We are only as blind as we want to be. ~Maya Angelou
History is never invisible, finally, though some people seem to work very hard to be willfully blind. ~Garth Greenwell
On Saturday, I arrived (soaking wet) at a union hall in St. Louis, Missouri to talk to fellow Democrats about how to spread our message. Dodging puddles and holding my coat over my head, I ran to the door – flung it open… and the roaring sound of over 100 Democrats engaged in ice breakers slapped me in the face.
I was gobsmacked.
It was a completely packed house.
On a freezing cold day that started with downpours and ended in drizzles.
Looks (well, glances, really) can be deceiving…
Hearing about that packed union hall might surprise you if you’re not “on the ground.” Case in point – not even two weeks ago, a Vox article proclaimed that the Resistance is … kaput.
“Demobilized,” the author called us.
As you may imagine, the reaction among the people in my network – women, all of them – was swift and severe and well-deserved.
“This person obviously isn’t on the ground,” said one.
“We don’t need to be outside yelling every week waving signs to evoke change. … Protest has its place, but it’s not the only way to engage in community organizing…nor always the best way,” said another wise soul.
Then there was “This is a stupid article and I hate it.”
And “Demobilized, my ass.”
Indeed. *nods head*
Here’s the problem, as I see it. The author of that clickbait article hasn’t seen as much on-the-streets-and-in-the-news protest – and incorrectly translated that into work not being done. As you well know, I’ve already talked – at length – about the Resistance not getting our deserved attention, even when we WERE in the streets screaming with much more regularity.
We ladies are used to being overlooked, frankly, so it’s not like it comes as a surprise when we’re waved off or ignored.
But gosh, I wish he would have thought to, you know, ask some of us.
If he would have asked, I could have invited him to that #BuildingBlue training on Saturday. He could have seen that from the outside, that union hall was quiet and calm.
But on the inside, it was noisy. Rowdy. Eager. Excited.
And if he would have asked, I could have invited him to the state where I live. He could have seen that from the outside, Democrats have a super minority in both houses of legislature, only one statewide elected official, two Republican senators and only two Democratic congressmen.
But looking closer, he might be surprised at what he’d see.
On the inside, where the real work is being done, he’d see continued enthusiasm – even in a state that’s awash in red and chock-full of GOP legislators that love their AR-15s so much that one of them introduced a bill to force everyone to own one. He’d see people who haven’t stopped calling, protesting, and attending hearings in our capital, even though we’re a legislatively neutered superminority. He’d see people training; developing strategies, relationships and collaborations; recruiting candidates and campaign volunteers; and fundraising for campaigns and organizations that can propel us into 2020.
In other words, he’d see people using this “down time” in the cycle to do all of the essential things that happen behind the scenes before the floodlights go up and the microphones go live and some plastic pundit proclaims the election season open.
Before, we were criticized for not being sufficiently trained and versed in the manners of the political class. We were given the side-eye for being newbies and interlopers – for not “knowing how it’s done,” and not being efficient or effective in the ways politicos wanted us to be.
Okay, we all said. When there’s time, we’ll reassess.
Welp. Now there’s time. And now we’re being criticized for taking the time to, you know, learn some stuff and meet some folks.
Someone’s Misogyny Is Showing
But there’s something more subtle in his critique of our invisibility that I just can’t let go. Something that has stuck in my craw, and that needs to be given a voice.
This is a movement that’s powered by women.
And, like it or not (and as I’ve said before) women are the static noise that undergirds society. We’re the hum that fades into the background – noticeable at first, but so reliable and so steady that our brains simply absorb the sound as an expected and constant base level. We carry the mental load for the family. We do most of the cooking, the cleaning, the scheduling – we manage the house while we manage everything (and everyone) else.
Meanwhile, our society has evolved to look around and through our efforts. To see the results, but not question how they got there. We’ve lost our sense of sight when it comes to women, quite frankly. We’ve become willfully blind to the mental – and logistical – load that women carry each day.
And that mental load carries over to this lifestyle of activism.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say they can’t attend this meeting or that one because of a family obligation – a practice, or an event, or a school function.
Faced with that logistical barrier, many of us – myself included – have found ways to contribute that don’t require our physical presence. Instead of turning our weekends upside down, we’re working our butts off in kitchens and dining rooms and at midnight in our pajamas or at 5:00am before the kids wake up because that’s when our family obligations and our 9-to-5s allow us to be productive.
It isn’t as visible, perhaps. It’s definitely not glamorous. But we’re not hiding our efforts, either. And our results speak for themselves. And those results didn’t appear by magic.
Our work behind the scenes on the front lines is damn effective. We’ve stopped bad legislation and have elected good representatives. And we’re only getting better at it – largely because of the down time we currently have to learn, and refresh, and strategize.
So, no. We have not “demobilized.” And in case it wasn’t already crystal clear, I take real offense to someone saying that work doesn’t matter unless it’s obvious to an outside observer who’s sipping his fancy latte in a coffee shop on the east coast. Our work has simply changed direction and focus, and we’re being thoughtful about how we move forward.
Because that’s what good leaders do.
I don’t expect a male reporter from Washington, D.C. to relate to what it’s like to be a woman raising a family while doing this political work.
I don’t expect him to connect the dots between women’s work being overlooked and undervalued and his own inability to see the behind-the-scenes efforts that are happening right now.
But I do expect him to ask a few questions about what we’re doing. To be curious about who we are, why we are throwing ourselves into this work, and how on earth we’re getting it all done.
But, at the end of the day, I guess I can’t really blame him.
He just can’t see us.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the week of April 2, 2019
Tuesday: Just say no to changing senate rules
This week, Senate Majority Leader and professional turtle impersonator Mitch McConnell will bring a resolution that would decrease the debate time from 30 hours to 2 for district judges and lower-level executive branch appointees. Already anticipating that he won’t get the 60 needed to pass, he’s planning to “go nuclear,” meaning change the rules, because he can’t win just by playing them as they stand.
To change the rules, he just needs 51.
Please call your Senators – especially republicans – and ask them to think about what they’re doing by once again breaking the Senate to suit their political goals.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote against S.Res. 50. There’s no need for it, and it’s just another example of power partisan politics. And that’s the root of the problem, isn’t it? When the Senate’s answer becomes to change the rules when the rules don’t suit you, why do rules even matter anymore? This is such a dangerous precedent to set, and I hope Senator ___ will think very carefully about it, and vote against SRes 50.
Wednesday: Trump Is Not Above the Law
As you know, AG Barr hasn’t released the Mueller report, and it’s clear he’s slow walking it and will continue trying to redact as much as possible. (Did you see that one of his categories of redactions is essentially “embarrassing stuff that people did”? Gee whiz, this guy…)
Indivisible, MoveOn, and the Trump Is Not Above the Law coalition are organizing street protests on Thursday, so by Wednesday check this map to see if there’s one near you: https://www.trumpisnotabovethelaw.org/event/mueller-firing-rapid-response/search
If you can’t attend in person, please amplify efforts of others!
Thursday: End Unauthorized War in Yemen
The House and Senate have already voted to end U.S. support for the unauthorized war in Yemen, but the because of some procedural issues the House has to pass this again for it to be sent to Trump’s desk. Indivisible has a great primer on this, which you can see HERE. We’ve discussed the unconstitutional support for this war in Yemen, so let’s finish the job we started!
Call your Rep!
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling to ask the Congress(wo)man to vote for the resolution to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, and to reject any motion to recommit. Thanks!
Friday: Push for funding for Central America
Trump announced that his administration will no longer send aid to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Aid was increased back in 2016 under President Obama to try to improve conditions in those countries and stem the tide of migrants seeking asylum.
According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, “U.S. assistance to Central America is just 0.00035% of the entire U.S. federal budget [CORRECTION: the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition made an error in their calculation; U.S. assistance to Central America is 0.035% of the U.S. federal budget. They reached out to me to let me know of their error] and has decreased by 20% in last two years.” The Global Leadership Coalition has a pretty darn diverse set of members – from GE to Walmart to the World Wildlife Fund and the Peace Corps. And did I mention that their advisory board includes every living former Secretary of State? They have some fairly strong feelings about the proposed budget, which you can read HERE.
But back to aid to these Central American countries. It’s one thing to condition aid on improving effectiveness or changing the method that we provide it. It’s another to simply cut it off. Trump is trying to do the latter.
But what’s good for the goose, right? Now’s when we need to call our Representatives and say that we expect them to help keep the aid levels to Central America. In the coming weeks we can talk about how we can encourage our Reps to use their power of the purse to force the administration’s hand.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m calling from ___. I’m calling to encourage the Congress(wo)man to speak out against the cuts to aid to Central American countries. The US aid to Central America is 0.00035% of the whole US budget – and it’s already gone down by 20% over the past two years. If we want to slow the stream of people seeking asylum we need to help improve the conditions in those countries, not make their lives even more difficult. What is the Congress(wo)man planning to say on this issue?