Most of the time I try to stick to technical topics on this blog, rather than political. However, as this past week has shown we do not have the luxury of being a-political. We have a political system where rampant institutional corruption has been suddenly overshadowed by a new administration that has a complete and total disregard for the rule of law, American citizens, people in need (domestic or foreign), the future of our planet, and the basic facts of reality itself.
This does not bode well for us as a people.
Many people are asking themselves what they can do, and how they can help fight back when they have so much else going on. Most of my social media followers and readers of this blog work in IT in some fashion. We have jobs, sometimes with considerably longer than 40-hour work weeks. (Side note: That's unethical too, but a topic for another time.) Many of us have families to take care of. We have houses that need care. We don't live near an airport to participate in a protest even if we had the time. We may have some physical disability that makes attending a protest infeasible. But we want to help somehow!
There are many ways to help in this fight, but for my fellow tech folks remember that you have an advantage many lack: Money.
This is going to be a long an expensive fight in the courts, through activism, future political campaigns, and on other fronts. Right now there are many worthwhile organizations working to carry on that fight, but they need resources.
Let's be honest: If you work in IT, you're very well paid. The 2016 US Median Household Income is $55,775 per year. 70% of Americans make less than $50,000 per year (individual income). Meanwhile, the average salary for a junior software developer is $60,000 per year. If you've been around for even a few years you should be making much more than that. (Side note: if not, you are being exploited and should find a new job.)
That means if you work in IT, you almost certainly have a higher personal income than half of American households. You may not be "wealthy", but you're almost certainly better off financially than most people in this country. (And that "most" is literal, in this case.)
So put your money where your mouth is. Setting up a monthly recurring donation to one of the organizations fighting on your behalf to stand up for American values of civil rights, rule of law, and the validity of factual evidence is almost pathetically easy, and takes no time going forward.
I am putting the challenge out to anyone and everyone who works in IT to setup a monthly donation of $100 to one of those organizations. You can afford it. If you think you can't, go back a few paragraphs and re-read the part about you almost certainly having more personal income than most households. Yes, you can afford $100 per month more than you can afford to sit by and do nothing. You can probably afford more than that, and if you want to and are able to donate more I encourage it.
If you can't decide what organization to support, spreading it out across a few organizations is fine too. Personally, I now have a $50 monthly recurring donation setup for each of the following three organizations:
- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). I've been a proud card-carrying member of the ACLU since 2004. The ACLU is actively working in court to stop threats to the civil liberties of any and all groups in the US. They stand for free speech, free expression, freedom of religion, and legal due process. In short, if you believe in the First Amendment then you believe in the ACLU. (Fun fact: ACLU.org is a Drupal site. Rock on, Big D!)
- The Sierra Club. There are many environmental organizations all working toward the same goal of there being a habitable planet Earth for our children to live on. (I know, that sounds dramatic; that's because it is.) Based on informal recommendations from friends and colleagues I decided to put my money into this one. Join me or go with another, your choice, but the environment can't speak for itself. We have to speak for it.
- Represent.us. Even before the current turmoil began, it's been clear that the root problem of our government is that the American government doesn't speak for the American people. It speaks for the American lobbyists. That's true of Republicans and Democrats, at the Federal, State, and local level. The problem is simple: Campaigns cost money; candidates need money to run; the most efficient way to get money is from wealthy individual donors and lobbyist bundlers; so the most efficient way to run for office is to spend over half your time talking to, calling, or otherwise schmoozing with lobbyists and rich people and begging them for money; that means the only people most politicians spend any appreciable time with are rich people and lobbyists for rich people. It's demeaning, it's insulting, it's corruption, and it's one of the very few bi-partisan things left in government. There are several organizations working to pass real, concrete electoral reform — which must, must include public funding of elections — and Represent.us is one of the leaders in that movement.
I invite you to join me in supporting these organizations, or others if you so choose. There are plenty to choose from, but they all need our financial support. But if you work in IT, anywhere, then you can afford to do so more than most of the country. It's the least you can do.
I do mean that literally; financially supporting those fighting on our behalf really is the least amount of effort possible. It's something everyone can take five minutes to do. If you are able to do more, please do so. We need you. All of you.
For me, I've signed up to help phone bank for South Dakota, where the people did pass an anti-corruption referendum only to have the first act of the new Republican-dominated state legislature be to declare a state of emergency so they could overturn it. (Fun fact: South Dakota is ranked the 3rd most corrupt state in the country. Gee, I wonder why.) The state House already passed it and the state Senate delayed voting on the repeal due to massive public outcry, which we need to continue in order to pressure them to back down and accept the will of the people. You are welcome to join that effort, or fight on another front. That's fine. There are many fronts in this battle and we need to be fighting on all of them. Pick a front that speaks to you and get to work.
If you don't have the time, energy, or temperament to do so, you can still help out financially. No excuses. Yes, you can. Yes, we can.