early in 2017 through a social media post linking a spreadsheet of town halls scheduled by federal legislators, and asked the poster to add one from my contemptible representative, Doug LaMalfa. I knew constituents alarmed by LaMalfa might miss the town hall because he doesn’t widely publicize events. It’s an attempt, I suspect, to ensure an audience of cheering fans rather than savvy protestors.
When I discovered THP wanted official volunteers to track legislators, I signed up. I was drawn to this project because disability and my unsettled life as a Camp Fire survivor (I’m gearing up to make my sixth move in 28 months) make it difficult to meet time commitments. If I must show up at a certain time and day, I have a high rate of flakitude, which discourages me and doesn’t help the organization. For THP, I spend an hour or two each week, at whatever day/time suits me, tracking seven federal legislators by reading their social media posts and event pages. When I learn of a town hall or other suitable event, I report it.
That modest spreadsheet tracking project run by a few volunteers quickly catapulted into an official organization. Four years later, although the pandemic has altered face-to-face town halls, THP has expanded, tracked over 25,000 town halls and other lawmaker events, and hosted in-person and virtual town halls of its own.
THP merged with Indivisible this week. “Town Hall Project has revolutionized how constituents engage with their representatives over the past four years (and) Indivisible activists have relied on Town Hall Project’s map and tools from the very beginning; together, we stopped TrumpCare, we built the blue wave, and now we’re fixing our democracy.” said Matt Traldi, managing director of the Indivisible Project.
THP is, at its core, a grassroots endeavor. In a Washington Post story about the project’s inception, founder and Executive Director Nathan Williams observed, “In my life, I could not have persuaded some of these people to make a phone call or knock on a door for any reason (and they) are now calling me up and saying, ‘I need to do something, what should I do?’ There is nobody inspiring this, or leading this, it’s coming from the ground level in an amazing organic way.”
I’m one of those people who will never be persuaded to knock on doors or make phone calls, so I’m glad to discover something politically useful I can do. My small bit contributes to a crowdsourced effort that synergizes into a product greater than the sum of its parts. Motivating legislators to hold public meetings and empowering constituents to express their views is essential to strengthening our democracy.
Another Community member, Silent Spring, responded to my “what’s next” query with this activism blueprint: “Start working to elect more Democrats, from school board members to city councilman to mayors. Follow your congressmen and women and hold their feet to fire.”
Indivisible co-founder Ezra Levin observes, “(Some lawmakers) don’t really care about what national progressives say, they don’t care about what the national media really says, but they do care what their constituents say.”
Without a system that allows voters to determine election outcomes, we can’t effectively address issues like climate change, health care, voting rights, white supremacy, police violence, immigration. Make sure your voice is heard, and as Silent Spring says, “pick a cause or two. Get into it.”
11 Rescued stories from 4 p.m. EST Friday Feb. 19 to 4 p.m. EST Friday Feb. 26, 2021
Community Spotlight’s Rescue Rangers read every story published by Community writers. When we discover awesome work that isn’t receiving the attention it deserves, we rescue it to our group blog and publish a weekly collection—like this one—each Saturday. Rescue priorities and actions were explained in a previous edition: Community Spotlight: Rescuing your excellent stories for over 14 years.
Last week, we rescued Parts Two and Three of a series. Part One from this new member “explored the metrics that measure municipal water system health.” In Burst pipes, pipe bursting, and the American water crisis, pt. 2: Hazards in the pipeline, Shackman333 analyzes two case studies from Milwaukee and Flint demonstrating how poor infrastructure decisions can impact the health of residents reliant on their utilities for safe water resource. The Milwaukee study illustrates how waste water can contaminate drinking water, while Flint relates how inadequate treatment allows a waterborne pathogen to persist. In Milwaukee, the official story claimed “the agricultural runoff, combined with a perfect storm of wind and sudden thaw … carried cysts of cryptosporidium into the city’s water supply.” However, “genomic testing of the cryptosporidium parasites present … determined that livestock were not the source of the outbreak. The Milwaukee crypto had a human source. An unthinkable infrastructure factor led to contamination of the potable water supply by human waste.” Shackman333 joined last week and has written three stories.
Continuing to lead us through the unlit and moist passageways that are water pipes, in Burst pipes, pipe bursting, and the American water crisis, pt. 3: A better way, Shackman333 first provides a quick history on ancient water systems: Sumerians used clay; Minoans, terra cotta. Egyptians favored copper, and Romans, you knew this, lead. In greater detail, the story covers the development of water pipes in the U.S.: wood pipes in Boston first; then Philadelphia, around 175 years later, began using cast iron. The author then tracks the development of iron pipes, their problems, and how the use of plastics is slowly changing underground pipelines.
U.S. Energy Grid 101 by Nancy Groutsis examines another aspect of the failing infrastructure crisis in the U.S. The entirety of the contiguous United States and most of Canada—with the exception of Texas—is served by two huge electrical grid zones. The very large scale of the Western and Eastern Interconnections makes it possible to supply reliable electricity at pretty good rates for everyone. By choosing to go it alone, Texas has prioritized energy companies over its citizens. The author suggests the recent crisis might become a wakeup call about changes needed at the state level. “The Texas problem is about laws, because laws are why Texas lost power and its residents were asked to pay astronomical energy bills. If they had different laws to require that they be connected to the Eastern or Western Interconnections, they could have gotten much more energy and avoided a lot of pain.” Nancy Groutsis joined in 2014 and has authored 33 stories; this is their first rescue.
ARTS AND SCIENCES
Contemporary Fiction Views: Paying attention by bookgirl reviews Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station, the National Book Award winner for translated fiction. The novel “examines the life of one homeless man, Kazu. After years of being one of the homeless denizens tossed back and forth by the government in one of Tokyo’s largest parks, he is now a ghost who listens to others who still exist in their tents and thrown-together shelters of discarded items.” Bookgirl found that “The calm tone in this novel, as with much of the translated Japanese fiction I’ve read, illuminates quiet moments brilliantly.” Since joining in 2008, bookgirl has written 251 stories, with 95 rescued.
Top Comments: Flerovium and the Island of Stability by gizmo59 gives an interesting glimpse into the world of chemistry through a student interaction. One of the author’s students, who had problems with a question about identifying and naming elements in a group, kept giving a wrong answer. “The problem? She was including flerovium in the list.” Gizmo59 researched it and learned flerovium is a newly discovered superheavy radioactive element intended to explore a concept in chemistry called “the island of stability.” This is part of a theory “that somewhere among the superheavy elements, the radioactive lifetimes would get longer, possibly resulting in a stable superheavy element at some point.” Gizmo59 joined in 2006 and has written 452 stories so this likely is not his first rescue.
We all know that a certain Congressperson from a highly gerrymandered district in Georgia is an ignorant bigot, leaning on a nonsensical “trust the science” statement regarding gender assignment. Captain Frogbert uses that as an introduction to the current science regarding gender in MTG LARPs Twitter troll on walls of Congress, attacks child, pwns self as scientifically illiterate. Since 1990, studies of a specific gene and the biological transformations during pregnancy have discounted the old belief that “gender is defined … by XX and XY chromosomes.” Just as important, many previously held notions regarding gender, such as brain areas and hormone levels, are now known to not be predictors of gender. Socially, gender is no longer seen as purely a binary thing, and the growing body of research supports that position, confirming once again that “reality is always far more complex than the simplistic dichotomous rationalizations of conservatives would have us believe.” Captain Frogbert joined in 2005 and has written 108 stories, with eight rescued.
Mrok imagines a roundtable discussion in the hereafter in Nat Turner has thoughts on how to tell if your insurrection is actually a Know-Nothing riot. Nat Turner, John Brown, Shields Greene and William Poole (“Bill the Butcher” of the New York City Know Nothing Draft Riots infamy) discuss the differences between insurrection and dumbass riots, with a guest cameo by Frederick Douglass. Regarding the Jan. 6 attempt at the Capitol, Brown asserts that the white-privileged rioters “… were correct about the lack of resistance. St. Peter, on the hand, will NOT BE AMUSED BY THIS SHIT because ‘all people are created equal’ is the most incendiary and essential part of the U.S. Constitution. We were fighting over that in the 19th century and we are still fighting about it in the 21st century.” Mrok joined last fall and has authored 20 stories; this is their first rescue.
Abluerippleinohio recalls school classroom experiences in Could we please not have a negative attitude about Black History Month? “I remember him telling a young man to not do a book report on Malcolm X because Malcolm X was a ‘divisive punk.’ The young man challenged his thinking, asking him why he said such a thing. Within 10 minutes, the teacher kicked out his challenger out of the classroom and sent him to the principal’s office to call his mother. Unfortunately, the principal didn’t ‘see anything racist’ coming out of this teacher’s mouth. This teacher gave the students a directive; find ‘decent Black people to write a book report.” Abluerippleinohio joined in 2018 and has written 223 stories, with one rescued.
Getting my second vaccine shot follows up on MoDem’s previously rescued story about getting the first shot. The author describes their side effects from the first shot and what it was like to get the second, taking clear note of who was getting vaccinated in one of Kansas City’s most-vaccinated zip codes. “Like my first time, almost everyone in line had either gray hair or no hair, and (was) white. This time I saw next to no medical workers.” MoDem joined in 2003 and has written 164 stories. We also rescued their previous vaccination story.
COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT is dedicated to finding great writing by community members that isn’t getting the visibility it deserves.
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