Extending our Influence

Those of us who live in beautiful blue bubbles have a challenge: our elected officials mostly vote as we want them to. So we call their offices and leave messages asking them to do what they plan to do anyway. Sometimes we have stories to bolster their rhetoric, but we don’t have to educate them about most issues. Thus it would be easy for us to ignore the news and lull ourselves to sleep.

A wise older person raised this conundrum at a recent meeting, and it jarred me a bit. Since then, one idea for extending our influence has come to my mind, and perhaps you’ll have others. My idea is called the Friends and Family Plan. I’m unusual in that I don’t have family scattered around the country (or the world) that I might influence, but I know that most of you do. I do have friends here and there, but they mostly share my bubble. But what if we bravely explored ways to share our political concerns with people who tilt in some direction other than ours?

I’m not encouraging you to wreck the family, but younger people simply lack our “extensive experience,” hence they might be forming political judgements on “inadequate information.” Social scientists have learned that information, per se, doesn’t play a major role in changing minds, but stories do (and stories sneakily impart information). We old folks certainly have stories, but younger people have some remarkable stories, too. Perhaps these stories can begin to build the bridges we need.

I have a bright pink T-shirt boasting of my fondness for Planned Parenthood with the message: “I Won’t Go Back!” My only abortion story doesn’t involve me, but I certainly have other stories that surprise younger people. I was thrilled by the Womxn’s March in Seattle because the people marching were of all ages, races, and concerns. But as large as that march was nationwide (and worldwide), there were still people staying home who didn’t understand the need for it.

Let’s tell kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends outside our blue bubble why we marched. Keep knitting pink pussycats to give away. Use up all the pink yarn until we have to take shopping trips abroad to find more! Tell stories from our lives that have led us to  support marriage equality, transgender rights, Black Lives Matter? Why does the rhetoric coming out of state legislatures and from Congress scare the daylights out of us.

I suspect that I’m preaching to the choir here, but if you’ve been hesitant to talk politics with people outside the bubble, just share stories, share feelings. Don’t push, but do share. And let me know what else you suggest.

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