How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank
For over a decade, I lived in Chicago.
Which means that, as most Chicagoans do, I had a strong relationship with the train (AKA the “el,” which is short for “elevated”). Every day I would take the train to work, and home from work, and basically anywhere else I wanted to go.
And almost every morning I’d face the same problem.
The train would come (finally!) and I’d stand patiently at the precise spot where I knew the doors would open. The cars would slow … then stop … and the gray metal doors would open…
To reveal a nearly solid wall of arms and legs and smushed faces that were expertly looking everywhere but at each other.
Or at me.
But when I’d peer over them and look to the aisle in the middle of the train, more often than not, it would be empty.
Or, at least, empty enough that a small-ish woman could squeeze herself sideways and make it to work on time.
So, seeing plenty of space in the middle of the train, I’d point behind the wall of arms and legs and shout out “move in! Please move in! There’s room in the middle – see? Look – please move in!” But those fellow smushed commuters would stand right where they were like little lost sheep, blank expressions and “who, me?” looks until the doors closed.
And there I’d be, still standing on the platform. Waiting for the next train, completely exasperated.
That is, until one day when I decided to do something a wee bit different.
I singled one of them out.
Rather than shouting out to the whole car, I called the attention of one person – speaking directly to her until she looked in my direction.
“Excuse me – ma’am? Excuse me – can you just step aside so I can go to the middle of the car? I just need to get past.” I asked.
“Oh, yeah – sure,” she replied.
And just like that, I cracked the code.
When I’d ask everyone on the train to move in, nobody would budge.
When I’d ask an individual person to move, at least 75% of the time they would – and if they didn’t, the person next to them would move for them as a sort of apology for the rudeness of the person who wouldn’t comply.
As you can imagine, I’m not telling you that story to give you ideas on how to better manage public transportation (though you should try that trick if you’re ever faced with the overly-smushed doorway problem).
I’m telling you because the lessons I learned on the train are helpful right now within the Resistance movement.
See, those people on the train weren’t bad-natured. They just figured everyone else around them mattered more than they did. At least, until I called them out individually – and in doing so, showed them that by moving they would make a difference.
It’s just hard to believe that the little space that you occupy matters so much to someone else. It’s hard to believe that if you move your leg or your arm, or if you turn yourself just so, that you’ll be able to change someone else’s day.
It’s easier to look at the person to your side and think they matter more, so they should be the one to move. So you wait for them to do something.
Until the door closes.
It’s a very similar predicament that we’re facing now within our Resistance organizations.
Especially with the GOP’s sustained shock and awe campaign, it’s been hard for some folks to continue to believe that they matter. Maybe you, too. It can be hard to hold onto the idea that your call, your attendance, your participation, your voice has the potential to change the world around you.
So when someone shouts generally in your direction, it’s really easy to just assume they’re talking to someone else.
It’s easy to excuse yourself when you don’t matter.
But you do matter.
And so do the people to your left and your right – your fellow sisters (and brothers) in arms, whether you are their leader or a fellow activist.
So when you see the call go out for someone to take action, remind yourself that they’re talking to you.
And when you’re the one asking for action and when shouting out to the masses doesn’t work – when asking everyone in the train to move fails to make a dent in the wall of arms and legs – then think about what you/your group can do to call to people individually.
What can we do to look each person in the eye, and ask them to make room?
What can we do to make all of this more … personal?
How can you make a general request specific to them?
And how can you show people that their movement matters?
The answers will be different for each group and each person, but I sure hope you’ll share your ideas.
Because the more people we can inspire…
the more work we can do…
and the more change we can make.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of April 23
Tuesday: Did You Read It?
As you no doubt are aware, the Mueller Report was finally released last week.
If you have not already, please read it.
I’m serious. Read. The. Report.
If you’re short on time, read the executive summaries.
In a post-fact world it’s really important that WE know what the facts are. Trump and Friends will certainly try to twist them, which will be harder to do if all of us have read the report and seen the facts for ourselves. (More on fleshing out more facts via hearings, below.) When you’re having conversations with your legislators (see below) it’s going to be helpful to be able to cite the report with authority. So just take an hour and read those executive summaries, m’kay?
HERE’s a link to a searchable PDF version of the report.
Wednesday: Call Your Congresscritters
Now that you’ve read the report, it’s time to take a deep breath and recognize that it’s time for impeachment proceedings to begin.
Honestly, Trump has done so many things in plain sight that could be impeachable that it’s shocking to me that we’re having any sort of debate about whether to being impeachment proceedings. But we have a very cautious Democratic caucus, and it’s up to us to push them in the right direction.
The House needs to begin impeachment proceedings for the benefit of the country. Public hearings will give people more opportunities to see and hear the facts, even if the Senate wouldn’t vote to convict or remove Trump. This isn’t about Trump – it’s about whether a President can engage in the behavior he has engaged in and get away with it completely scot-free.
So please call your Senators and your Representative. Okay?
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at [zip code]. I’m calling because after reading the Mueller Report it’s clear that we need to begin impeachment proceedings. Is the Senator/Congress(wo)man in favor of beginning those proceedings? [If yes: Oh that’s wonderful. I’m glad to hear the Senator/Congress(wo)man is on the right side of this one, and I’ll look forward to supporting that message.] [If no: I’m incredibly disappointed to hear that. This isn’t a partisan issue, and it’s not about Donald Trump. This is about whether we allow Presidents to accept assistance from a foreign government to get elected and then try to keep Congress and the American people from learning about it. There’s nothing more deserving of Congressional oversight than an executive that believes he is above the rule of law. It’s past time to begin these hearings.]
Thursday: Elections are For the People
The For the People Act, also known as HR1, passed the House and includes a myriad of election reforms that would strengthen our electoral process – and accordingly has come to a screeching halt in the Senate.
Not a single Senator has co-sponsored the legislation: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/949/cosponsors
The GOP claims that it’s just a partisan measure and that it includes all sorts of things that help Democrats and don’t do anything for the GOP. I disagree, but okay, whatever. (The League of Women Voters has some amazing talking points on the legislation here: https://www.lwv.org/league-management/talking-points-templates/talking-points-people-act)
What the GOP is NOT addressing is the need for some kind of priority legislation that deals with our election security. The Mueller Report was clear that Russia interfered – but now Russia’s actions give every other hacker a roadmap to do the same.
Meanwhile, the GOP is sitting on its hands, while we sail into a presidential election cycle.
We have got to make this a priority. Election security is not partisan, and it can’t be used as a bargaining chip.
So, today call your Senators!
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because I’m really concerned about election security. I’ve read the Mueller Report, and it’s clear that Russia interfered in our election and there’s no reason they – or other countries taking their lead – won’t do the same in 2020. Has the Senator co-sponsored HR1? If not, what legislation is the Senator sponsoring to protect elections? If the Senator isn’t supporting any legislation that protects elections, why not? Is he/she writing legislation of his/her own? Why not? Isn’t the integrity of elections important to him/her?
Friday: April Is Medicaid Awareness Month!
Before we close out the month, I wanted to share a resource with you. It’s a website called Medicaid Awareness: https://www.medicaidawareness.com
This is a great resource for medicaid information and healthcare – it’s got state-by-state fact sheets (including excellent white pages on each state’s rural healthcare) and information about the impact of the GOP’s war on Medicaid. Bookmark and share, please!