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- 03/29/17--18:57: Candidate Connection!!
- 12/06/17--08:47: Grassroots Leadership Beyond Protests
- 01/29/18--17:10: My Book is Published (and why I think it matters)
- 07/03/18--10:17: My name is America. Please help me.
Tonight, I had the great pleasure of participating in a Candidate Connection put on by the Stafford Huddle, the Stafford Postcard Progressives, and Merge Left. They organized a meeting space and invited all the candidates running for local offices, which included me, my opponent, our Democratic candidate for the 1st District of Virginia, School Board candidates and County BOS candidates. IT WAS A GREAT EVENT!!!
One of the hardest parts of being a brand new candidate, with little experience, is actually getting in front of people….meeting interested citizens and being able to have impactful conversations is hard with a day job, keeping up with my Navy Reserve duties, and keeping tabs on the restaurant. This event was perfect! There was no “program” and all of the candidates mingled among the attendees introducing ourselves and talking with people!
This area has a certainly has a growing and diverse group of super interested folks. I met people who agree with me and are excited for my campaign and I met some folks who don’t agree with me and are likely never to support me. But to a TEE everyone was welcoming and glad to have people INVOLVED.
I was happy to let them know that I want to fight for Medicaid expansion in Virginia and that protecting women’s reproductive rights is extremely important to me. I met teachers who agreed that a strong early childhood education is the key to a student’s future and that we must fund our schools better!
It is extremely heartening to see so many people who want to be involved in civics. In my “day job”, I am in charge of Political and Civic programs for BP….some of my responsibilities include helping people register to vote, teaching them how a Bill becomes a law, encouraging them to meet their representatives, and how to effectively engage with their elected officials. I also help my co-workers join our employee political action committee.
You’d be amazed at how many people are not engaged, in the least. All of this to say, seeing SO MANY people tonight who care and want to be involved in civic engagement was inspiring!!
I am excited to be running for office, I’m glad I got off the sidelines and decided to walk the walk….and I am so proud to live in a community with so many concerned and active citizens. I would like to represent them in our House of Delegates!
Please keep checking back on this diary as I’ll try to post daily updates about how the campaign is going….and if you’d like to help me with a contribution, you can do so here:
Thanks and KEEP FIGHTING!!!
The nation is under attack under this administration in so many ways it’s hard to keep track. Part of the problem is that people aren’t engaged and aren’t informed.
The Internet isn’t enough. Donating isn’t enough. People need face-to-face human interaction and the ability to participate in their system.
Here’s a question: what would it take to have every single city and county in America — especially the suburban, exurban, and rural areas — hold civil, educational political forums every week or two? They’d bring in the politically unaffiliated or uninterested, speak to political opponents, make people feel involved… and alarmed! Maybe even knock on doors?
What would that take — is it feasible? Would it be useful? And is anyone trying it?
Outrage is like the dissonance of a musical piece, leading to resolution and a satisfying climax. But when the dissonance continues without end, we have to find our own mini-resolutions, our own small satisfactions, to be able to sustain involvement with the piece.
The level of disgusting greed, of attacking the vulnerable, of undermining of our institutions of democracy, is incredibly dangerous. So what do we do to get our footing, to carve out a small success that will provide us encouragement to continue fighting?
I think the answer comes from the discord, from the attacks themselves. The actions of the reigning idiocy are bad because they hurt people. So we find the people hurt, and connect to them, and strengthen each other. And we ask our leaders to express leadership on small issues that have small wins, to lend their voices. We amplify not only the outrage about the idiots in charge, but the problem-solving by the hardest working on our side.
If children are hungry, you feed them. HEPAC, an amazing neighborhood cooperative in Nogales, MX does exactly that in an innovative organization with support from volunteers in Arizona. They offer border education tours to law students and others, and use the proceeds to buy food supplies. Then a cooperative of women volunteers cooks all morning and makes sure every child who comes in, eats. The kids are also helped with homework, and given a safe and encouraging space to relax. Then in the afternoon, the women sew colorful aprons, purses, shopping bags and other items that volunteers take up to be sold in churches and shops in Green Valley and Tucson. The earnings from this are theirs, and provide an incentive to volunteer in the tight-knit group. This group is a win, a healthy, joyful assertion of hope. So I’m writing about them here, to amplify their success.
Refugee kids are resilient, and determined. If you visit the Amani International Learning center here in Tucson, AZ, and ask which kids want to work rather than play, you will be swarmed with young children ready to read, write and do math. Open from 7AM to 7PM daily, every day of the year, this school is run by former refugees — highly educated, determined women. They would like more volunteers, and it turns out its not hard to recruit volunteers on the Volunteer Center of Tucson website. Sahra Hirsi, the founder, speaks multiple languages and is called on by refugee families to troubleshoot issues from eviction to job hunting, all the while running the school and searching for resources to help the children catch up academically. Connections to the community benefit Amani and the kids, but the women running it are so busy doing the work, that they have no time to market their amazing work and ask for help. So it helps that people find them, and tell each other.
Those organizations that make the most noise and ask for the most contributions may not be the ones we need to help. Scott Long, a civil rights worker in Egypt, asks us to read this report: The Trap: Punishing Sexual Difference in Egypt, created at great risk the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). But Scott also notes, “Dalia Abd el Hameed and the EIPR produced this report without the aid of foreign "partners." I have one recommendation. If you want to know what is happening in Egypt, don't turn to ARC International, or Outright Action International, or the Human Rights Campaign, or any other Western organization. They may do great work elsewhere, but their claims of knowledge and "partnership" are false. They risk nothing where Egypt is concerned (none of their staff ever had to go into exile for their work and courage) and they know nothing. And, emphatically, do NOT turn to me either…..You can start by consulting the EIPR, the authors of this report.”
And now in Honduras, the Voice of America and our state department, surprise surprise, are undermining democracy in the recent elections. Even The Economist points out the likelihood of cheating in the Honduran election. If our government is going to prevent people from Honduras from coming here, how is it that we can stand by while they try to stop them from the right of self-determination and choosing their own leaders? The Honduran people may need support. And they can’t wait for us to replace our government with a responsible one. I don’t know anyone in Honduras, but I hope some of us may reach out. Our traditional journalistic outlets are overburdened, and may not have the staff to cover this right. And maybe, those working for democracy in Honduras might need some kind of support from us.
If we had reached out more during the Arab Spring, just maybe things would have gone differently. But that’s another story. Its not too late for this one, and for many groups and people right now.
I know many readers here already are doing many powerful things. And I hope you write about them, to encourage others! It seems to me we need a new form of citizen journalism, a journalism of personal involvement. Not only saying ‘they’ are doing something but ‘I’ am doing something, and ‘we’ and ‘you’. Despite the steady stream of discouragement, we are far from powerless.
We can do something, we can do it now, and we can amplify each other’s work.
Dear Friends and Fellow-citizens,
I’d like to share something important with you.
It’s important to me, because it represents a personal milestone, regarding a decades-long dedication to an idea, and its manifestation. But it’s also important, I believe, to the greater good; because, while deceptively simple, this idea may be key to resuscitating our democracy, and in so doing, greatly improve the odds that we will effectively meet our many collective challenges, here and around the world.
The idea starts with an observation: For the first time in known human history, it is now possible to convene an unlimited number of citizens, in one place, at one time, to cast collective, non-binding, advisory votes on any issue of collective concern or importance. The place for this would be a new venue for civic engagement, online —a nonpartisan, non-governmental, citizen-run, virtual town square — the National Town Square.
I have just published a short book, one that’s more than 20 years in the making, and it presents an executable plan for how We the People can realistically build and safely maintain a new national institution for civic engagement, focused on issues instead of political parties and blind ideology — a powerful new counter-balance to the corrupting influence of big money in politics.
My book is called Virtual Country: Strategy for 21st Century Democracy. I humbly request that you get a copy, please read it all the way through, and then decide for yourself whether I have done justice to the importance of the opportunity that presents itself to democracy at this crucial point in history (if you can’t afford a copy, let me know and I will send you a PDF version at no charge). You can reach me at: Richard@VirtualCountry.us
If you find that you agree with the strategy presented in the book, I hope you’ll support it through the simple actions that are proposed, or perhaps in even greater ways. And of course, I hope you’ll give it good reviews online, and make a point of telling your friends and fellow-citizens about the book, regardless of their current political leanings, since this undertaking is completely non-partisan and represents a rare chance for citizens to work together for our common good.
Finally, it’s important to realize that no laws need to be passed or changed in order to implement the Virtual Country strategy. No politicians need to be persuaded. Our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly clear our path. We need only understand how we can take back the reins of our democracy, and then be willing to take ‘yes’ for an answer, by being part of our own solution, at this important moment in history.
My name is America, and I am in an abusive relationship. My children make demands on me to which I do not have the ability to comply. It’s not in my constitution.
No, I have not succumbed to the stresses of age. I am only 242 years old. By the longevity achieved by many of my now estranged brothers and sisters, I am still barely grown. Yes, I have skills and abilities to bring others together, and have taught my siblings much about spirit and determination, but, alas, I now find my hands tied by my controlling children.
Those who I love and to whom I give life lessons in strength through cooperation, who understand the value in playing well with others, who care about me as a light for their world, are being dominated by those who want me to work only for them, to use me, control my abilities so make them – and only them – great.
It has come to the point that I cannot trust them.
I cannot trust them to vote for their best interests, including, and especially, to recognize that the struggles of some likely affected their own ancestors, and may again visit their descendants. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are self-evident truths that apply to all. They cannot be tightly guarded by some as a special privilege, while they are denied to others.
I cannot trust those in Congress to work for the voters’ best interests, including, and especially, to be a check on the Executive. Without that check, I am out of balance, on the floor, a shadow of my former self, usurped by those who would wrap themselves in my robes and say they are me, and through this sham claim their greatness
I cannot trust the Executive to work for anyone’s interests other than his own self-aggrandizing pursuits, including, and especially, favoring his similarly autocratic, greedy and heavy-handed cousins over established alliances with more loyal, trustworthy and supportive family. At every turn, he insults me. He wounds me. He berates me. He saps my true strength of striving for unity and transforms it into gross showmanship.
His goal seems to be to keep me in a cage, while he and his most caustic cousins rule the world as if it belongs only to them. Perhaps he wishes to subsume them, as well. But despite his bravado, make no mistake – he does it to enhance his own greatness, not mine, not that of my people.
That may be his long game. It is like he is on his friend, Mark Burnett’s, landmark show, “Survivor,” playing alliances against each other until he emerges victorious. As long as the trail is riddled with the bodies of those who tried to stand up to him and failed – losers, he calls them, like Merkel, Macron and Trudeau – he will see himself as winning, and he is. So much winning.
If he continues to win, all of who I am for you, my children, is lost. I begin with you, my people. I am not America without you. Help me.