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Meteor Blades has had a new sig line up relative recently, which I'm now going to embed in the amber of a diary:

Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

Four years ago, when I started on this site, I had money but not time.  Two years ago, when I switched accounts, I had time but no money (at least beyond savings.)  This past half year I've had some (but not overwhelming amounts) of both, so I've had a chance in the past half-decade to view progressive activism from three vantage points.  I'll tell you -- you can do be an activist in many ways.  You can apply yourself -- unpack that phrase: apply ... your ... self -- to a cause reasonably well with your time or your money, or both.  Both of them are "you."

Tell me what you do ...

Your opinion is not "you."  It's something you excrete.  It mixes with other opinions to form a kind of fog, wispy or dense, coloring it and heating it and moving it in various directions.  But while it may be what you value, what it may be where you vest your pride, It is not You.

You are what you do, with your time or your money.

Now I have been accused on occasion of having a high self-regard for my opinions, and the times when I'm not accused of it I can fairly assume that people are either just being polite or just not paying attention.  We all have our foibles, and I know that this is one of mine, and the words I've written above can be said with as great force to me as to anyone.

And so I have said them to myself, and while I'm still well below where I should be, I've convinced myself fairly well that I should be taxed for the expression of opinion and the social and intellectual interchange that I so enjoy.  So -- and try this yourself if it works for you -- I've established "user's fees" for myself as a blogger.  For every few hours I spend loving life online, I have to do something.

I'll admit to my frailties right up front: I don't always follow through with such pledges.  Words can be easily spoken; deeds don't always follow.  (In fact, that's pretty much the point.)  But, frankly, if one imposes a blogging tax on oneself and pays only part of it, one is probably ahead of the curve.

I guess that I should have warned you up front: this diary is an attempt to build an ethos, a shared norm that there are ways that activists ought to behave -- one of those ways being that activists ought to behave rather than just banter.

Are there exceptions to this?  Sure: my buddy Jill Richardson isn't just running off her mouth when she writes about the food industry and sustainable agriculture.  Jerome Guillet (pardon the lack of diacritics, mon frere) writing on energy and the economy, Adam Siegel writing on energy and the environment, dengre on political corruption -- these are the bread and butter of the blogosphere.  I don't much care how much money or time these people give away; the time they put in to researching and conveying what they do is contribution enough to the commonweal.

But not all of us can (or at least do) produce work like that -- and while I love talking about meta as much as ten average Kosters locked in a rumpus room, I generally don't.  So I have to pay my dues elsewhere.

This year and last, I've spent more time than money on politics, in part having the adventure of calling people in districts all over the country -- and finally, most recently, my own.  I ran for and won a position as one of my assembly district's delegates to our state contention; that's sort of a bloggy thing to do.  I also did something that not long ago I would have considered beneath my aspirations: volunteering to write, edit and publish the monthly newsletter for my local Democratic Club.

Do you even have a local Democratic Club in your area?  Have you considered starting one?

Dealing with people face to face, the tribulations and triumphs of online interaction fall by the wayside.  Most people are less sophisticated than you find here, but while they can't tell you exactly why they do or don't favor a particular provision of health care reform, they have gut feelings about the direction of change.  That's become enough for me, to a great extent: even if we can't all agree on the destination, we can agree on the direction.  From democratic socialists to those who merely have been repulsed by Republican excesses, we may argue about the size and shape and stroke frequency of the oars, but by and large we are pulling in the same direction.

When you are doing, what it is you have to say becomes less material.  Doing should be the entree, saying should be the side dish and dessert.  Disagreement becomes less the point.

Why, though, am I so crass as to equate giving money (boooooo!) with devoting time (yaaaaay!) as expressions of true self?  Don't I know that money is filthy and physical effort is holy?  Yeah, well -- I don't.

If you want to talk about the importance of money to social causes, or in political campaigns, ask someone who is involved in one.  Yes, giving money is too easy for some (and of course is an incredible sacrifice for others), but it is the grease that allows the machine of social justice to flow.  There's no shame in simply declaring that you will have retroactively given a portion of the time you spent working to the good cause of helping others use their own time as activists more effectively.  If it seems too easy, too unfair that some can give more than others -- well, it's usually more useful than just words.

I was in touch recently with Ellinorianne, who wrote a lovely diary yesterday that too few people saw.  As some of you know, a soup kitchen in Santa Ana burned up a little while ago.  (Click that link above for photos.)  Ellinorianne has been involved with trying to help them get back on track.  My wife and one daughter went to help them with their Christmas Party; yesterday my wife and another daughter went to help out with clean-up.  It turns out that there were plenty of volunteers.  People had donated plenty of food.  What they're lacking is money, donations.  Yes, the most antiseptic and most impersonal gift is actually the most useful.

So -- especially those of you you itemize charitable contributions and have about a day left to make them -- do you want the link to donate?  Here you go:

Donations are being accepted at Orange County's United Way. Follow the link, and enter "SMEDA Fire" into the PROMO box.

When we personalize a crisis, people here come through.  I saw that first-hand in the response earlier this year to the Philippine Flooding that threatened my wife's family.  Times are hard, but the reserve of goodwill is strong.

And then there is politics.

Oh, how we resent being used as a piggy bank for politicians.  It gets you on so many e-mail lists!  "They want our money, but not our advice!"  Well, yeah, often that's true.  And yet, consider this:

What if I told you that someone was truly working to create a better world, was well-organized, and simply needed to show financial support to be able to have a shot at winning.  Would that interest you?

I can think of several people from right around my area that fit that bill.  First, there's Bill Hedrick, who in 2008 came close to knocking off the bloated ethical cesspool Ken Calvert in the economically ravaged Inland Empire's CA-44.  There's Russ Warner, hoping that the third time is the charm against David Dreier] in CA-26.  One of our best chances to take a seat in the State House -- and to get closer to the 2/3 supermajority we need to fix the state -- is Melissa Fox, running for caveman Chuck DeVore's seat in Irvine.  We have one of the best state executive officers in the country in our Secretary of State Debra Bowen, and raising money for her makes it more likely that she will be our Governor or Senator one day.  (Or maybe both, two days.)  She could use your giving her of yourself.

How does the idea of helping people like that appeal to you?  Does it make you feel good?

I can also think of several people not in my area who fit the bill.  Jennifer Brunner in Ohio.  Alan Grayson, in Florida.  Some guy named Franken in Minnesota, who I understand still has a little bit of debt to retire.  Another guy named Sanders in Vermont, for whom I have been raising money without a lick of effort through my "Defeat Lieberman 2012" page at ActBlue, not because giving to Bernie defeats JoeLie directly, but because Bernie seems like the kind of guy who might be honest and willing enough to give over some scratch to JoeLie's challenger.

And yes, it so happens that we are at the end of the fourth quarter of the year, and that donations right now will go a long way to determining how seriously candidacies like Hedrick's and Brunner's get taken.  So, if you want to have an impact, the next day or so is a great time to do it.

Giving to these people, people you like -- and people in local offices, city councils and water districts and school boards, from whom future legislators and state executives come -- all throughout the country is giving a part of yourself.  It's going beyond words.  Again, I love the debating society aspect of DKos as much as anyone, but I am trying to train myself to feel that I have to earn the fun I have here.  I feel better the less I feel like a free rider.

Here's what I propose in this diary: I'd like to know to what candidate or what cause you're thinking of giving money to -- or time to, if you prefer -- in the next 24 hours or so.  Feel free to make a case for them.  Maybe you'll convince someone else to do the same.

Does giving to worthy progressives and candidates make us into "piggy banks"?  Yes, in a way, I suppose it does.  But as a stepfather of five, much of what I do for my kids could also be taken as making me into a "piggy bank" -- and yet I find that it's part of what gives my life meaning.

And my youngest, swept away with the desire to give, asked us to make one of her Christmas presents this year a donation of about $25 to send toys to needy children.  We told her that it really did mean that we'd get her one fewer gift, and she said that that was OK with her.  See?  Sometimes those little investments pay off.

Originally posted to Doane Spills on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 08:10 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Dad, son 3, and I have been working with (6+ / 0-)

    the organization that was Mercer4Obama, collecting food and donations at the local supermarkets in central NJ. The Crisis Ministry, our largest local foodbank, has seen demand increase 40% since September of 2008.

  •  I admit, I don't do enough. (6+ / 0-)

    Part of it is burnout from last year but most of it is feeling like all the work we do isn't changing things fast enough or good enough. Objectively I know it's not true, but I can't help it.

    Need to get involved in the coming year for the midterms though. It's tough for dems in Texas, and this year is probably going to be worse than most :(

    Also, thanks for this diary. I needed something to keep me from being a nasty human being in the Rush diary.

    Aggie Liberal--Bleed Maroon--Act Blue!

    by Underwater Archaeologist on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 08:35:44 PM PST

  •  i quote poetry (6+ / 0-)

    william blake:

    Eternity is in love with the productions of time.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 08:49:27 PM PST

  •  Thank you for the perfect pre-New Year diary (8+ / 0-)

    I don't do nearly enough, I confess. I donate what I can, make phone calls to Congress, worked sporadically with the Obama and local campaigns.

    But it mostly feels reactive, responding to the outrage du jour.

    Activism doesn't feel integrated into my life, and my time and talents aren't being properly brought to bear.

    Thanks for the kick in the ass.

    The adults are back in charge.

    by DebtorsPrison on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 08:50:15 PM PST

  •  Well, I've been unemployed (8+ / 0-)

    since April of this year but I'm trying so hard to put my time to good use.   I've been working on various projects.

    And by the way, Demi Moore gave $100,000 to the Southwest Community Center yesterday.  Don't know how she found out, but don't care, it was a huge victory for this tiny center that does a huge service to a very needy area of Orange County.

    I'm hoping to do an event for Beth Krom and one for Melissa Fox.  I will also try to blog for both of them when it seems appropriate.  I've given a little to them as well.

    I plan on giving some to my good friend Joe Shaw, who is running for Huntington Beach City Council.  Can't wait to congratulate him for his win, I grew up in HB, he will do a great job for the City.

    The Governor's race is HUGE and I will be doing everything and anything I can do for whoever is running as the Democratic Candidate.  Sadly it doesn't feel like we have one.

    Food is a huge issue, The Time for Lunch Campaign is still something I'm pushing for locally with Slow Food USA.  I've got some ideas for letter writing and getting lots of publicity.

    Then there is the community garden issue that I'm working on County wide with a bunch of amazing advocates, etc.  Learning about permaculture, pushing for more CSA's.  SO much stuff to do and learn.

    I have others but that should do.  And Gary is still considering running for office again, it's just what, it's a huge decision and it's totally up to him.

    Thanks for this, thanks for writing about the act, not just talking about stuff.  I am trying so hard to do more than writing.  I'm trying to do more local politics and learning about those issues, local environmental stuff, you name it.  Makes my head spin thinking about it :)

  •  No candidates this quarter (8+ / 0-)

    Available cash is going to local charities, like the food pantry nearby. Four more checks to write, and I'm done for the year, as is my checking account.

    I have my eye on a number of Democrats for 2010: Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes in New Hampshire to start with, but I expect to give to many others. Two that you mentioned, Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner, will definitely be on my list.

    © sardonyx; all rights reserved

    by sardonyx on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 08:55:46 PM PST

    •  Thanks for the food pantry (3+ / 0-)

      and other local donations. Lots of small nonprofits are really struggling, with cutbacks from strapped state governments and fewer private donations, just when the needs are growing.  We don't usually have the big endowments of hospitals, colleges, or museums to help get us through these lean times.  

      Sometimes it's a little hard for me to see the millions and millions we raise for political advertising campaigns, when so many people are going without.

  •  I will support Patty Murray's (5+ / 0-)

    re-election, with both volunteer time and money. I will also continue to support the Wa State Demo Party. I will up my support to Planned Parenthood because of Stupak and Nelson. I will continue to give generously to the local Food Pantry. I will contribute to The Interfaith Community Health Center.  And I give regularly to the local Humane Society ....animals don't vote, but they need our support.
    Thanks for encouraging all of us to be active in our communities.

    Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

    by princesspat on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 09:17:19 PM PST

  •  Great diary. I hope it gets rec'd up ... (6+ / 0-)

    ... and I respectfully offer you my perspective on "doing."

    Some of us (often women), are expected to DO alot for others.  And we DO!  I'm a social worker -- often at the end of the day or week, or month, a very tired one.

    And at the moment, I'm a disabled social worker.

    So, for the time being, what I do to make the world a better place, is:

    Take the very best care of myself that I possibly can.  

    I've learned, after more than half a century on the planet in this female form, that this taking care of myself is a radical act.  

    I've just recently started a small, alternative health care practice, and when I have the extra energy, I offer my services, free of charge, or on a sliding scale to those people who have even less energy or means than I do.

    But sometimes I don't have the energy to DO for others.  I may be laying flat on my back on the couch. That is just the way it is. So I send my thoughts and opinions out into the world via the intertoobz.

    And for that day, that may be all I "do."  

    I'll just leave it at that.

    Thanks for your diary.


    "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." -- Leonard Cohen

    by Amaryliss on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 11:26:39 PM PST

    •  I'm learning (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Seneca Doane

      that, taking care of myself is important and hard.  Especially when struggling with chronic illness.  It's good advice and important, the healthier I am, the more good I can do for my family and others.  The martyr complex gets old and whining and feeling bad isn't fun at all.  I want to live life to the fullest doing all I can feeling the best I can.  The only person responsible for my health is me.  I've taken that on.

  •  I'm involved in two things pretty constantly: (5+ / 0-)

    environmental land use [trying to keep land use environmental as an activist] and animal rescue.

    the first gives me a headache [though I am good at what I do and confess to liking the challenge], but I've gotten used to it after almost 27 years, and the second hurts and heals my heart.

    i'd still be working in the environmental community if not in OC.  hard to do that here, almost NO opportunities and NO I am not moving or driving to L.A. or anywhere else.  

    so i feel quite okay about what I do and what I have done.  

    866-338-1015 toll-free to Congress in D.C. USE it!

    by cany on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 11:29:20 PM PST

    •  What? (0+ / 0-)

      Back to Natives, learn it, love it.  Lots of volunteer opportunities to work in the environment in Orange County.  YOU have to get in touch with me and I will get you in touch with those opportunities.  Laguna Canyon Foundation is another one.  Not only do they have volunteer opportunities, nature walks, etc.

      Then you have the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.  There are many others.

      I have a lot to share with you!

  •  And, BTW, we have talked amongst ourselves (3+ / 0-)

    and hope to hold a fundraiser/house party for Hedrick in the spring though it's not our district race.  More and better.  I really like him.

    So those of you local in OC (and certainly you, Seneca!) need to join us here in the lovely canyon!

    866-338-1015 toll-free to Congress in D.C. USE it!

    by cany on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 11:38:57 PM PST

  •  Woo-hoo, existentialism. (3+ / 0-)

    Existence precedes essence.  Right on.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Wed Dec 30, 2009 at 11:41:09 PM PST

  •  Good to see an end of quarter diary up (5+ / 0-)

     I appreciate your thoughtfulness about how we can help make things better in different ways. It had also been on my mind that tomorrow is the end of 4Q of 09 and so if I am going to make some donations now is the time. I've gotten a few emails in the last couple of days asking from various campaigns and charities. As a tax geek I know that if I could itemize deductions on Schedule A I would want to make charitable contributions tonight or tomorrow. I am a standard deduction guy so that isn't an issue for me.

      I make political donations; they are small enough that no campaign is going to be changed much by them but they make me feel a part of campaigns around the country. I have my Senators and Representatives that aren't from CA or my local area. My best new Senators are from OR and MN. I have Representatives from New Hampshire to New Mexico and back to New York. I usually don't get into nonfederal races in other states or primaries where I don't know the people that well. My resources are limited so I try to focus on competitive races (Love ya, Babs, but unless Carlyfornia or DEVOre show any chance of winning my money goes elsewhere.) I favor certain areas; CA first, other Western states and New England (My mom grew up in MA and NH.) I also like some of the Midwestern progressive populist types (even supported Paul Simon and Tom Harkin for President many years ago). I don't do much in the South except TX where some of my friends live and won't touch FL except for Alan Grayson earlier this year (so my rules aren't that rigid.)

      I think my budget for this quarter will be around $100 and since there are so many potential places to donate I'll go in $10 increments. You mentioned some good ones:  Russ Warner (CA-26) for sure, I've given to him before. He doesn't give up; I predict he will be elected to Congress in 2012 in a new district if not in 2010. Bill Hedrick (CA-44) impressed me in 2008; I had no idea he would come so close to winning and Ken Calvert is such a waste of a House seat.  

       On the CA statewides I have to support Debra Bowen (SoS) and also John Chiang (Controller, both for re-election). These two are excellent at their jobs and aren't just in it as a stepping stone to something else, though both could go far (as you mentioned in the diary). I won't give any money to our candidate for Governor until he is willing to say he is a candidate. Some of the other offices have crowded fields in the primary. Attorney General? Insurance Commissioner? Lt Gov? Those can wait until things are clearer.

       I am supporting Paul Hodes for NH-Sen because he is a good guy who can win that seat and Joe Sestak for PA-Sen because I don't trust Arlen Spectre to act like a Democrat if he isn't running for election.

       That leaves $40 for other House races. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) always needs the bucks and is worthy. Eric Massa (NY-29) is a freshman in a tough seat and earned another contribution for his speaking out today. Donna Edwards (MD-04) is a progressive who is facing a primary challenge after beating a corrupt incumbent two years ago. She rocks! The last one will go to Martin Heinrich (NM-01) whose win in '08 finally gave us the Alburquerque swing seat we were trying to win for several cycles (damned Heather Wilson, good riddance.) He is likely to be re-elected but isn't totally safe yet.

       I like these candidates and generally give through which is a handy way to make contributions to Democratic candidates. Later in the cycle I may find more challengers for Congressional races but a lot of 2010 is going to be about defending good incumbents. We should all do however much we can and want to do (the more the better).

    I'm not a Limousine Liberal; I am a Prius Progressive

    by Zack from the SFV on Thu Dec 31, 2009 at 12:26:46 AM PST

    •  California (3+ / 0-)

      Chuck DeVore is my Assemblyman, what a waste.  Keep an eye on Melissa Fox.  I know her, she's an amazing candidate and would do a world of good in Sacramento.  She supported my husband when he ran, she's involved, she's smart and she's progressive.

      The best thing about my husband running in 2008 was getting to meet a lot of Democratic Candidates.  Sadly the only way we met his opponent was a couple of months ago in our local ihop, yes.  We didn't even speak to her, it was appalling and I haven't spoken of it publicly.

      The right in Orange County has done so much wrong for the State Of California it embarrasses me.  When they refuse to move to the center to at least meet Ronny Reagan tax brackets, then you've got a problem.

      It's obvious you know what's going on though.  Debra Bowen is amazing and I hope she holds on to her spot, she does a fantastic job and I got to meet her.  We talked about nice it was that being a nerd in politics was cool again.

      The biggest disappointment is that we don't have a strong democratic candidate for Governor.  No one wants to run this state because it's impossible with how things are set up now.  

  •  You are your money; you are your time;" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane, Ellinorianne

    and you are the choices you make.

    What is the "Why?"?

    by BardoOne on Thu Dec 31, 2009 at 03:00:51 AM PST

  •  What helped me for donations (5+ / 0-)

    I have a set amount each month budgeted for donations, which I split up in various ways.

    I found that by having a 'goal' amount, I actually took the time to go through the donation process, and I made sure I spent it all before the end of the month. It took me over the hump from well-meaning to doing.

    I usually split it between political causes and social/humanitarian causes, which this year meant that the preferences were gay political action groups and those who spoke up in congress, and food banks and the local planned parenthood.

    DailyKos diaries were strong influences.

    Every flower that you shatter; we will plant again!

    by merrily1000 on Thu Dec 31, 2009 at 03:32:27 AM PST

  •  Diacriticals aren't that difficult (3+ / 0-)

    Typing Jérôme is a matter of adding the special character commands. In this case:

    Jérôme becomes Jérôme

    Accents include acute, circ (circumflex), grave, uml (umlaut), and a few others. As long as it's a letter that normally takes the accent, start with the ampersand and letter to be accented (upper or lower case letter depending on which you need), add the accent "word" and end with a semi-colon.

    Check in preview; some accented characters don't work, especially those from eastern european languages.

    © sardonyx; all rights reserved

    by sardonyx on Thu Dec 31, 2009 at 11:13:34 AM PST

  •  You are making me think about this and I like it (3+ / 0-)

    I'm disabled and unemployed as some others have mentioned.  There's always a way though.  A toll-free number for congress was posted in a diary so I phoned senators and representatives, sent LOTS of emails and the best was going downtown Indy to Senator's Lugar and Bayh's offices to talk to them about health care.  I had letters for them to give to Bayh and Lugar and in both offices they pulled someone out to talk to me -- probably because I came in on a walker.  Bayh's office was someone fairly high up.  It was a big deal for me to get down there, but very worth it. I've also made some donations. I've explored the local Democratic party a bit and haven't been inspired.

    I'm in IN-05, Republican Rep. Dan Burton's district, and would LOVE to be working for a Democrat who would run against him.  So far can't find evidence there is one.

    I now commit to:

    ~writing diaries at DKOS.  
    ~I will find some part of the Indiana Democratic Party I can work with.
    ~continue with emails and phone calls to Congress

    I'm mulling over what I want for 2010 and this fits perfectly.  Thanks, Seneca!

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." ~Albert Einstein

    by ParkRanger on Thu Dec 31, 2009 at 05:38:00 PM PST

  •  You've Been Rescued (4+ / 0-)

    "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them"

    by ItsJessMe on Thu Dec 31, 2009 at 08:37:58 PM PST

  •  I do non-traditional marriage counseling. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane, Ellinorianne

    Or, I should say, "relationship" counseling.

    I'm figuring out how to get my body to give me the most health on a regular basis. I have several chronic conditions, and my ability to "do" fluctuates often.

    One thing I am very dogmatic about is that where I spend my money matters. I don't shop certain places, and seek out others, because I am backing up my opinions about union made and locally grown with my grocery budget every month. Sure, I'm one person, but I talk about what I do and why, and the seed sometimes falls on good ground.

  •  Happy New Year (3+ / 0-)

    from the east coast.

    Interesting diary.  I've set some goals for myself re: political participation for the past few elections, after a fairly long hiatus from volunteering. It's easy to slough off and to confuse writing comments here with actually doing something, but I've also found that the calls to action here help to motivate me.

    I put in a lot of time and some money last cycle for a losing Senate candidate; I've thought many times about how different the HCR process might have been with one more liberal Democratic vote. sigh.  Elections do matter.

    We have our local caucus coming up in February and gubernatorial primary in June, so political fun is just around the corner.

  •  You are all of these things, and you (0+ / 0-)

    can't exclude any part of your behavior simply because it's effect is not as obvious as others.

    Some of us are also quite capable of lining up our opinions, actions and money quite nicely as well. It's also a large part of striving for integrity or integration.

    There is more to caretaking or caring than being an ATM machine, no doubt. It involves spending time and effort getting to know and take care of someone or something. But we only have so much time in a day or a lifetime for that matter. You have to make priorities and choices.  

    But at the same time, it does count for something. If your life is so full and you have so many obligations, it's probably a small thing that you can do.

    "Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out."-Carlin

    by gereiztkind on Fri Jan 01, 2010 at 06:52:33 AM PST

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