This iconic image of Tank Man was captured by Jeff Widener for AP
*Note: A prior version of this pep talk was published in 2017, before many of our new friends joined us. (Welcome!) I hope those who have been here since the beginning are reminded of how far you’ve come; and I hope those who have recently joined us are inspired to keep moving forward. Onward, upward, and in solidarity ~ Michele
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 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 2016 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 behemoth 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.
So, friend, if you’re wondering what everyone is waiting for…
It’s probably you.
Let’s get to work.
Actions for the Week of May 7, 2019
Tuesday: Repeat After Me: We Have the Will
(Hat tip to Susan Craig.)
Yesterday, a new United Nations assessment was released that describes the impact that humans and climate change have had on our natural environment — and what will happen in the coming years if we don’t make transformational changes.
Widespread extinction of plant and animal life — at rates tens to hundreds of times greater than has occurred in 10 million years — will have significant impact on human life. In other words, destruction of our natural world and biodiversity is bad for people, too. While there’s still time to mitigate the impact, we’re in damage control mode.
The report itself is 1500 pages, but the organizing body, IPBES, has drafted a 35-page summary of findings and conclusions; you can read the PDF of that 35-page summary HERE.
Although this devastating report was released yesterday, it’s already been eclipsed by other news. Guys, this is really serious. This is a planetary emergency, and it’s not even on the front page.
I know there’s a lot right now. But we need to be informed, and be responsible for informing our networks – and pushing our legislators to make this a priority.
So your action for today is to read the report. (Again, PDF is HERE.)
Then share it, or the information within it, with your networks.
We’ll be building upon this information over the coming weeks in a series of actions targeted to our natural world and climate change.
Wednesday: Find a 2020 Senate challenger to support!
Hat tip to Chop Wood Carry Water for sharing this wonderful resource of GOP Senators that are up for election in 2020! Click HERE to view the Google doc.
Alongside the Senator’s name is the name of any challengers, their websites, twitter handles and donation pages. This Google doc makes it significantly easier for all of us to see the bigger picture of the races we can get involved in over the next year and a half. So go check it out and share it with your fellow activists. If you’re feeling like some extra credit, volunteer to help round out the information about the challengers’ stances on various issues. Their position on Medicare-for-all is already noted on the spreadsheet. If you’re interested in helping crowdsource the rest, let me know!
Thursday: Brighten Mother’s Day at the Border
Imagine being a mother whose best choice for her children was to wake them up one morning, put as many of their most prized possessions as you can carry in a backpack, and set off on foot. Imagine traveling hundreds of miles — through all sorts of weather — trying to make sure your kids are fed, that they get a little sleep, and that their feet don’t get too sore. Imagine how you’d decide which one to carry when they got too tired. How difficult it would be to figure out where to rest, and how to find your way… and how to hide how terrified you are so you the kids don’t see.
Now imagine that you finally reach the border. You’ve told your children that it’s all going to be okay when you get there. But they won’t let you in. You’ve run out of food, water, and money. How will you feed them?
It hurts to imagine, doesn’t it?
But there’s something that we can do, and this Mother’s Day is the perfect time to do it.
Rescue.org provides emergency kits to refugees and asylum seeking families that desperately need supplies – and to know that someone cares.
When families flee their homes, they often leave with nothing but the clothes on their backs. At the U.S.-Mexico border and in crisis areas around the world, we provide families with emergency support and the basic necessities they need to survive and recover. Emergency kits can include food, water, diapers, hygiene items, clothing, and other critical supplies. $60 can provide refugee and asylum-seeking parents with immediate and critical supplies to help them care for their families.
This Mother’s Day, help a mother who has given up everything. Donate an emergency kit in someone’s honor, or ask someone to donate one on your behalf rather than getting a traditional gift.
Because sometimes knowing that you’re helping someone else is the best gift of all.
Donate an emergency kit by going to Rescue.org HERE.
Friday: Calling Volunteers!
Friends! Are you interested in spending a few hours per week researching actions and other content, like cool historical figures and inspiring stories from fellow activists? Then I’d love to hear from you! This work takes a village, and I’d love to have you in mine. Send an e-mail to hello@smalldeedsdone [dot] com.