You Are More Powerful Than You Think {Guest Post}

postcards to voters

I know, chaos abounds, and it’s easy to go into overwhelm. But here’s some inspiration that may help . . . 

Last week I saw an online article* about Eric Liu—activist, author (e.g., “You Are More Powerful Than You Think”), an “evangelist for democracy,” and CEO/co-founder of the non-profit Citizen University teaching about cultivating civic power.

The article states that “. . . where some see chaos, Liu sees vitality,” and that Liu believes “America’s tumultuous climate is not a weakness but a strength.” For me, the most powerful part of the article is a quote from Liu himself:

What we are doing is hard because it is unprecedented. We are trying to be planet Earth’s first multiracial, multicultural, and multi faith democratic republic at scale. That hasn’t existed before. . . .” 

Wow. Kind of puts things in perspective. This is a worthy—albeit challenging—undertaking. So how do we do what “hasn’t existed before”?

Liu posits that “American history is a record of small groups of people who keep remaking this country. . . .” Thus he suggests “ . . . yes, vote, read the news, pay attention —but the most important thing you can do is join a club. Join a group, and build that muscle of being in association with other people.” Become involved with other people who are trying to make something happen—whether it’s a book club or a group with a civic purpose.

It’s all about “connection.” Sociologist and qualitative researcher Brene Brown claims that humans are “hardwired for connection.”

And yet, after 20 years of doing focus groups about the nation’s health, the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation has identified a “civic virus” that has caused people to coalesce into like-minded polarized “tribes” and resort to “fight or flight”—like violent protests and vitriol OR retreating into hopeless isolation. Harwood’s answer in its 2022 report: start in communities, including bringing people together across tribal lines to work together towards a common community goal.**

There are A LOT of “civic purpose” groups! In fact, I posit that there are more peacemakers and earth stewards, more BLM and Women’s March peaceful protestors, more gun safety crusaders, more democracy supporters, etc. than there are of the other tribe—the latter just gets more attention in the news. Maybe it’s time for all the former to join forces as one and present a unified front.

But right this moment, let’s continue our “connection” of gathering in groups of 2 or 20, at a coffee shop or on a Zoom call—and write those postcards! Be part of a small group working at “remaking this country” to be a “more perfect union.”

-Nancy Edelstein  


* “‘You Are More More Powerful Than You Think.’ Why one man says it’s too soon to write off democracy”

** “Civic Virus: Why Polarization Is a Misdiagnosis (2022)” by the Harwood Institute for Civic Innovation

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

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