Increasingly, right-wingers, white Christian nationalists, and Republican officeholders are attacking institutions of learning and education, particularly those supported with public funds. This is part of a concerted effort to keep people ignorant and blinkered, a tactic that serves fascism and harms democratic self-governance. Though the South Ryegate Public Library does not seem to have come under any sort of political attack, remedying its financially precarious situation is a way of standing up for libraries and the community services they provide. Raising a few thousand dollars for a small public library is a totally manageable goal, a way of showing to ourselves that we can achieve positive political and social results in a short period.
It is extremely difficult to feel efficacious in the face of the ongoing right-wing efforts to undermine justice, knowledge, and democracy. Like many others resisting these efforts, I have donated my own time and labor to activities ranging from in-person protests to promulgating public policy to financially supporting specific candidates and political groups. But the activity that has made me feel especially empowered has been fundraising. Occasionally, when confronted with a particularly egregious political situation, I have been galvanized into raising money for a specific goal.
When I realized that Christine Blasey Ford, the citizen who came forward with allegations about Brett Kavanaugh assaulting her, would be facing security risks, I launched an effort to raise funds to cover her security costs. I raised over $200,000. I also raised funds to cover the expenses of Americans who went to Clint and El Paso in Texas to bear witness to the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents as a way to deter people seeking asylum in the United States. I called this grassroots effort #CitizenPresence, and raised over $30,000 to cover the costs of over 45 people who visited the border to hold vigils and protests and to provide resources and services to local groups aiding asylum seekers. After the police killing of George Floyd, I raised several thousand dollars to support Dee Dwyer, an African-American photographer who documented protests in Washington, D.C. sparked by Floyd’s death.
I used the social media platform now owned by Elon Musk, which I refer to as the bird site, for those three fundraising campaigns. I left that platform, which, under Musk’s ownership, has degenerated into the worst sort of venue for misinformation, disinformation, hatred, and bigotry.
Now, I am using Mastodon to connect with people throughout the world. Mastodon has fewer users than the bird site, so it may not be as effective a place for organizing and fundraising for political and social causes. But I have been moved this week to find out. I’m doing so mainly for the sake of the South Ryegate Public Library. But I’m also doing it for my own sake, to show myself and others that we can take immediate, concrete steps to strengthen public institutions that educate and enlighten, the sort of public institutions essential to the health of democracy, where citizens must know how to be able to think and judge for themselves on the basis of sound information.