Austin Activism

For starters, I’m no activist. I believe in my causes and I’m actively involved in making people care about politics, but I was raised a good Presbyterian. I keep my thoughts, opinions, feelings and emotions to myself. One day I’m sure they’ll all burst forth in a horrible rage, but for now, this is working for me.

But there was something about arriving in Austin that started getting me interested in “causes.” In early 2006, I watched a movie screening in the William C. Hogg building called “Invisible Children.” You may have heard of it, as it was a fairly sizeable “movement” a few years ago. Their Web site asks: If the Greatest Generation sacrificed for war, what will our generation be known as if we sacrifice for peace? Essentially, their movement started with a movie that brought to light terrible atrocities affecting children in Uganda. If you’re interested in watching the film, you can search for screenings or buy the rough cut.

Invisible Children is an activist group that raises money to help make the lives of children in Uganda and throughout Africa a little better.

Invisible Children is an activist group that raises money to help make the lives of children in Uganda and throughout Africa a little better.

Now, like I said, I’m not really an activist, but something about this message and the atmosphere that it fostered in Austin and the UT campus was captivating. On April 29, 2006, they had me camping out on the lawn of the Texas Capitol for their event “The Global Night Commute,” intended to somewhat relate to the journey that many children in Uganda must take each night in order not to be abducted and placed in a militia.

Who’s to say what touched a nerve in me about attending this, or why I have worn a “One” bracelet for nearly four years? The point is that people in Austin are energized. There’s more excitement here about social issues–on either side of the aisle (or neither side, for that matter)–than any other place that I’ve spent significant amounts of time. It’s very exciting to be in a place like this because, dare I say it, this is the type of environment in which ideas are fostered that “change the world.”

What are you passionate about? What really drives your actions and beliefs? I can say almost without a doubt that there is probably an organization in this city for you. If you lean left, might be a starting place for you. Or, if you lean right, The Young Conservatives of Texas might support your interests. Web junkie Michael Bluejay has set up a mini-directory for Austin activism, so check it out and see if something there is “for you.” Whatever you do, stop reading this blog and get out there! (Is this bad for business?)

As a brief post-script, if you want to see a short video that was both moving and energizing for me, watch below.  It’s from 2004, so it’s a bit dated, but still excellent.  (Stick with it–it gets good after the first 30 seconds or so.)  Without further ado:  Sarah McLachlan — “World on Fire.”



2 Responses to “Austin Activism”

  1. 1 Jane Kim November 21, 2008 at 9:34 am

    I don’t know if this is just in Austin, or if it’s true throughout America, but I have kind of noticed that in Austin, activists seem to be like those total leftist radicals. Even if you just go to a “women’s clinic” which provides normal checkups and things, but also support birth control and abortion procedures, which is still controversial, I’ve noticed that most of the receptionists or counselors, nurses that work there are all peirced up and are covered with tattoos. And Austin is full of people like that.
    By no means am I trying to differentiate them from me by categorizing them as “people like that”. I’m just saying that I think the liberal nature abd the sense of freedom and creativity of Austin contributes to letting activism thrive here. And I love that about Austin.

  2. 2 jeffbechdel November 21, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Yeah, I think you’re definitely right, Jane. Even the term “activist” has general connotations that are some what “left of center.” This is probably an incorrect assumption that people have, but it’s intriguing to think about where that comes from. Could be the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” phenomenon? But you’re definitely right in how you describe the activist atmosphere here.

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