For many progressives, the result of the 2016 election has pushed them to become more politically active than ever before.
The energy of the progressive movement has fueled demonstrations large and small, from the Women’s March that dwarfed the presidential inauguration to groups of friends meeting at coffee shops to write out their concerns in postcards to the White House.
But as the pulse of resistance carries many on the left, the nation as a whole remains starkly divided on how to tackle the issues facing the country and who has the best ideas for moving America forward.
Those divisions are on full display on the Internet, with people clashing every minute of every day about political figures, ideology, national security or foreign affairs. Essentially, if there is an issue being discussed, there are people taking each other to task over it.
In such a polarized environment, is there any chance of reaching that elusive goal of coming together as a nation? If so, what it might take is people coming out of their comfort zone and reaching out to those on the other end of the political spectrum.
That was one of Amy Grover’s goals when she helped found a new group, Ohio Progressives United in Service.
Grover, like many progressives, sees a need for political action. She wants to fight for equal rights, equal treatment under the law and for social progress.
“We don’t have the luxury of being complacent,” she said. “We need to fight but we also need to love.”
OPUS was created as a way for people to come out from behind the Internet and build relationships through service. Internet noise isn’t real life, Grover said. After all, what most people agree on is that we all want to improve our communities. The question is how.
“We’ve got to find a place of compassion for those we disagree with,” she said. One of the ways progressives can do that, she said, is to show those on the opposite side of the spectrum that they care.
OPUS comprises members from Ohio congressional districts 3, 12 and 15, many of whom are part of Indivisible. But to be effective, the group knows it must reach out to more conservative areas, such as the counties surrounding Franklin County, where progressives have had limited success in terms of electoral support and positive perceptions.
As the group continues to build support online, organizers are busy getting the first service events scheduled.
The first event to which OPUS will lend its support is the Glen Echo Park Clean-Up, sponsored by Great Lakes Brewing Company. Volunteers will gather for this Earth Day event on April 15 to remove trash from the Glen Echo stream and clear bush honeysuckle.
Among other events the group has planned is helping to distribute produce to local non-profits on May 4. Organizers are looking to gather a group of 10-15 people for the Vaughn E. Hairston YMCA/Mid-Ohio Foodbank Produce Giveaway.
In addition to the service events themselves, OPUS will put an emphasis on voter engagement and voter registration. The group also offers ways for progressives to help online. Grover knows that sometimes it can be difficult for people with hectic schedules to attend in-person events.
“Everyone has something to offer,” she said.
Such online opportunities include helping to build and maintain the website, using Facebook for organizing, and figuring out how to use technology to help advance the group’s mission.
These tasks can help continue the progressive energy in a rewarding way. For some, calling and writing their member of Congress may become discouraging because of a lack of immediate, affirmative response.
“We CAN control what we do to make an impact, even on a micro level,” Grover said. “We will lose political battles. But we can still help people.”
Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is always a challenge. But just getting out there and serving others can help build bridges instead of walls.
“We may not be changing the world but hopefully we can change minds,” Grover said.