I've received several phone calls and texts from friends wanting to share their frustration and talk about the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman ruling. A consistent question in these conversations was, "what now?" and my consistent response was, "the same as always."
We know that a working and just democracy requires informed and consistently involved citizens. We also know that brief emotional responses AFTER tragedies and injustices like these do nothing. In our efforts to build a better culture and more just institutions the question must no longer be, "What now?" but rather, "What, from now on?"
I'm dismayed by the Zimmerman verdict but always excited about the positive potential that tech holds, in helping us create a more just society, even with its obvious limitations. Here are 4 ways you can use today's technology to support your long term political awareness and action.
1. Read up and learn on the internet
Whether you desire to better understand physics, learn to paint, or learn the legal challenges to overturning "Stand Your Ground" laws, it's all on the internet. I did a cursory Google search and found the "Second Chance Campaign" an org that partners with the NAACP and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights to fight against Stand your Ground (or as they call it, "Shoot First") laws, across the country. These organizations know the issue inside and out and their websites are great resources for information. Their difficult work needs more than just a "LIKE" on Facebook and they'd love to read a message from you, receive your volunteer time and/or your financial support.
2. The "Buycott" app
You already know the power of withholding your consumer dollars and purchasing in ways that support your values, but exactly how does this work? The Buycott phone app can help. Did you know that Bounty paper towels, Vicks Vaporub, and Crest toothpaste are all owned by the same company? The Buycott phone app, "helps you to organize your everyday consumer spending so that it reflects your principles … When you use Buycott to scan a product, it will look up the product and figure out what company owns that brand." It cross-checks the product owners against the companies included in the campaigns you've joined, and tells you if the scanned product conflicts with one of your campaign commitments.
Not bad. Download the app, confirm your political commitments and use "Buycott" as you shop, everyday.
3. Connect online
My mother called me immediately after the Zimmerman verdict to talk about her fears and feelings about our justice system [sic]. We could have had a similar text or video conversation on Skype or any of the other chat programs currently in use. The Google+ hangout can connect up to ten friends on the same video call. That's ten voices overcoming the challenge of distance to connect, share thoughts and ideas and even plan action steps. Just be careful, because it's very likely that the NSA is on the call also.
4. Organize to meet in person
Until message and email encryption become mainstream practice, the internet is a proven, compromised medium for privacy. Even then, there is no substitute for "in-person" organizing and involvement. Period. We can use phone, email, and even sites like meetup.com to find like minds and then get together OFFLINE, in person. We must never lose our capacity for real personal interactions; to look directly into the eyes of a friend/comrade to plan an action, to hug, to shake hands and create, together.