It was Sunday afternoon at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bend. Chairs were placed in a circle, ready for a meeting to plan for the Women's March on Washington (and local marches in Portland and Bend) Jan. 21. Attending the meeting were activists of many ilks—committed and earnest, all. What was missing, however, were the young people. Were they absent from the meeting for the snow, just starting to fall? Was it where the meeting was organized, or the places it was advertised? One had to wonder.
At the time of this writing, more than 133,000 people were listed on Facebook as "Going" to the Washington, D.C., march, with another 224,000 "Interested." That's a lot of people. Assumingly though, a lot of those people were the regular corps of Facebook Likers and armchair activists who "show their support" by clicking "Like" or "Attending," even when they're not actually planning to do anything more. When it comes to actually showing up, even to a meeting in the local area, the numbers tend to dwindle.
With the advent of the Internet and the rollout of social media, people's notions of what constitutes "activism" have shrunk to the size of a microchip. Once boycotts and meetings—and then widespread marches—were the vehicles by which things, if not getting done, were at least talked about getting done. Today, with the Internet, it's the click of the Like or the Share that is perceived as "doing something." The Internet has also given us fake news sites and affinity marketing—which give people the perception that they are having access to a "world wide web" of information—but we know now narrows a person's sphere of influence.
Haven't we had enough of "showing your support" by clicking Like or sharing a post? Enough already with the spreading and re-spreading of information online with no vetting or follow-up. It can serve a small purpose—but it is far from the only thing you do to support the causes you believe in.
We have spent a long election cycle thinking globally or nationally. Now would be a good time, during the holidays, to begin again to act locally.
While you've been pondering the state of the Union, others have been showing up to volunteer at the local homeless shelters, to deliver food to the elderly, or to clean up a forest trail.
The local nonprofits need people to show up to the meetings and events that have been working for social justice, environmental and human dignity causes all this while.
The personal, face-to-face work of community engagement is admittedly more challenging, and dirty, than clicking Like on a page, but it's those boots on the ground that actually make the difference. If Standing Rock or the 1963 March on Washington can be examples of what can be done when people show up, show up today, won't you?