Democracy’s Dozen: 12 songs for an unprecedented time

As the requirement to physically distance continues, these 12 songs remind us that we are strong, that we will get through this together and that in the meantime, we can remain active and involved in our democracy.


March 2020 might feel like the month our whole world changed. During this stretch, it’s natural to dwell on what we aren’t able to do – and it’s equally worth reflecting on what we’ve gained from this “new normal.” When this weird period eventually passes, let’s resolve to hold onto those things in our lives. Here are some ways to add gratitude to our lives.

2. "Hero," Michael Kiwanuka

COVID-19 is showing us the many faces of heroism: The doctors and nurses, on the front lines of the pandemic; mail carriers and delivery people; truck drivers; restaurant workers; teachers and school staff helping to educate (and feed) our children; nonprofits; grocery-store stockers … the list goes on and on. These everyday Americans aren’t sheltering in place – they’re keeping the rest of us going. If that’s not heroic, we don’t know what is. You can be a hero, too: Many Nebraska communities have created funds to directly help those who are providing direct services to those affected by coronavirus. If you can, give what you can.

3. "10,000 Hours," Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber

When will this pandemic abate? Some of the more pessimistic estimates say it could be more than a year before things go back to “normal.” While we’re optimistic it won’t be quite that long, how we approach that length of time is entirely up to us. One suggestion: Become a Voting Rights Advocate and get active in Civic Nebraska’s efforts to protect voting rights. This year more than ever, voters are in need of information about their rights about casting a ballot and must know where to go if they need help. You can be a big part of keeping our democracy moving.

4. "The News," Carbon/Silicon

COVID-19 is a unique pandemic in that it also brings with it an “infodemic” – a barrage of fake news, especially on social media. As engaged, informed citizens, we must seek out and share trustworthy sources of information and facts. For example: The World Health Organization has launched EPI-WIN to provide a source of reliable and trustworthy information during this global pandemic. Check out their “myth busters” page and check it regularly, and be sure to share it to your social networks. Information is power.

5. "The Show Must Go On," Queen

The psychological toll of the coronavirus outbreak is no joking matter. Please, please, please: Take care of your mental health and take advantage of these resources if you need them.

  • Managing anxiety & stress from the Centers For Disease Control
  • Behavioral therapy-inspired tips from The Guardian
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-985-5990 or text TALKWITHUS to 66746.

6. "Rise," Katy Perry

We’ve had to cast ballots amid crises before – through a world war, a civil war, and a Great Depression. With the same spirit and optimism as those who came before us, let’s do our part to ensure coronavirus doesn’t chip away at our democratic institutions. Be sure to register to vote if you haven’t yet, and if you’re uncomfortable with the prospect of going to the polls to vote on May 12 (Nebraska Primary Day), we can help you request a mail-in ballot. It’s your most important right – and your most important duty!

7. "Hey Hey Hey," Michael Franti & Spearhead

Now’s not the time to retreat from civic life. Democracy is not a spectator sport, even in the era of physical distancing. While we all must keep our distance, members of the Nebraska Legislature are continuing their work although they are not physically in regular session. As such, it’s vital that Nebraskans continue their role as the state’s “Second House.” So find your state senator here and use this time to write some emails to advocate for issues that are important to you.

8. "Brave," Sara Bareilles

Do you have thoughts on our shared reality that you need to get off your chest, but aren’t sure how or where to express them? You can always write a letter to your local newspaper. Here are some tips for first-time letter writers. In an age of anonymous online trolling, it takes a fair amount of intestinal fortitude to put your name on your opinion and put it before the community. But as the song goes, say what you wanna say and let the words fall out. Honestly, we wanna see you be brave.

9. "Count on Me," Bruno Mars

For much of March, Nebraska has been the No. 1 state in response rate for the 2020 U.S. Census. This is music to our ears: Civic Nebraska, along with the Nebraska Civic Engagement Table, the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands and dozens of other organizations, is supplementing Nebraskans’ inherent awesomeness via Nebraska Counts, a statewide Complete Count Committee. If you haven’t yet, fill out your census form online. It takes 10 minutes and it’s easier than easy. Our census count will profoundly affect everything related to civic life for the next decade – so don’t wait! And if you really like data, you can track the up-to-date results here.

10. "New Kind of Neighborhood," Jonathan Richman

You know, COVID-19 may usher in a golden era of neighborhood engagement. For years on some blocks, a group of semi-strangers may have lived in proximity to one another. Today, they’re truly becoming neighbors. In response to the viral spread, many communities are forming “Neighborhood Pods” – hyperlocal mutual-aid networks that serve to pair resources with needs. How do you do it? The Dandelion Network has an excellent how-to on creating a Neighborhood Pod. Form your Pod and strengthen your neighborhood today. And our neighborhood-strengthening affiliate ONE Omaha has assembled an easy-to-use set of resources to maintain strong communication among neighbors during this era. Check it out!


11. "Rosealeia," Better Than Ezra

“Put on your mask wearing your cape / Put on your mask, my Rosealia” – Better Than Ezra

Because they’re the front lines of the pandemic, our healthcare superheroes require personal protective equipment, or PPE. N95 respirator masks, surgical masks, protective goggles, face shields, and disinfectant wipes are in particularly short supply. You can do your civic duty by helping get PPE to the people who urgently need it. If you have extra containers of disinfectant wipes or bought N95 masks when COVID-19 first became a concern, it’s time to be patriotic: Go here to find a Nebraska donation site and get them in the hands of our heroes. You also can call your local hospital to see how you can (safely) make a donation.

12. "One of Us," New Politics

We close this edition of Democracy’s Dozen with a simple song by a Danish rock band that seems appropriate for our current shared experience. Rather than a deep explainer or call to action based on this tune, we encourage you to watch their “lyrics” video – and simply enjoy its unbridled optimism and celebration of community.

We are strong, Nebraska, and we will get through this together.

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