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I'm gone for the next two weeks visiting my grandchildren in England and taking a peek at Edinburgh, the heart of my wife's ancestral origins. So even though I won't see the immediate results, if there are any, I've got a recommendation for diarists and commenters.

The next time you're thinking of writing a meta diary or recommending one or engaging in the inevitable comment-thread battle that these elicit, tell us instead about some on-the-ground action project you're involved in or have in the past been involved in or are just gearing up to get involved in.

Don't take this request necessarily to mean describing work you're doing to get some candidate elected to public office, although that's certainly an option. Whatever it is that you're doing to push the broad agenda of making your neighborhood, your city, your district, your state, the country or the world a better place is worthy fodder.

In all likelihood, there are 50 or 500 other people here who are interested in, involved in or would like to get involved in what you're doing, either directly with you or taking your example to their own community. They want to hear how you've overcome roadblocks to success and how you've dealt with failure, including how you've managed to beat back the despair that often afflicts those of us who are engaged politically on a day-to-day basis in what often seems a hopeless task. They want details, anecdotes, advice from someone who has learned lessons face-to-face with people who are hard to convince or ideologically opposed. They want to know what mistakes you made and how you corrected them or would do things differently now that you know better.

I think it would do us all a world of good to know what each of us is personally doing – however big or small our effort is. For one thing, it would increase the respect so often missing from conversations that are solely about ideas. That's not to diss idea-based discussions. Those are important. But it's not as if we don't have plenty of those already, some of them productive, some of them spectacular flamefests repeating previous flamefests.

Let me offer one example of the kind of thing I'm talking about. It's indubitably's brief explanation of working with youth. It deserves elaboration in one or more diaries:

I do very, very hard work, working with, in fact, Native American and other "minority" kids (although they're generally 17-18 years old and up, so the kids part is my perception - but they are my kids). I work with ex-gangbangers, kids who've already done prison time, kids who've gotten in trouble with drugs already, kids whose parents are lost to drugs and alcohol, kids suffering the physical and psychological effects of abuse, meaning everything from PTSD to seizure disorders, etc. etc. etc. etc., and I do it all day every day and, more often than not, three times on the weekends.
I do it because I love these kids, I believe in what I do and me and the people I work with are making a difference.

Perhaps because of my own background – I'm in three of those categories and have done work in the "juvenile justice" arena – I find indubitably's comment very interesting indeed. And I want to know more, a lot more. But that's only one of hundreds of possible action-oriented discussions.

This isn't just an exercise in getting to know each other better, in building respect for each other. There's also the benefit that comes having such an on-site base of experts to go to when new legislation is proposed, whether that legislation is terrible, or brilliant, or problematic but potentially could be made into something acceptable if pressure is carefully applied in the right places at the right time.

Every movement needs great orators. Talk is important. But talk without action takes us nowhere. For every Frederick Douglass – both orator and activist – we need thousands of Harriet Tubmans.

I encourage everyone to tell us what action you're doing in the flesh-and-blood world. I'll tell you what I am doing when I get back from the UK.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Sat Jun 12, 2010 at 03:19 PM PDT.

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