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Facing Activist Burnout Head-On

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How should we react when an experienced activist appears to burn out? It can be disconcerting to see respected activists step back and take a breather or even drop out at least for a time, but this shouldn't lead to too much alarm. In fact, it's a great learning experience, if approached correctly.

Think of these activist citizens as being very much like the veteran soldier. With any "old soldier" the best thing to do is to learn as much as you can from their ample experience since it's often invaluable, but at the same time it's often not a good idea necessarily to adopt their posture, attitude (if negative) or their burnout, as it may be overly negative due to the superhuman efforts expended, or due to circumstances personal to the activist.... Learning from the experience of veterans without necessarily taking on their "spiritual" or attitudinal messages honors the activist-warrior without taking on the more disabling aspects or the simply "tired" affect of the "retiring" activist, when and if these occur.

Moreover, even if the veteran were 100% correct in striking a chord of hopelessness, this can be very much like the experience of being in the lead of a battering ram and not knocking anything down in the first few hits. Like the tobacco litigation, it may be the second, third, fourth, or eighth wave of lawsuits/activists that get the job done. But when it comes to elections and democracy, it will eventually get done -- you really can't bury the truth forever, at least not a truth as big as American representative democracy itself and the fraud being perpetrated on Americans with each election by counting all of our electronic "votes" under conditions of trade secrecy.

Finally, at this peculiar time, right after the November 2006 elections, lots of people I know are either taking a post-election break to return
shortly after the New Year, others are seeming to take a break but the "location" of their activism has moved and they are highly involved in "inside baseball" of lobbying regarding various congressional election bills, that doesn't lead to a lot of publishable articles and reports, necessarily.

But if you do find activists needing to take a step back, try to remember to thank them, learn as much as you can from them, but use it to redouble the efforts for *your* wave, the next wave. May it be the successful one!
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Paul Lehto practiced law in Washington State for 12 years in business law and consumer fraud, including most recently several years in election law, and is now a clean elections advocate. His forthcoming book is tentatively titled DEFENDING (more...)
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