A Guide to Staying Politically Active in Thacher’s Isolated Community

by Malena Solin

With today’s headlines highlighting the changes to the United States since the presidential election, the motivation of people to stand up for their beliefs is increasing all over the country. At Thacher, in our isolated community, many students face the struggle of how to make their voices heard to the outside world. Thacher students have been participating in activities such as making phone calls on election night, marching on Saturday, January 21,  and writing postcards to senators, encouraged by the new 100-Days club. Although students have done their best to take action in the greater community, there are many more ways to make our political voices heard, particularly in the field of human rights.

One of the best ways to make sure that people in the United States maintain their rights are to support organizations for racial minorities, immigrants, women, and impoverished citizens. Although Thacher students may not be able to donate money to organizations themselves, there are other ways to help. Some alternatives to donating money directly are organizing events and fundraisers, creating an online fundraiser campaign, or asking friends and relatives to donate to an organization for a birthday or holiday present. Depending on your views and passions, some organizations that need help are the Council on American-Islamic Relations, ACLU, Planned Parenthood,  and organizations that focus on immigration, refugees, support for women’s shelters, ending sex trafficking and assault, and helping schools in impoverished neighborhoods that could suffer because of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Another valuable step to take is reading the newspaper. Thacher subscribes to five print newspapers, that provide local, national, and international news. They are available in the Library for students to read. Reading a newspaper, or many news sources to avoid bias and find the facts, shows that a person wants to know what is happening in the world today, instead of listening to “alternative facts.” Newspaper subscriptions not only keep journalists employed so that they can continue to report on current events, but also inform people in our community about news, involve us in the the world outside Thacher, and motivate us to advocate for people’s rights around the country instead of keeping the mindset that we are not affected by the outside world.

Calling representatives is another opportunity for students to be active in the greater community from Thacher. While attending protests and marches can be difficult in Ojai with our many commitments at school, picking up the phone to let your representative know your thoughts is quick, easy, and well worth the effort. If a legislator gets enough calls about a certain topic, they will have to begin taking action to support their people’s beliefs. Calling a local representative is often more effective than calling your state senator because they have more time to listen to your concerns, and the issues can still be taken to Washington DC. Calling is also important because it is more difficult for staff in a legislator’s office to ignore a ringing phone than a full inbox or many social media rants. A staff member who answers the phone is required to listen directly to the caller’s thoughts, and, if people avoid using scripts, may be moved by the person’s story to make their concerns a priority. In a New York Times interview, Kara Waite, an English teacher in Massachusetts, said that an effective way to assure that your voice is heard is that every time you make a political statement on social media, you have to make a call to a representative. She described this technique as, “A swear jar for political action.” If Thacher students took Waite’s suggestion and called legislators more frequently, we would be helping to get our ideas into action, which is much more beneficial than social media rants.

Students at Thacher have many ways to be politically active, some of which are to help rights organizations, educate ourselves, and call representatives; however, it is important that we, as a community, remain respectful of the people we disagree with. Arguing with our friends about who is right and wrong is not productive in our goals of achieving a political voice during this time of uncertainty. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times recommends being careful to not offend people by not expecting stereotypes of someone based on their political stance. If the Thacher community is able to be respectful of one another in our political views, students will be able to take political action if they believe in issues with new policies by participating in the new 100-Days club, making calls, and staying hopeful about what we can do as individuals for political issues that matter to us.

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