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
*Note: The pep talk below was first published in July, before many of our new friends joined us. (Welcome!) While our numbers have swelled, our need for messages about the power of regular, everyday grassroots activists like you and I hasn’t lessened. I hope those of you who have read these words before are reminded of how far you’ve come since you first read them, and those who have recently joined us are inspired to keep moving forward. Onward, upward, and in solidarity ~ Michele
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 Squarein 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.
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.
Let’s get to work.
Tuesday: Encourage Your MOCs to Hold Trump Accountable
That sounds like a big ask, doesn’t it? Rather than being a check and balance on this administration, the GOP-led Congress is an enabler at best and a co-conspirator at worst.
But we’re in this for the long haul, and it’s important to continue voicing our concern and showing that we’re paying attention. In particular, we need to show that we’re concerned that the Trump administration is flagrantly disobeying the law.
The Russia Sanctions bill was overwhelmingly supported by both GOP and Dem congresscritters. (Vote totals were Senate: 98-2; House 419-3).
But Trump has refused to implement and enforce it. As Senator Claire McCaskill noted this morning, this is a true constitutional crisis. So we can tell the pundits to stop speculating when there will be one, because we’re already there.
What can you do about it? Well, for starters, we need to show our MOCs that we see what’s going on and we care a whole hell of a lot. So call and write (and fax!) your MOCs to let them know that you read more than the news toplines. I have no idea why this isn’t getting more coverage.
Script: Good for any and all MOCs, and suitable for postcards and faxes as well:
My name is ____ and I’m a constituent at (zip code). I’m incredibly concerned that the Trump administration is flagrantly disobeying the law by refusing to implement sanctions imposed by Congress to punish Russia for its election meddling. The message that the administration is sending to foreign powers – including Russia – is anti-American and encourages future election interference. It suggests that America is weak on security and willing to conspire with foreign nations that wish to do us harm. It’s shocking to me that one branch of government – Congress – would be willing to allow another branch of government – the President – to walk all over it. I look forward to hearing (Senator/Congressman/woman____) speak to this issue – which is a constitutional crisis in the purest sense of the phrase.
Wednesday: Yay for CHIP! But Community Health Centers Need Help!
Now that CHIP funding has been extended for six years, the sense of urgency that had surrounded critical health care funding has died down. That’s a mistake. Without funding community health centers (federally qualified health centers, or FQHCs) many of the people who take advantage of the CHIP program won’t even have a health center to go to for care. Twenty five million people (over seven million of them being children) all over the country rely upon these health centers for their care; veterans served by CHCs have increased by 50% since 2008. In fact, your very own doctor’s office or clinic may be a FQHC – they are all over the country, serving people in both rural and urban areas.
So what happens if FQHC funding isn’t renewed? A whole lot of bad stuff:
If funding is not restored, 2,800 sites will close, meaning that 9 million patients will lose access to care, more than 51k providers and staff would lose their jobs, and $7.5 billion in revenue for economically distressed communities would be lost.
Go to this resource to find state-specific impact numbers to use when you are calling your Congresscritters.
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to see what ____ is doing to reauthorize funding community health centers. I’m really concerned about the priorities I’m seeing in Washington. You know something’s wrong when Congress prioritizes giving wealthy people tax cuts when community health centers might have to shut down, lay people off and turn patients away. This is ridiculous! What is ____ doing right now to help the people of our state/district?
Thursday: Support Net Neutrality
I know we’re repeating ourselves here, but the Senate is one vote shy of securing passage of a resolution that would overturn the FCC’s ruling on net neutrality. So, if you have a Republican Senator, get out your phone!
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because I want the Senator to join Susan Collins and the Democratic caucus, and vote to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. Having a free and fair internet is a bipartisan issue, and I’m incredibly disappointed to see the GOP’s unwillingness to listen to the American people – who clearly want net neutrality. I’m watching to see what the Senator does on this issue.
Friday: Encourage Your MOCs to Support Mueller
This week we heard that Trump wanted to fire Mueller, and that he has his eyes on firing Rod Rosenstein. In any normal time, that alone would be sufficient for impeachment. These days, it’s just a regular news cycle.
The GOP has shown a striking unwillingness to stand up to this administration, and that’s just pitiful. So it’s up to us to contact our congresscritters to tell them to have some backbone and support one of the bills that would protect the special council.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m concerned about what looks like a coordinated effort to undermine, discredit, and potentially disband the special council. I’m concerned about Russia meddling in our elections, and I’m sure the congressman/woman/Senator is too. So what is his/her stance on the legislation that will protect the special council? (There’s S.1735/HR3654, the Graham-Booker Special Counsel Independence Protection Act, and S.1741/HR3771, the Tillis-Coons Special Counsel Integrity Act). What does he/she plan to do to help move this legislation forward, and ensure that the special council’s investigation can continue?
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.
If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and 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. Welcome, friend!
Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.