Cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right. ~Oprah
The next few weeks promise to be busy.
We’re starting a new year (thank God), and there will be reflections to have and resolutions to make. (More on that below.)
But before I introduce a month-long series of what I hope will be inspiring content to start your year right, a few thoughts.
Next week we’ll mark one full year since insurrectionists stormed the Capitol. We know a great deal more about that day, now. We’ll know even more soon.
But you may remember that at the time, I noted a group of people in that violent crowd that concerned me most: soccer moms.
The kind of women that you see at the grocery store, or the garden center, or volunteering at your kid’s bake sale.
On January 6 they stood out among the men, their pink pom-pom hats and knock-off designer sunglasses a peppy contrast to fellow “patriots” wearing tactical gear and bull headdresses.
But in everyday life, they blend in perfectly. Too perfectly.
That was underscored this week when I read an excellent article by a woman who infiltrated a local GOP women’s Facebook group and attended an in-person meeting. She spent a good bit of time describing the meeting itself, how the women were organizing against what they perceive to be dangerous “critical race theory.”
I was struck by her description of the women who attended.
They were young-ish (30’s, early 40’s), “well-dressed yet funky,” with colorful jewelry and cool boots. You can picture them, can’t you? With their Hallmark channel hair, designer jeans, puffy coats, delicate gold crosses … and million dollar smiles.
And the key bit – the crucial bit: they were likable.
“Despite my uneasiness, I couldn’t help but find myself liking the women in the room. They were charismatic. They were energetic. They had no problem letting my low-functioning autistic son play with their children, which is unfortunately rare among a lot of the other mothers I’ve encountered. But this made me even more uneasy.”
Even as they decried equality and denied racism, they were … welcoming.
They don’t announce themselves like the Q-Shaman with a bull headdress and war paint. They don’t wear paramilitary gear. They’re polite. Kind. Well-spoken. Charming. With beautiful homes and what appear to be enviable lives.
And their arguments are couched in the most noble of pursuits: protecting the children.
At the end of the article, the writer warns of the gleam in one attendee’s eye as she called her fellow right-wing moms to action: “We just can’t sit around and let them attack our kids. We have to do SOMETHING.”
That’s the lesson the author wants you to take away from the article: that we need to be more aware of the right-wing energy and organization going on in our own communities, and we need to counter that energy with our own.
I want to highlight, too, a particular challenge that we’re facing. A year ago, insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol building – and pointing out their extremism was relatively easy. Now, however, the insurrectionists are among us – soccer moms and neighbors. Those women are calling to action, and their mobilization is powerful.
We know how powerful, because we’ve used it, many times, successfully. From bringing about changes to environmental regulations, to passing drunk driving laws, to advocating for gun reform, to saving the ACA, there are stories of regular moms who said exactly what that right-wing mom said to her fellow attendees: we have to do something.
And then they set about doing it, even if they were learning how to be effective as they went along.
So the question isn’t whether we can organize effectively against right-wing groups – whether at our school board, statehouse, or US Senate. It’s whether we will.
Knowing that we have the tools, the experience, and the collective power to move mountains keeps me sane … even as I know those opposing democracy have a similar tool chest.
And so, after reading this article and being fussed about these right-wing moms groups using “our” organizing model, I reflected on all of the stories I know (some I’ve told, some I’ve not yet shared with you) of moms who have had challenges foisted upon them and have risen to the moment. I thought about all the legislation that has passed (or failed to pass) due to their passion and dedication.
And I thought about how our entire country looks different because each one of them decided one day (one while sitting at her kitchen table eating leftover cake) to just do something.
You can do that too, you know? (Not just eat cake, though that’s always a good idea.)
You don’t have to lead an organization, or have a special degree, or live in a fancy house. You just need passion, motivation, and focus.
You can bet those right-wing, Hallmark-haired women will be dedicated to their cause in 2022. We need to be just as – if not more – focused.
And so, now, back to the beginning: one of my resolutions for this new year is to focus – intentionally – on what regular folks have already done to shape democracy. There is so much left to do that it’s easy to spend all of our time on what still has to happen, rather than highlighting the successes we’ve had along the way and drawing lessons from the experience.
Some of those successes are historical, it’s true. But they’re no less motivating, and no less important to reflect upon as a study in organizing and perseverence.
So for the next few weeks, I’ll be telling some of those stories. Stories of women who were shouldered with a burden or faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle – which they took on as a challenge to overcome.
I hope you’ll enjoy hearing those stories as much as it has been to research and write them. I think they’ll make for an excellent beginning to the new year.
I’m hopeful that they’ll inspire you to keep going; the organizers working for the opposing team are not slowing down. Neither should we.
And with that, let’s close out 2021. Normally this is where I’d say “let’s get to work,” but it’s an abbreviated holiday week, and you deserve some rest.
I hope the year has been gentle on you.
I will see you on the other side.
WHEW! GO TEAM!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
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!
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. Don’t you forget it.