Ask Auntie Establishment

Dear Auntie:

I work 40-plus hours a week and am about to start attending school again in the fall. I have bills to pay and a limited amount of time and energy. I know there are people with even less time and more bills who still manage to do things in the world. Do you have any suggestions for what I can do to help change the things I dislike about the corporate government that are less time-consuming than standing in front of a building with a sign all weekend? I mean, I have laundry to do.

Also, the grassroots activists here in Houston are no fun to hang out with because everything is an issue. When did people forget how to laugh at things?

Hopeless in Houston

auntieMy Dear Harried Friend:
When did people forget how to laugh at things? Auntie suspects it was sometime between paying the bills, doing the laundry, and reading the news. All is not lost, however; there is plenty you can do that is more fun and less time-consuming that standing alone with a sign all weekend. Here are some suggestions that should take you about 20 minutes or less and may even involve making some new friends:

  • Did you know that Houston hasn't yet passed a Bill of Rights Defense Resolution? Each city that passes a resolution sends a concrete message in support of civil rights. There's organizing going on in cities (including yours) in every state, including petition drives, flyering, fun fundraisers and other events. Check out the Bill of Rights Defense Committee for more information and local contacts.

  • Explore a different side of town. Often there is really interesting organizing going on in places you wouldn't expect. Check out community centers in predominantly immigrant and non-English speaking neighborhoods and learn what's going on and what kind of help is needed.

  • Go to a city council meeting and do an open mike for an issue you care about.

  • Read an article about an issue you care about. Keeping yourself up-to-date might not seem like much but it keeps you armed with information if the chance comes to use it.

You can also write letters to the editor, and email and call friends to get their support and start your own activist network. Whatever you do, enjoy yourself, don't feel guilty for not doing more, and make sure your socks are clean.

Dear Auntie E:

I have a difficult choice to make. My dearest friend since junior high refuses to become involved in politics. At all. Won't even vote. She claims that all candidates are alike, that they all lie, and that their campaign managers are just creating images that people will vote for. My response? "Well, duh!"

After accepting that, sadly, the above is most likely true, I can't get her to take the next step -- that we need to get over it and try and elect the best of the bunch. This topic has become a major sore point for me, since while I accept her right to feel the way she does, I can't talk to her about anything without political issues dancing in the back of my head screaming to be discussed. (Did I mention that she lives in Texas, a state known for its progressive views, well-run government and history of sending intelligent, honest politicians to the White House?)

What do I do? Continue my friendship and try not to go insane, or let it go?

Struggling in Seattle

Dear Struggling One:
Don't end your friendship over politics, but don't censor yourself either. Your friend makes some valid points. Instead of just insisting that we have to pick the best of the bunch, why not find some issues your friend does care about -- whether it be animals, abortion rights, clean drinking water or the price of cake mix -- and research how these issues will be affected by the results of the next election. Also, let her know why you personally are voting and what it means to you. She might just go vote as a gesture of friendship, even if she doesn't really care. Either way, don't spend too much time trying to convince her. Just speak your mind and rant when you have to, and ask questions and listen to her views. It might take a lifetime of friendship, but chances are you can find some common political ground.

Dear Readers:
While some of you wrote in simply to malign Auntie's advice to Scared Sis as the worst you ever heard, others were more helpful. Those who have family members or friends considering enlistment should check out It offers counseling from Army veterans who will tell you what the recruiting officers won't; and lists alternatives for getting money for college and vocational training.

Next Week: How do I get my children to pay attention to politics?

Politically confused? Write to your Auntie for help: Letters may be edited for clarity and space. Missed last week's Auntie? Find her columns in the archives.

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