Everyday People Make the Best Revolutionaries

This iconic image of Tank Man was captured by Jeff Widener for AP

One person can make a difference, and everyone should try. ~John F. Kennedy


On a summer day in 1989, a man became world famous.

We still don’t know who he is.

In the summer of 1989, pro-democracy protestors occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Students and workers and soldiers and teachers had joined together in peaceful protest, seeking democracy, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. They were joined by more, and more – and still more people. At its height an estimated one million people occupied the Square – and their efforts inspired the world.

But early on June 4, the Chinese government cracked down on those protests in the most gruesome way, sending in armed military and tanks. The government killed hundreds – some say thousands – of protestors, shooting some in the back as they fled.

It’s with that backdrop that we meet Tank Man.

Just after noon on June 5 – the day after the brutal crackdown had begun – a line of eighteen tanks began snaking down Avenue of Eternal Peace. Lumbering along, the tanks themselves embodied governmental power – impenetrable, unstoppable, able to squash a person like a bug. They continued their parade down the Avenue, toward Tiananmen Square.

Until one lone man stood in their way.

Dressed in a simple white shirt and black pants, holding two shopping bags, he strode into the Avenue and stood directly in front of the lead tank. It stopped. Then it moved right; he countered. Then it moved left; he countered again.

The interaction between the man and the tank lasted only a few minutes. But, as Time Magazine later described it, “[a]lmost certainly he was seen in his moment of self-transcendence by more people than ever laid eyes on Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and James Joyce combined.”

So I wonder:

What do you think he had for breakfast? Toast? Maybe some fruit?

What do you think he bought that day at the store? Soap? Maybe shampoo. Or perhaps there was a sale on undershirts at the store that he’d pass on his way to work.

See – he was just an everyday, regular person. In fact, one report suggested that he was the son of factory workers – a blue collar guy growing up in a blue collar family in a blue collar neighborhood. And because of censorship restrictions in China, he may not even know about the images of him, or that Time Magazine named him one of the century’s “top revolutionaries”.

But – and this is the really important part – he wasn’t a revolutionary.

He was guy who had just finished his shopping.

And that’s why he’s so inspiring. An everyday citizen’s ability to stand up and say “no more” inspires us, because we are just like him.

Stuart Franklin captured this image showing Tank Man in the lower left corner, facing off against eighteen tanks.

Since the election I have been electrified and inspired by the thousands upon thousands of everyday Americans who are doing exactly what Tank Man did: standing in the face of a beheamoth government that has the power and intention to bulldoze them.

Without formal training, without experience – without a blueprint to work from, we have stood shoulder to shoulder and pushed back.

Nobody thought we’d make it very far, frankly.

But we’re still going, and it’s still working.

Case in point – last week, a local activist raised her hand at a meeting and said she wanted to organize a die-in – for that weekend. Less than a week later, she had 100 attendees (including some Handmaids) in 95 degree heat – and her protest was picked up by print and tv news. When I asked her how she got involved with organizing it, she said she just stood up, announced her idea, and asked for help.

She has no specialized experience. She’d never done this kind of before. She’s just a regular person. Like you. And like me.

She simply thought that a protest should happen, and decided that she didn’t want to wait anymore.

So, friend, if you’re wondering what everyone is waiting for…

Maybe it’s you.


Tuesday: Get Social to Protect the ACA

Regardless of what news outlets may report, we simply aren’t out of the woods with the ACA just yet. It might seem repetitive, but we need to keep up the calls and contacts to our MOCs about health care. Again, this isn’t an issue that will impact just the elderly, or just those on Medicaid.

Social media is one heckuva great platform to use to get the word out, and to keep the pressure on. It’s also an action you can easily take that has a huge impact. Every MOC has a staffer that monitors this kind of traffic.

So, head over to Indivisible Guide’s Senate Healthcare Toolkit, where they have ready-made shareables by state. Tweet (make sure to tag your Senator), share via Facebook – you know the drill!

Wednesday: Call On Your MOC to Protect Democracy

The stories about the collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia are just staggering. I’m still processing all of it, and I’m sure you are too. (In fact, as I’m writing this I’m seeing my phone explode with even more news.) What’s a Resister to do? We aren’t Mueller, after all…

What we can do at this point is show our MOCs that we’re paying attention, and that we want them to do what they can to protect us from additional Russian interference in the future.

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because I’m extremely concerned that nothing is going to be done about the Russian interference in our election. There are reports that the Trump campaign actively sought information it knew came from Russian government sources. Donald Trump still suggests – contrary to all of our intelligence services and the world – that Russia didn’t interfere in our election. And his behavior last week with Vladimir Putin – from his extensive meeting to his suggestion that we create a cyber-security team with Russia – is just plain bizarre. Trump is obviously refusing to do anything about Russian interference – so that leaves it to Congress. What is Senator/Congressman _____’s position on the Russian interference in our election, and what is she/he planning to do about it?

Thursday: Call Your Senator to Protect the ACA

Word on the street is that the “new and improved” version of the BCRA will be unveiled on Thursday.

I can hardly wait.

In advance, let’s plan to call on Thursday with some revised talking points that reflect the changes that we might see. Here’s a draft script to riff off of.

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because I’m concerned about the revised BCRA. Even with changes, this legislation will still be harmful. I encourage the Senator to vote no because [insert terrible-horrible from the news we get on Thursday].

Friday: Support the Women’s March From the NRA to the DOJ

You have likely seen or heard of the NRA advertisement suggesting that the Resistance is militant and un-democractic. The Women’s March organizers wrote a letter to the NRA in response to that original advertisement, which resulted in another four-minute video from the NRA. *sigh*

In response, this time the Women’s March is going for Women’s March Round Two – a large-scale protest on July 14 (Friday). This time, they are marching from the NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia to the Department of Justice in D.C. Woot!

Head over to the event Facebook page to read more about it and to lend your support.

Not able to be in D.C.? I can relate. But we can still lend support from afar – whether by attending a protest/march in our own communities, by Tweeting our support of the March (hashtag is #NRA2DOJ), or sending a monetary contribution to the Women’s March to be used for security, food and water.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. We’re in this together.

If you want one more quick action, send this pep talk to a friend or two!

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here!

Lastly, if you’d like to support this work, you can become a Patreon patron here.




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