Armchair Activist

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

On this page, you’ll find opportunities to participate in local and state government from your living room, home office, kitchen, car, or wherever you write letters or emails, or make phone calls. When you make your voice heard, it is democracy in action!

Information on this page changes often. We aren’t recreating the wheel, so there are many links to other places where you can find information and decide your own way to take action. We do not advocate all ideas presented in the links but the point is to help you educate yourself.

We have several sections to this page. Use the following links to go to specific topics on this page.

What other people are saying

Here are some popular bloggers and websites you might want to follow to get an idea of what other people are doing and saying. It is by no means a comprehensive list of everything out there but maybe it can get you started on an action-oriented path. Let’s promote democracy, tell our elected officials what we want, and get more Democrats elected!

Note that the SML Democrats club is not subscribing to or promoting any of the following people or ideas. These are suggestions that might help you decide what you need to know or do to have your voice heard and make connections with like-minded people.

  • Chop Wood, Carry Water – a daily actions newsletter from activist Jessica Craven with specific help to take action for democracy and progressive ideas. You can also follow her on Twitter and TikTok. Here’s a link to her Activism 101 Document that might get you inspired to take action on a variety of fronts.
  • Letters from an American – from Heather Cox Richardson, a professor of history at Boston College, to chronicle today’s political landscape. She references the past (Constitution, laws, economics and social customs) to explore what it means to be an American today. You can also follow her on Facebook.
  • Today’s Edition Newsletter – daily thoughts, from Robert B. Hubbell, to provide hope and perspective to like-minded citizens who are devoted to preserving American democracy.
  • Sierra Club Activism – in the face of a warming climate, unprecedented levels of pollution, and powerful special interests undermining basic protections, the club is now focusing on bringing people together for solutions. You’ll find many ideas here on taking action, not only for the climate but also to protect democracy. The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club is addressing the state’s change from “climate action to climate denial” under Gov. Youngkin and you’ll find many ways to take action.
  • If you’re looking for quiet reflection and community, you might want to follow John Pavlovitz, American pastor and author, known for his progressive social and political writings.
  • A few other organizations that you might want to follow, depending on your interests: ACLU, Progressive Caucus Action Fund, Vote Forward, Daily Kos, Black Lives Matter, People Demanding Action, The States Project, United Today, Stronger Tomorrow, Women’s March, Progressive Democrats of America, NDN (New Democrat Network think tank) and Red Wine & Blue. Some of these organizations have local representation, and many have letter writing opportunities and other ways you can get involved.

Choose your own topic and take action!

Your opinions matter, and your thoughts probably represent more people than you think. We need to have Democratic voices speak out loudly in our area in order to have a healthy two-party democracy.

You can contact your county Board of Supervisors, School Board members or other elected officials to express your views and concerns. A note of thanks is also welcome when they support policies and legislation that helps our community. Find your local elected officials on our Current Elected Officials page.

Consider sending a letter to a local paper on issues that are important to you. The Public Relations Committee can help you draft a letter or give you further contact information at local papers.

List of current topics for Armchair Activists

Choose what you want to learn about by using these links that will take you further down the page.

ATTEND A LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD MEETING

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard something about school boards across the country being inundated with angry (and sometimes violent) audience members who want to discuss masks, curriculum and political issues at these meetings. The same thing is happening in the counties around Smith Mountain Lake. See below for more about Franklin County in particular.

You can help by attending one or more school board meetings in your county. This will give a more balanced perspective so that board members (and audience members, too) realize that there are other views in our community. If you don’t want to speak, just attend a meeting to learn about the school system, which is often one of the biggest employers in rural counties, and where many of your dollars are spent.

If you would like to make a public comment, you are allowed a set number of minutes to speak, uninterrupted. You do not have to address a “hot” topic or divisive issue. Some ideas are:

  • Talk about how our school division will address the significant amount of “learning loss” that has occurred during a two-year global pandemic that drove many kids to virtual learning for a significant portion of time.
  • You’ve been watching School Board meetings and would love to see the focus shift to education and welfare of our kids instead of serving as a political podium for culturally divisive issues.
  • Talk about what can be done about the significant absenteeism and behavioral issues that we are currently experiencing as we move out of pandemic mode.
  • In Franklin County, there is great need for a true Career and Technical Education Center (CTE) to serve both the students and community, thereby making us a more attractive county for new employers.
  • Teacher pay, retention, and filling teacher and staffing vacancies are all relevant topics that need to be addressed, especially in Franklin County compared to other nearby counties (Roanoke, for example).

You will need to sign up ahead of time to speak, so be sure to look at your county’s School Board agenda on their websites to find out dates and times (they do meet in the summer!) and for information or forms for making your comments.

Bedford County School Board
Franklin County School Board
Pittsylvania County School Board

More about why local school boards need your voice

Local school board meeting audiences have become packed with “activist members” of the community. That’s their label for what they’re doing. In Franklin County:

  • Many of them are not parents of students in the public schools.
  • They did not support any mask requirements in schools at any time during the pandemic.
  • They do not support being inclusive with our LGBTQ+ kids.
  • They continue to accuse the schools of teaching CRT and of driving a Marxist agenda through our schools.
  • Book banning has been brought up, but has not garnered much support.
  • It appears that this has become a social event for this group as many of them bring knitting and read books during the meeting after they have made their 3-minute speeches.
  • They have become a distraction to the Board’s agenda of focusing on education and the welfare of students.

Also in Franklin County, and perhaps other counties as well, the same 50-60 people come to each meeting. This small group, while visible and vocal, does not represent the whole community of 56,000. Please consider adding your voice to show that there are other points of view.

Parent-activists, seeking control over education, are taking over school boards
By Hannah Natanson, Washington Post 

Write letters to Get Out the Vote

There are many organizations that have started letter writing campaigns to encourage people to get to the polls. Studies have shown that postcards or letters addressed to individuals actually do increase voting.

The SML Democrats and both the Bedford and Franklin County Democratic Committees have postcard writing sessions which you can attend. They are a fun, social opportunity as well if you join a group session. Information will be posted at the appropriate time, usually in summer months.

There are also organizations that target populations in many states to encourage turnout for hotly contested elections. Depending on your interest, you could commit to writing 10, 20 or 100 notes to encourage people to vote for various reasons. Environmental, health care, women’s rights, children’s needs, legal issues, racism issues, etc., are all topics with organizations behind these causes that will enlist your help and offer letter-writing tips. Whatever your interest is, you can find a place that needs your help to get voters motivated enough to hit the polls. Some examples are listed above, under the “What other people are saying” headline.

Here are a few current letter-writing campaigns focusing on various critical states to encourage Democrats and/or combat voter suppression.

  • Center for Common Ground: Help turn out Black voters for the February 21 Special Election in Virginia! Due to the sudden death of Congressman McEachin of Virginia (VA-04) on November 28, Virginia is holding a special election to fill the seat. The Center for Common Ground has launched a campaign to turn out voters for this election. There is some potential for confusion among the electorate about the two candidates, both of whom are African-American.
    • Jen McClellan, is a champion of voting rights, equality and racial justice, who authored Virginia Voters’ Bill of Rights and the Virginia ERA. The other candidate, Leon Benjamin, is a minister and theocrat, a 2020 election denier, ultra-conservative, and pro-pipeline. Please encourage people to vote FOR Jen McClellan!
    • The Center’s goals are to ensure that Virginia voters don’t sit out this election. Voters have the opportunity to vote their values, and to protect voting rights and equality. We are texting, sending postcards and calling voters. If you would like to work with us, send us an e-mail at rov.dcmv@gmail.com. If you haven’t worked with us before or if it’s been a while, please read the postcarding page on our website and watch the video. Both contain important information on how we send postcards and links for purchasing supplies. The page can also answer most questions that you might have about our process.
  • Local Postcard Writing Sessions – See our Upcoming Events page for dates and times to write postcards locally.
  • Postcards to Swing States – There are just a few days left to request addresses from Postcards to Swing States to write to voters in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, or New Hampshire. These cards will remind voters in key states that “Democrats Deliver.”
  • Vote Forward Letter Writing Campaign – New states have been added to the list as redistricting maps were approved in different states. “Because midterm elections are all about turnout, the millions of voters we’re writing to this year could make all the difference in close elections across the country,” said Scott Forman of Vote Forward.
Tell legislators to defend environmental progress

The Virginia House of Delegates GOP is trying to roll back environmental progress made in previous years. Here are current news stories about issues that may concern you and spur you to express your opinion.

  • Sierra Club: Virginia is at a crossroads. The choice before us is the road toward a livable future or a return to a time of climate denialism and environmental injustice. Which path we take depends on people willing to hold our leaders accountable. Virginia is a national leader on clean energy and pollution reduction commitments. The progress we’ve made in a few years is nothing short of incredible, but Governor Youngkin and his climate denying allies are aggressively attacking every major policy that holds polluters accountable and protects our communities. Youngkin is pressuring legislators to adopt regressive repeals that weaken or outright eliminate common sense solutions like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Virginia Clean Economy Act, and the Clean Car Standards (just to name a few).

    Share your support for climate and environmental injustices.
  • Appalachian Voices:  The U.S. Forest Service broke 11 of its own conservation rules governing old-growth forests, scenic viewsheds, soil health and more to accommodate one project — the Mountain Valley Pipeline. But, the agency’s permission for MVP to cut through the protected Jefferson National Forest was revoked by the courts two separate times — in 2018 and in 2022.

    Now, the agency is trying to rewrite that same permit for the MVP and has opened a new public comment period. Your help is needed to tell the U.S. Forest Service there should be no special exceptions for this harmful project. Changing the rules for corporate profit is NOT acceptable.

    Send your comments to the Forest Service.
    Turn the Governor’s Teacher Tip Line into a “positive”

    Governor Youngkin has established a tip line to report teachers who use “divisive teaching practices” (even though he doesn’t define what that entails) and his administration refuses to answer who is to monitor the tip line or how a report will be addressed.

    We can combat parent fears that lead to book banning and opposing critical race theory (CRT), which is not taught in Virginia elementary or secondary schools. Tell the Governor about the positive impact that our schools and teachers have, and that he has overstepped. Express your opinion of the tip line. Many teachers find this demeaning and insulting to be reported to the government for undefined “divisiveness” with no stated recourse. 

    Let’s do this instead: keep the tip line alive all year with positive reports

    Rather than feeding into the assumption that learning about diversity and historical facts is harmful to our children and future adult citizens, fill the tip line with positive experiences of schools, teachers and education. You don’t have to have been a student in the lake area counties or even in Virginia! Simply tell about the positive impact teachers, schools and education have had on you, your life and/or your family.

    Some suggestions for positive reports:
    • Who was your favorite teacher and what did they teach?
    • What teacher had the most positive impact on your life?
    • What does/did your child like about their teachers?
    • Tell about a positive impact on your life from your school or your child’s school.
    • What are some of your fondest memories about school?
    • Express your personal opinion of this action.

    The governor’s site for comments is: helpeducation@governor.virginia.gov.

    Other education issues making headlines

    There’s a national parents’ rights movement with regard to educational policies and curriculum that has caught our nation by surprise. This is largely what put Gov. Youngkin into office. If topics such as banning books, rewriting and whitewashing history, or not following the law concerns you, take a look at current headlines on multiple education topics and write to your local School Board or the Virginia Department of Education to make your views known.

    And, remember: some actions in the state legislature, such as school funding, are GOOD news and it’s important to acknowledge that as well, especially when contacting elected officials. Let’s celebrate our accomplishments when we can!

    House Republicans vote to stop teaching major historical events from Virginia public schools
    The Democratic Party of Virginia is providing support to Democratic candidates running for local school board. Contact the organization for more information or to make a donation.

    Read the Books That Schools Want to Ban (The Atlantic)

    Bill mandating parental notice before sexually explicit lessons advances: ‘This is not a book ban’
    By Jackie Defusco, WRIC-TV

    House pushes for $2 billion to fund school construction needs (cardinalnews.org)

    Senate Democrats release budget to provide $2.7 billion for education

    Youngkin’s ‘lab school design challenge’ revives an old push (vpm.org)

    ICYMI: House GOP Votes Against the Teaching of Nearly a Dozen Historical Events & Figures (bluevirginia.us)
    House Republicans voted to kill nearly a dozen floor amendments [that] would have ensured educators can teach students important and valuable lessons from United States history without the fear of political backlash. The bill’s patron defended the legislation saying it would “prevent teachers from taking sides” on issues like the Lost Cause of the Confederacy and the Three-Fifths Compromise.

    Republicans look to increase police presence in Virginia’s schools
    By Megan Pauly, WCVE-FM

    Fox News host forces Glenn Youngkin to admit critical race theory is not ‘being taught’ in Virginia schools 
    rawstory.com

    Youngkin names a new diversity officer for the state, orders a new focus for the office’s work, including review of History curriculum in schools
    By Mel Leonor, Richmond Times-Dispatch

    Youngkin taps critical race theory opponents to lead public education in Virginia
    By Kate Masters, Virginia Mercury

    Let’s Go Blue Together
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    SML Democrats includes members from communities around Smith Mountain Lake: Bedford, Glade Hill, Goodview, Hardy, Huddleston, Moneta, Penhook, Redwood, Union Hall, Westlake and Wirtz.