More about Cody
The Grotto in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
“If you didn’t like what happened in the national election, fine. Do something locally,” my pastor Carrie Ballenger-Smith of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer here in Jerusalem said to me an interview this past week.

I’ve dwelled on what she said all week long and the more I think about it, the more I know she’s right. The farther and farther we move into this presidency, for those of us who want sustainable change, the more and more I am convinced that local, rather than national movements need to materialize. Here is why and what to do.

Our criticisms should be less pointed towards the POTUS (and that doesn’t just go for this administration) and more towards our mayors and local elected official. We have a lot more influence in local elections than what we do the next state over or even the next district. With that being the case, we can pressure these individuals to implement our values through local policy.

You’re concerned with racism and discrimination; you can propose that local administrators take a certain amount of training as part of their job description. If you’re worried about Betsy DeVos’s positions on education, then you can either run for the school board or find ways to support your local institutions. You can make sure that a specific amount of money from the school budget goes to support cultural project perhaps. Or if you’re worried about the rise of hate crime and speech, work with the school’s Athletic Director and ask coaches are doing to implement anti-bullying measures. If you’re worried about fake news, invest in your local newspapers. A lot of times, they have the respect of their communities but are strapped for financial resources to cover all the community news and events. If you’re able to produce high-quality content, donate your services to them because the piece you publish in your local newspaper will have more impact than sharing a meme on social media. These examples are endless and practical

It’s strange how being on the playground with your son will transform you. I never liked Merry-Go-Rounds, for obvious reasons. But when your son tells you to get on, that’s just what you do.
And while the strategy for local mobilization can be expanded in any direction to meet your specific skill sets and social networks, the process when engaging locally is equally important. So what do I mean by process?

There were always small things that I was working on back at home in my little community of Gladwin. Two example come to mind. One was working on the situation of blight in the downtown district, and the other was the establishment of a traveling trophy between two of the local high school girls teams. Not exactly heady stuff, but the principles of process learned from those experience proved to be invaluable.

On the issue with blight. I had run an article in my local newspaper, the Gladwin County Record and Clarion. Then I followed up with Gladwin’s City Manager Bob Moffit. Bob basically said I should do something about it and that he would be helpful. Long story short, Bob had explained that rather shove more things on his plate, why don’t I try to come to him with an answer I’d be willing to help with. So I did and Bob and I a few other worked together to refurbish the top of a building. Kathy Shea helped out, and I got Buddy Goldsworthy the Gladwin wrestling coach to snatch up his kids and have a cleaning day.

The second one, a traveling trophy shared between the Beaverton Beavers girls programs and the Gladwin Flying G’s girls’ program was an idea set up by my old buddy Andy Miceli from Mr. M’s Pizza there in Gladwin. I had a few discussions with some of the administrations, and it wasn’t going as I liked because it was beyond me how such a simple idea took so much effort. Long story short, I ended up losing my cool and acted rude to a few people I cared deeply for and respected a lot and had to go back and apologize for that.

What I had learned from that, is that even if the solution appears simple in my head, that doesn’t mean it is a simple process. I had to step back and look at things, and when I did, I realized I was being more demanding than what I was trying to be helpful. End of the story, Bob Kind, and Dave Spencer ended up making the trophy and Scott and Tammy Hawblitzel from S&H Engraving in Gladwin did the engraving, and the kids are still passing it back and forth today after sporting events.

But through those small little interactions at the local level, by replacing my agenda with the idea of how I can be useful to our shared goals and by looking for ways I can be a part of the answer, I found that not only could things get accomplished, but that being willing to build real relationships with people I didn’t always see eye-to-eye with would be the foundation for community activism.

A few published pieces
An interview with Palestinian Christian Antwan Saca, part 1 and 2
A piece in the Midland Daily News
An interview with Palestinian peace activist Sami Awad in The Mennonite
A reflection from my personal blog

Cody & Alex
I’ve been working on and off in the Holy Land since 2005. I’ve worked with ICAHD, DCI-Palestine, and HIRN and the Holy Land Trust. If you like my work and would like to contribute, and have an extra 10 dollars a month? Make a small contribution. You can also email me back at

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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