Guidelines for Organizing in These Times of Grief

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By Arun Gupta (May 17, 2017)

There is a lot of grief and anguish in Portland. The killings of the two men standing up to defend women of color were horrific and jarring to everyone in the city of what their sense of community is. But life and politics go on. Here are some principles you may find useful going forward.

1) First and Foremost: The measure of one’s politics are when the situation is at its worst, not its best. The last six months have been hard. Shock gave way to hope to depression and now trauma. But staying rational, level-headed, and keeping one’s eyes on the prize are the best tools to find the path forward. Avoid dramatic rhetoric and stop freaking out. Clear, cool, calm thinking is the only way out of this mess.

2) Get off social media. It encourages division and infighting as drama is what gets attention. Meet people in person and talk. ESPECIALLY those you disagree with.

3) Learn how to listen. Let other people have their say. Don’t wait, letting them talk., just so you can make your point or rejoinder. Hear what they are saying, not saying, and feeling. Consider their perspective and the fact you have not walked a mile in their shoes.

4) Ask questions rather than making assertions. This avoids most conflicts. Don’t make sweeping statements or hurl accusations or insults.

5) Employ grace, understanding, and compassion. It’s easy to be angry. It’s essential to be generous. That’s how one builds movements that win and brings to life the ideals we hold dear.

6) But let’s not beat around the bush. There is a lot of infighting right now. Much of this is due to the spread of authoritarianism and white nationalism. Lines have sharpened because there is a lot more at stake and there is no clear strategy. Everyone is trying to chart a path while blindfolded in an unfamiliar landscape.

7) Stop attacking. Don’t project your anger and frustration at global and historic forces on the people around you. No matter the personal, ideological or organizational disputes you have, they are not the enemy. It’s better to work with them 50% of the time rather and agree to disagree the other times rather than fight them 100% of the time.

8) Nonetheless, don’t try to paper over differences or create false unity. It’s fine to disagree. Just keep it civil and don’t forget the humanity of those who ultimately are on your side.

9) And then there are those who are not on your side. There is an enemy. They are real. They are vicious. And they must be defeated.

10) But there is no one tactic or strategy to do so. This is a time of experimentation. And humility. Try different strategies and tactics, but don’t die on a hill defending them if they are not working.

11) Have fun. Enjoy life.

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