On Resilience, Motivation, and Stranger Things

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. ~Babe Ruth

On Friday, the world stopped for a moment.

After the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs was released, there were a few hours of frenetic activity. But then there was the painful silence and space to contemplate all that we’ve lost.

Nothing – no amount of “draft” or “leaked” information – can prepare you for being told by the government that you’re not worthy of making decisions on your own behalf.

That a bundle of cells is worth more than you are. Valued more than you are.

If you don’t have a uterus, I’m not sure it’s easy to convey.

It’s also not easy to describe how we move on from here.

But as I tried to walk off (or maybe walk with) my anger and anguish on Friday night, somehow my brain dribbled off to the half-season finale of Stranger Things.

Strange, I know.

Who knows how or why minds do what they do.

But, there I was. Walking a little aimlessly, thinking about my favorite character in Stranger Things – Jim Hopper. Hopper was the Hawkinsville Chief of Police, but in a prior season was captured by Russians and has been “living” (if you can call it that) in a Russian gulag.

[If you’ve not see the most recent Stranger Things and still want to, maybe skip to the end.]

After a nearly-successful escape attempt, Hopper is thrown into an even worse situation.

He and a few fellow prisoners have to fight a demogorgon (a pretty terrifying monster from the Stranger Things underworld), gladiator-style. For anyone who’s seen the monster in action, it’s doubtful any of them will last more than 90 seconds.

Hopper, of course, has seen the monster in action before.

So Hop knows his situation is dire. Maybe even hopeless.

He’s got no way out.

But he does have a choice.

He can spend his last day reflecting on his life. Mourning the loss of a future. Dreading demise.

Or he can spend it actively finding a way out of this desperate situation.

The question, as he puts it to a fellow prisoner, is whether to just give up and die – or to die as a monster slayer.

Because the reality, as bleak as it is, is that if he is to have even a .001% chance of surviving, he’s got to fight.

He devises a plan – he’ll use the only weapon he’s ever seen used effectively against a demogorgon: fire. With a stolen lighter and liquor smuggled into “the arena,” he’s got a shot. Maybe.

He’s hopeful. We’re hopeful.

Hop lashes a piece of fabric torn from his threadbare coat onto the tip of a spear. He douses it with vodka, and pulls out the lighter to set it aflame.

Click. The lighter won’t strike. Click. Click. Click.

His eyes get more frantic. The monster is literally chewing through other prisoners around him.

He doesn’t lose focus. And he doesn’t lose hope. He keeps trying the lighter. Again, and again, and again, and again –

Finally, it catches.

The monster is horrifying. But, at least temporarily, held back by the flame.

Because even when all looked lost, Hopper kept trying.

There are more obstacles, of course – how to get out of the arena, and if that’s possible, how to get out of the fortress-like prison.

But this fight scene is what was playing out in my head on Friday night, because after months (or years? we don’t know) of being imprisoned, worked nearly to death, malnourished, and tortured … he was now in his most hopeless and dangerous situation.

And still, he kept trying. Just one foot in front of the other.

Actively deciding, after each setback, to keep going.

I admire this seemingly endless reservoir of resilience.

Over time, that level of resilience and internal motivation is tough to beat.

That’s the resilience we need to tap into.

There are plenty of reasons you should feel like giving up. I understand, and I feel them sometimes, too. We’ve been fighting for years, decades. We’re tired. The “Exhausted Majority.”

And things look bleak, right now.

But we have a choice, just like Hopper did when he realized he had to fight a monster. We can just give up already and spend the rest of our lives mourning the loss of our basic human rights and democracy. In a lot of ways, that’s the easier path.

Or we can fight like we mean it – wherever we can, as hard as we can, for as long as we can. We can actively decide to keep going, no matter what setbacks we face. And we can go out proud, knowing that we gave it everything we have.

You know which path I recommend.

It’s like that clever old quip from Churchill, When you’re going through hell, keep going.

We know that there is a better place than where we are right now, because we’ve seen it and we’ve lived it. It’s not perfect (not by a long shot) but it’s better.

So let’s get (back) there.

To do that, we have to keep going, dig deep, and invite fellow travelers who have just realized that they’ve been trapped.

And that brings me to one more aspect of Hop’s plight that’s worth an analogy, because if we don’t get our heads on straight we can talk ourselves into losing.

At one point, Hopper tells the other prisoners that he knows this monster and he’s fought it before. He tells them their determination is naive, and the odds are stacked firmly (impossibly?) against them. This is your last meal, he says. Their faces fall. Silence overtakes them.

You can feel their resolve … dissolve.

Hopper is being honest, of course. He’s right.

But in just a few sentences and just a few seconds, he took the fight right out of those men, and replaced it with resignation.

That’s why I don’t want to hear the musings that we can’t win the midterms.

Historically the President’s party loses the midterms, and loses big. Yes, you’re right. Historically that’s true. Biden’s approval numbers are terrible. History is not on our side. Roger, that.

But every day I see a news lede that includes the word “unprecedented.”

We are living in times that buck history.

Trump being elected was impossible. Retaking the House in 2018 was impossible. Winning the Senate in 2020 was impossible. January 6 was impossible. The January 6 hearings being persuasive was impossible.

Roe being overturned was impossible.

Everything is impossible, until it’s not.

All this to say – when sharing what you think is dispassionate analysis and reasoned judgment that history, gerrymandering, logic makes the odds greater than not that we lose the House in 2022, you cause people to lose hope. And, sadly, that prophesy becomes self-fulfilling – because it keeps people at home rather than the voting booth.

I know you don’t mean for anyone to take your opinion and use it as a reason to disengage (whether consciously or subconsciously). But you need to understand human emotion and motivation.

You just can’t expect people to keep trying if you tell them that even when they try they’ll fail.

I’ll add one last caveat.

Last week’s “generic ballot” polls, where pollsters ask folks whether they’d rather have Democrats or Republicans in Congress, showed Republicans in the lead, with some polls showing R+8, and others showing a statistical tie.

Two of the latest polls, taken after Roe was overturned, show Democrats up by +7.

Make the active decision to keep moving forward.

Let’s get to work.

Actions for the Week of June 28, 2022

All Eyes on the January 6 Committee

Yesterday the January 6 committee noticed up a hearing for today – which was unexpected. It was explosive. Do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing. It really is worth your time. Go to their website: https://january6th.house.gov/

VoteRider Letters! (H/T Jessica Craven of Chop Wood Carry Water)

Want to help voters in swing states overcome burdensome voter ID laws?

On Wednesday, June 29th at 9:30am ET, Vote Riders will hold a special 45-minute training session for Big Tent to learn how to download, write, and send out VoteRider letters. And these letters will bemailedimmediately

Their focus will be on Arizona and Florida—you will write Voter ID information letters to state residents to make sure they understand their state’s voter ID requirements. 

There is no need to create your own account. Letter-writers will be able to request and receive batches of letters directly from BigTent! Request letters through the event registration or using the link below.

Register here.

Learn more about Vote Riders here.

See sample letters here.

Request letters to AZ or FL in advance of the training here.

Extra credit: subscribe to Jessica Craven’s Chop Wood Carry Water, a daily action list that’s both inspiring and motivating. https://chopwoodcarrywaterdailyactions.substack.com/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email

State Legislatures Hold the Power. Check Out Blue Ohio and It Starts Today-Missouri

Plenty of folks are new to the realization that the GOP has had (and used to its advantage) for decades: state legislatures hold massive power.

Your rights in California are greater than my rights in Missouri. That’s disgusting. It’s also true.

So, we need to focus a whole lot more of our attention on the state legislatures. We need to run and support as many Democrats in these down-ballot races as possible. And I truly mean that – even in the “unwinnable” districts. (If you want to read a white paper about the cumulative electoral effect of running + funding candidates, go to www.blueohio.org and scroll down to the middle of the page where you’ll be asked if you want a copy of the Every State Blue white paper on the topic. It’s a summary of a study we commissioned and other data that proves the value of running candidates everywhere.)

I’m the ED of an organization that helps activists like us crowdsource for these state legislative races. We make sure no Dems are left behind, and that everyone has resources to reach voters.

We have projects in two states: Missouri (go here: https://contribute.itstarts.today/missouri) and Ohio (go here: https://contribute.blueohio.org/join_ohio).

If you have history/connections/family in either of those states, join today. Our Blue Ohio community is growing by leaps and bounds!

If you are wondering if we would consider doing an Every State Blue project in your state, the answer is an emphatic YES. We are actively seeking startup funding to expand to other states like Arizona, Georgia, Texas and Michigan. You can help make that happen: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/everystate *note that donations here will not go to nominees, but will go toward our costs to expand to other states.

If you are interested in having an Every State Blue project in your state (even if your state is not AZ, GA, TX or MI) reply to this email or shoot me a message at michele@itstarts.today.

Learn About How to Build Power With Abortion Funds (another H/T to Jessica Craven!)

First, subscribe to Jessica’s incomparable newsletter here: https://chopwoodcarrywaterdailyactions.substack.com/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email

Then, join the National Network of Abortion Funds this Thurs, June 30, 7-8:30 PM EST for a “Building Power with Abortion Funds” webinar.

Come learn how to build power and solidarity with abortion funds. Deepen your knowledge about the compassionate ecosystems of access and care being created by abortion funds. Explore how to show up in this moment and center people most impacted by abortion bans in supportive, compassionate and non stigmatizing ways.

Those of us who want to help “aid and abet” abortion should probably attend. This is where it starts.

Register here.


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!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every email! We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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