Exist to Resist.

I went to an Indivisible Group meeting for my district last night. If you haven’t seen the Indivisible Guide yet – it’s pretty great. It started as a Google Doc right after the election that mapped out how the Tea Party started reshaping Congress right after the 2008 Election by working at a very local level. They took those strategies and made them into a practical guide for Resisting the Trump agenda. You can see if you have any local groups here.

The organizers of our meeting were expecting about 50 people and considered an orientation and then small group discussions. When the FIRST 50 showed up (EEK!) they opted out of the small group and just broke us up into several large groups for the orientation part of the evening. I’m betting at least 200 people were there but there was a whole other group in the Hall that I heard about but never saw so could be much higher than that.

In Alabama. A grassroots Trump Resistance Group surged in unexpected popularity in North Alabama. Let that sink in with you.

I started reaching out in October, trying to find more like-minded people in my area. People who would commiserate with me over the election and then people who would act with me after we lost. And I’ve been amazed at every turn how many showed up when called. Last night’s meeting was no exception. These are people excited about staging protests and grassroots campaigns to make our voices heard. And it was great.

After Saturday we should all know we are not alone. The swelling of last-minute/impromptu protests at airports and around the nation was just awe-inspiring. But seeing it at a small local level in a state governed by Republicans in just about every single district, was mood-lifting.

I’m feeling a little better after seeing the nation respond this weekend. And if you’re Conservative FB contacts are posting so much about “Obama! 2011! Same thing!” please make sure to read this Washington Post article which fact-checks that. It’s not the same. If he had WANTED it to be the same there are many ways he could have done that, but Trump is retroactively trying to justify is actions.

Stay strong. Don’t let yourself be gaslighted into thinking you’re crazy or bullied into thinking you’re weak and dumb. I’ve had both done to me. I can not tell you the amount of messages and emails I get with people sending me links and information trying to “correct” me or “educate” me. No one will actually do it on a public platform on my Facebook page, and I will not be bullied in private. It’s like trying to get me away from my friends when I’m the weakest. It’s always the same people and I always ignore them.

I know I am on the right side of history.

On Poverty And Mental Health Breaks

One time in some bigger city, a dirty man on the street asked my Dad for money. I don’t remember what city we were in, but I must have been in high school because I was old enough to know the standard, “Give them money and they’ll just buy alcohol with it!” response. I didn’t say that to Dad as he handed the guy a $20 and the guy thanked him profusely. But Dad talked about it to me as we walked away. He said something to the effect of, “He will probably just use that to go by alcohol, but who am I to judge?”

I remember being like, “Yeah. Good point. His life SUCKS. Who are we to judge?”

Another time in Tennessee there was a ballot vote on some increase in tax that failed. I don’t know if it was a sales tax or income tax thing, I just remember Dad talking to me about it and shaking his head. The money was obviously meant to help someone, although I don’t remember who. He was just blown away by the idea that people would vote “no” on a tax increase that would help someone less fortunate. He said something along the lines of, “I always vote ‘yes’ on tax increases. I’m certain they don’t manage the money perfectly but I don’t need it. Not as much as the other people do. Hell, really all I need now that you guys are gone and adults is a bike and a library card.”

One final conversation with Dad involved the lottery vote in Tennessee. Now, I had voted for a man for Governor in Alabama who ran on the promise of bringing the lottery to fund education. I was VERY pro-lottery. And then Dad said something about it – how he voted “no” – he said, “I mean, really it’s just a tax on the poor.”

Dad never looked at poverty with the myths we all grow up with. He didn’t push morality on the less fortunate. He didn’t shame them for buying lottery tickets or alcohol. He didn’t act like it was his job to teach the poor to be self-sufficient. Poverty sucked and he felt like helping the poor in any way – not strings attached – was an obligation as a citizen and didn’t understand why it always was so complicated to get people to fund programs that helped people.

I listened to an episode of Radiolab this week that was one hour dedicated to another program’s 5-part series on Poverty Myths. I had to immediately go hunt down the original series from the podcast On The Media. I cried in sorrow as some of the stories were hard to hear, I cried in shame as I realized that even I – champion of the poor – has fallen victim to some of these myths, and I cried in fear of the future of the poor in our country.

I spent 5 hours crying, is what I’m saying.

It was hard to hear but – OH MY GOD – so VERY VERY important. One of the people interviewed a lot was a welfare manager from Ohio constantly trying to get people to truly understand poverty. He evidently was a token guest on news shows for several years and he talks about how one news rep explained to him that they really needed a “good arc” for his story on poverty. You know…introduction, conflict, resolution. And of COURSE that’s not how life works.

Between that 6 hours (the first hour being the original Radiolab podcast) of Poverty talk and EVERYTHING ELSE in the news, I’ve been a little bogged down. The move kept me out of touch for almost two weeks and I felt like there was SO MUCH that I missed and I have been really stressed ever since about missing stuff. I take my phone to the bathroom every time I have to pee and take a few minutes longer just so I can catch up on my news feed. I take my phone when I walk the dog. I take my phone out in line at the grocery store. I used to just scroll through instagram or maybe Facebook but now it’s Twitter – which I’ve curated to be almost 90% news. I am soaking it in every chance I get.

And it’s not like there’s not always something. This first week in the administration has been a tidal wave of executive orders and weird press conferences and statements about torture and illegal voters and I really don’t want to miss any of it because I need the reminder as to why I’m fighting.

But then I read this on staying outraged without losing your mind yesterday:

So when it gets to be too much, it’s ok to unplug for a bit. Stop refreshing Twitter and reading the news. Stop feeling guilty when someone asks you if you’ve been following the latest story and you have to say no. Go a week or a day or even an hour without talking/reading/writing about the dumpster fire smoldering along in Washington. It will still be there when you get back, I promise.

This is really important, because at some point it will become too much to handle. You can cope by shutting it out for a while?—?binge watching Netflix, playing with your dog, going to yoga. But if you don’t do that, if you try to maintain this fever pitch of anguish and fear and outrage, something far worse than a little down time is going to happen. Your brain, to protect you, will just turn down the volume on the outrage and adapt.

People can get used to anything, and if you don’t take steps to prevent it, you will get used to Trump.

You will stop being shocked by the latest scandal and horrified by the latest attack on civil rights. Trump will become the new normal. And that is the worst thing that could happen, because THIS IS NOT NORMAL, and democracies fall when their people stop resisting.

And I believe this – I truly do – because I saw an interview last night where Trump was still holding do the “3 million illegal votes” thing and then claimed the researcher who proved this was not true was just groveling and you know what? I didn’t flinch. I mean, he threatened the city of Chicago yesterday with an invasion of Federal Forces so – I guess I no longer think the stuff he says is crazy?

But it IS crazy. It’s insane. This is our President and he’s saying insane crap and I can not become desensitized to it because I’m inundated by it. I need to give myself a break.

So I’m going to TRY to do that today.

TRY.

I soaked up 6 hours of poverty podcasts this week on top of all of the First Week chaos from this administration. I think I just need a day to try to relax a bit. I’m driving to Montevallo this afternoon to see a pep rally with E and have dinner with him and crash on his couch and then I’m heading back home early in the morning. This is a good day to take a break.

And – of course – as I was thinking about my break today and what it would look like. Maybe listening to one of the McElroy Brother’s products to make me laugh…maybe leaving my phone on my desk when I go pee…it hit me: The poor get no breaks.

They talk about this a bit in that series, the person who is getting evicted but treats herself to a gourmet dinner.

Poverty is a condition. I remember I used to put “real” dinners at restaurants on my credit card after my divorce because it just made me feel normal. I didn’t need the WIC voucher to get an appetizer at Applebees. No one sighed dramatically as I slowed down the checkout process (WIC is a great program BUT NOT AT ALL EASY) with my vouchers and the cashier’s attempt to politely tell me I chose something that didn’t qualify. I could just sit down, eat, be normal for a minute. Was it a good financial decision? HELL NO. Neither was me spending my limited money on cigarettes and cheep beer. But I was a single Mom working full time in college and living in an apartment which had the windows painted shut, something I discovered when I had a fire.

I needed a mental health break. Even at the expense of my finances.

SO I will take my break today but mainly so I can conserve my energy so I can keep fighting for the people who get no breaks. And who have no energy to fight.

Sleepless and Full Of Self Doubt

There’s a weird thing going on in my life. Maybe in yours too, if you are surrounded by liberal and conservative voices. If I silence all of the conservative voices in my life, I hear nothing but proclamations of anxiety and action the sharing of news and voices of resistsance. But when I expand my blinders to the conservative voices in my life, I hear words shaming me and others for being negative, or for talking too much politics, or for starting fights, or for dividing our country. There’s definitely a section of people doing neither, but the dichotomy of the two political factions is startling as it’s very real and so very extreme. I don’t remember ever telling my conservative friends to stop talking politics or stop being divisive. I did try to remind them about the value of action and the balance of power (a balance of power that doesn’t exist presently) so as to help calm their anxieties, but I don’t think I ever shamed them for being concerned or worried.

Of course, I also have a very hard time comparing conservative behavior after Obama to liberal behavior after Trump as – to me – Trump and Obama are not the same levels of extreme on their end of politics. So I do feel like my side has a lot more to be worried about, even without considering the lack of a power balance. BUT THERE IS NO POWER BALANCE, so I feel like it should be obvious why my side is stressed.

But it’s just weird to be sleepless thinking about the moves this administration has already made, and then wake up and see people on the other side of the spectrum shaming me for being sleepless and concerned. It’s strange to be so worried and to be driven to such levels of political action, and to have people in my life basically saying, “Ugg…stop whining…get over it already.”

My liberal friends are with me. We’re all sleepless and concerned and texting each other in the middle of the day: “OMG. DID YOU SEE?” But my conservative friends and family seem to think I’m being ridiculous. And that is a terrible feeling, to be so overwhelmed and distraught by a situation that you – LITERALLY – can not sleep.  Then you look over your shoulder to see people rolling their eyes at you.

I offered an internet friend my phone number yesterday. We’ve been friends for years, met once at an event in New York, but we don’t have each other’s numbers. Until now. Because she expressed concern about political anxiety and I told her how having a text friend helps me. I kinda want to check in with you guys to see if we should all become text friends. Is that weird? Or creepy? I’m wondering if some of you are feeling lost and scared too…maybe your red friends are shaming you too.

This dichotomy does more than make feel shame over my concern. I find it’s also making me doubt myself. How can two people look at the world so differently? How can that person so obviously not be concerned and here I am – SLEEPLESS – over my fears. It’s like the time I stumbled into the world of Devout Birthers or Sandy Hook Truthers or 9-11 Deniers…these are all people that exist and believe VERY STRONGLY in something that I find categorically FALSE. How can people create such cognitive dissonance in their lives? How can I be sure I’m not doing the same thing?

But I’m terrified, y’all. I woke up at 2am to work on a newsletter for a local progressive organization I’m trying to lift off the ground. Because at least that had me doing SOMETHING. I’m trying to print postcards to mail and I added phone numbers to my contact list so I can easily call Senators and Representatives. I’m having trouble focusing on anything else when my mind is not distracted by family or work. Every other moment I’m thinking about our country and what I can do to stop the administration from jeopardizing our future.

And then another person is all: “UGG. GET OVER IT. STOP RUINING FACEBOOK.”

It’s just such and extreme contrast and it has me all distorted and full of self-doubt on top of the fear and concern. I’m frazzled and wondering how people can see the world so differently.


I wrote another post about racism last night.  In it I shared a bunch of links from yesterday, but I’d like to share out some other political links I posted all over the interwebs yesterday. I am full of self-doubt from the shame others are trying to make me feel, but I will not let that stop me from spreading the word about things we need to be resisting.

 

It’s Never Too Late To Wake Up.

I’ve documented before how I – regrettably – had to wake up to systemic racism. I had my privileged blinders on until George Zimmerman was found Not Guilty in the Trayvon Martin murder. It was then that I realized: The system is racist. The system is conditioned to criminalize young boys in hoodies before they’ve done anything illegal. The burden of proof is on the innocent where young black men are concerned. Their guilt is assumed, their innocence must be supported by good character, while white frat boys raping drunk girls at college parties get off with a slap on the wrist.

Since then I’ve done everything in my power to keep learning. To keep my eyes and my heart open to painful truths. I sit in my discomfort and examine it and find more power behind it. I reflect on my defensiveness and I try to look through the eyes of someone who has not grown up or lived with the privilege my skin has given me. I reflect on THEIR truths, not on MY discomfort.

When it comes to racism – that’s something I have to always remind myself: It’s never about me.

On the day of the election, several of my favorite voices – mostly black women – were writing about how racist the suffragette movement was in many ways. This was all new to me, as with a lot of our black history. During that time, white women were trying to secure the vote and found that pushing Black Women to the shadows made their efforts more palatable. Even if they had supported abolition and freedom for slaves, things changed when it came to the suffragettes. Many openly campaigned against the black vote, implying that white women should have been allowed to vote before black men, that the black man should not have more rights than the white woman.

Yet in 1870, the suffragists found themselves on opposing ends of the equal-rights battle when Congress passed the 15th Amendment, enabling black men to vote (at least, in theory) — and not women. That measure engendered resentment among some white suffragists, especially in the South.
Source

This was hard for me to read on a day when I wanted to celebrate women like Susan B. Anthony. But I read it and I sought to educated myself on Ida B. Wells – An African American Woman who was also fighting in the suffragette movement. I sat on all of this and learned from it. Since then I’ve been keeping my mind and heart open to ideas of intersectionality.

Intersectionality was on my mind in the wake of the Women’s March this weekend, as many Black Women wrote about the March. There are several good pieces I sat with including Kelly Wickham Hurst’s Facebook post.

Let’s dig into the “zero arrests” thing. Because it’s making my entire ass itch.

To accompany this, let’s also look at the videos of protestors going up to a line of police officers and shaking hands, high-fiving them and hugging them.

If we don’t dig right into this we could miss an important lesson that’s really trying to get taught.

There were no arrests because of the supremacy of whiteness. The inherent goodness of non-threatening white ladydom. The pinkness and innocence. The stereotypes, y’all.

There were “zero arrests” because of whiteness. We really have to understand this and stop back-patting over how “good” and “peaceful” this march was. The dichotomy of seeing police officers show up in matching pink hats and handing out flowers as opposed to showing up in riot gear is just, whew.

We have to walk this thinking all the way down the line or else we can slip and fall into a vat of self-congratulatory privilege and never come up for air again. We gotta call the roll on this one as well as how we frame the inconvenience of protests we didn’t participate in previously.

Otherwise, you ain’t checking for everybody.

I kept seeing all of the “no arrests!” reports and feeling weird about it and Kelly’s post helped me validate my feelings. This is the change I’m seeing since waking to systemic racism, a part of me now seems to be aware of the subtle racism even if I can put it into words. I knew this “no arrests” line of praise was not something I felt comfortable shouting, I just wasn’t sure why.

I also read this piece about intersectionality at the march:

Intersectional feminism isn’t leaving thank you notes on the cars of police officers, and high-fiving them for being nice to you at your march, while completely ignoring that if this march had been BLM, law enforcement would conduct themselves with hostility. If only you’d seen how the chants went to murmurs when it was time to say “Black Lives Matter” or “refugees are welcome here!”. Ignoring these very facts alone is the root of the problem when it comes to feminism.”

And then finally I read and sat with this poem by Johnetta Elzie. Here is a small part of the powerful truths:

Where were you when we asked you to #SayHerName?When Rekia Boyd was killed while playing at the park with her friends?
When Tanisha Anderson, Sandra Bland, Shantel Davis, and others died at the hands of police, with little media attention?
When our trans sisters — Brandi Bledsoe, Rae’Lynn Thomas, Dee
Whigham — were also murdered and also forgotten?
Where were you?

I read all of these words and soaked them in because – as many have said before – it is not the job of the Black Woman to educate the White Woman. Black women voted against Trump in a 94% majority. White women did not.

I read these words and I think about our history and how I want my stance to be preserved in history during these tumultuous times. How I’m glad I’ve said the name Sandra Bland when I was asked to by my brown sisters. History will show that I did learn at some point, and I will keep learning. I will sit with the words of these painful truths as many times as I have to in order to create true intersectionality. I will not apologize for hurting feelings because I remember when my feelings were hurt – and then I remembered the most important lesson I’ve learned in ages.

BLACK LIVES > WHITE FEELINGS.

There are a lot of exclusionary practices I have participated in ignorantly. I didn’t consider my Trans Sisters when loving all of the images of biological reproductive systems. Those images define “woman” on a biological level when my Trans Sisters are trying to changing that view. I didn’t know about the 750,000 Black Women who marched in Philadelphia in 1997, and I realize those participants and the black women who celebrated them, might have felt jaded by all of the attention the white women in pink hats were getting this weekend. Wouldn’t they have loved to have had all of us at their backs when they took a stand.

But I’m learning and I’ll keep sharing my lessons so that maybe I can save others from the same discomfort.

Racism is hidden in seemingly benign language if you’re white. For example, WhiteHouse.gov – who has deleted their racism section – now has chosen to boast that the Trump Administration is the presidency of Law & Order.

Sounds GREAT, doesn’t it? Love it! Law and Order!

That is an example of hidden racism. It’s the same thing that had me naively supporting the Bill Clinton 1994 Crime Bill. When you’re white and not inherently scared of the police, Law & Order sounds great. However, it has been proven time and time again that these attitudes and the associated legislation negatively impacts the minorities in our communities, especially young black men. Watch the documentary The 13th. Read The New Jim Crow. See the stats that demonstrate how this increase of policing creates more racial divides and punishes the poor and the minorities at a higher level than equivalent white people.

We have to be aware of how our government will disguise racism. And we can’t fall victim to the same language. Just like Kelly said that bragging about the No Arrests thing is due to the “The inherent goodness of non-threatening white ladydom. The pinkness and innocence. The stereotypes, y’all.” If we had replaced every face with a brown one the police would not have been given high-fives and wearing pink hats. And if you believe they would have, then we are coming from two different levels of understanding of our culture and there’s no place in the middle for us to meet.

It would have been different. Period. And the second we recognize that and understand it as true, we learn to see this in many other places, many other times. And that’s where I’ve been. I’m finally open enough to this type of subtle racism that I felt the underlying racism behind these reports of “no crime” – it’s not something you inherently see at first. But I felt weird bragging about it, like there was something icky about it.

We all need to start to feel icky. That’s a sign that we’re learning to spot the subtleties of the systemic racism that surrounds us. We need to be alert to the criminalizing of poverty. We need to recognize the safety these white bodies gives us and be brave to stand up for our brown brothers and sisters because – more often than not – we have nothing to lose.

Mapping Things Out

I always consider Mondays to be a good “First Day” of anything. Whether it’s a new health regiment or training program or meditation schedule or political action…I like starting everything on a Monday. So I spent my spare time this weekend trying to get my life organized around political action plans. I added phone numbers of my representatives to my phone. I subscribed to actions lists to take advantage of the work other people are doing. I bought this t-shirt.

So, today is the day I start. I want to do at least one concrete action every week. Whether it’s a call to register my complaint for the nomination of a cabinet member I don’t support, or donate to an organization that does bigger work than I can do, or write a letter to my Congressman. I want to know I’ve done one action every week to fight the changes this administration is trying to bring.

Speaking of action…Nikki and I went to a sister rally on Saturday for the Women’s March.

We got tons of really great response with almost non-stop supportive honking and cheering. We did get flipped off from a few people which prompted conversation between a friend of mine as to what makes that kind of person. The kind of person who sees something they don’t like and looks the people in the eyes and flips them off. I can only imagine what I would feel if I saw Westboro Baptist protesting a funeral (which is the angriest I could imagine seeing protests) and I still don’t think I’d flip them off. It’s such a strange response. Strange…as in not something I can imagine…being that type of person.

Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever flipped anyone off seriously ever. Maybe those people are the kind that flip off people who cut them off which I don’t do. It’s just weird and a reminder that sometimes there are innate behaviors in people that are very different from me and that always blows my mind because it’s where my empathy fails. I can’t put myself in the shoes of that person.

This got me thinking about changing minds and behaviors. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately – can I change the minds or the political habits of people? I often write about things like racial injustice in hopes to do for others what many did for me. I went from “all lives matter” to “Black Lives > White Feelings” due to the writings of others, can I do that too? And how hard do I try? And when do I stop losing sleep over it? Especially when it comes to real people in m life, like with political posts on Facebook. Where is the best way to spend my energy? I don’t want to just deal with politics, I want be part of changing culture because a lot of the changes I want to see in the country are way outside of politics. I want to see changes in hearts. I want people to finally see systemic racism around them. I want us to not judge the poor and to be their moral police by making them jump through hoops to receive charity. I want people to be okay with increasing tax rates or paying more for healthcare so that the less fortunate can be insured. Is it possible to change minds in these areas?

And that’s where my brain is lately. Ready to get started with the political resistance, but also wanting to work on changing minds and hearts as well as voting habits.

How is your Monday?