This was last fall. It was about one o’clock on a Sunday, and I was standing on the sunny porch of a capacious colonial in a nearby neighborhood. A woman came to the door in a soft tailored suit, tasteful scarf, and high heels; the little girl peeking from behind her wore a crisp polka-dot dress and sparkly sandals. It was clear they’d just gotten home from church.
The woman chatted warmly as I introduced myself, explained that I lived nearby, and was a volunteer.
... And then I told her what I was volunteering for.
At first it was like she didn’t hear me. “For Obama?” she said. (“You know, the President,” I almost said, helpfully. She seemed honestly confused, as if I’d said I was canvassing for Nixon, or Beyonce, or Winnie-the-Pooh.)
And then her expression changed, almost cartoonishly... and suddenly this sweet-faced June-Cleaver PTO mommy was giving me a full-scale varsity-level sneer, complete with laser-powered death stare clearly intended to set my hair on fire. I almost fell off the porch.
“I will never, EVER, vote for that man,” she spat angrily, still making the cartoon face. Then she started to yell: “NEVER! EVER! EVER!”
I blinked and started to respond, but then--remembering that morning’s canvassing training--bit my tongue, thanked her, and hastened down her driveway. Her shouts, ever-increasing in volume, followed me all the way down the street. “Ever! EVER! EVER! EVERRRrrr!!!!”
I couldn’t help giggling incredulously as I hustled away, consulting my clipboard for friendlier venues. Hoo boy, I thought. I just hope her Bible lesson today wasn’t on loving your neighbor.
My little adventure made everybody chuckle (and sigh) back at the field office, but what’s pertinent now, as our nation tackles the crucial issue of gun violence, is this: We can't waste our time arguing with diehard opposition. We have to concentrate on the genuinely undecided, and people who agree but need a nudge to take action.
Well, duh, right?
Except that I remembered this only after spending twenty minutes composing just the right Facebook post to a person who thinks the right to carry an assault rifle was handed down on a stone tablet by God himself... and I then proceeded to reflect (okay, stew) about it for an amount of time I’m embarrassed to reveal.
So, sure, put that witty comeback on Facebook (just don’t spend as much time on it as I did!), and write that awesome essay for Daily Kos (seriously: I want to read it).
But also remember to call your dad who generally agrees with you but needs you to send him the links to his congressman’s online email form. Engage respectfully with friends who are undecided. Email your sisters with a list of their representative’s and senators’ phone numbers.
And try to educate your agreeable-but-not-so-active friends and family about how exactly to proceed when calling a member of Congress.
Many people don’t realize they don’t have to have a bunch of policy points memorized, and that nobody will argue with them. Remind them that it is acceptable to call repeatedly, even once a day, since most members of Congress simply get a tally of the viewpoints expressed by callers each day, rather than tracking an individual voter’s calls or viewpoints. (Heck, I didn’t know this last point until just recently.) Tell them to put a post-it on their desk with their Congress members’ phone numbers to remind them to call, next to a photo of their children so they remember why. Encourage them to call, and call, and call again.
So, good luck and godspeed (and don’t forget to love your neighbor). I’ve got my fingers crossed for all of us.