Nearly 200 people gathered for the Spokane Alliance meeting to discuss paid sick leave/SpokaneFAVS File Photo

Organizing: Turning fear into anger, despair into courage

By Andy CastroLang

It’s too much, some days.  Too much to look at, too much fear, too much chaos and immensity of mess.  My stomach gets sick, I get anxious, I chew my nails.

Then I remember: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are anger and courage.  Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain as they are,” St. Augustine.

I learned about community organizing about 14 years ago and it has allowed me to take fear and turn it into cold anger, take despair and remold it into courage to fight for the common good.  I stand within my own institution, and I stand in my community. Community organizing has taken me out of the “ghetto” of my isolation in my work (as a pastor in a relatively small, financially struggling congregation).

Organizing locally, with the diverse members of the Spokane Alliance, has given me a group of people to work with in listening, strategically planning, acting with strength to win on an issue, and evaluating every effort.  This cycle has given me tools to see success that is measurable and clear, and a process that helps make every chosen effort decisive, powerful, and quite often, successful.

To be blunt, organizing for action, and acting decisively for the common good, has saved me from burnout.  Vague plans, small half-hearted efforts of a tiny faction, frequent failures, can be terribly demoralizing.

The community based organizing training I have received through the Spokane Alliance is comprehensive, clear, and effective.  We are big, big enough to demand that we be heard.  We are united around certain, though not all, values…and for those values of civil society and justice for all, and democracy, we come together in anger and in courage.

Not only has it given me courage to do new things, speak out, stand up and resist; organizing is effective.  We are seeing it popping up all over America.  When it is done right, it is the voice of tens of thousands and even millions.  When it is done well, it is not divided or unclear of purpose, goals and outcomes.

Because organizing is more than “being angry in a crowd,” I strongly urge others to get the training offered by the Spokane Alliance as I did so many years ago…then we can be truly effective, and powerful, and successful in building up the common good.

As you organize, you will get to know those two beautiful daughters, Anger and Courage; you will get to know them well as you embrace their parent, Hope.

And then, you won’t need to just chew your nails.

“Effective and Ethical Protest” is the topic of the Feb. 4 SpokaneFāVS Coffee Talk, which will take place at 10 a.m. at Liberty Park United Methodist Church, 1426 E. 11th Ave. All are invited to participate in this community discussion. CastroLang is a panelist.


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Jan Shannon

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