Month: January 2017

That’s Just What They Want You To Do

Look, there are a lot of conspiracy theories and rumors going around, and some of them are probably real, but as you speculate about which ones those could be, please keep a hold on these two inarguably true things:

1. When something seriously evil happens that places innocent people in physical danger, that’s not a “distraction” we should ignore to look for the “real” threat. Keep looking for other threats, by all means! But while real people are under threat from something that has actually happened, you’re not “fooled” if you defend them. Holding your fire to keep your powder dry until the “real” threat looks a lot more like getting played than whatever theory you’ve heard that says standing up against oppression is “walking into their trap.”

2. Mass protests are having a measurable and widely-reported effect, according to both leaks and on-record eyewitness accounts from aides in the executive and legislative branches. They are the main thing having an effect. You have seen over and over again how Trump and Spicer and Conway have gotten shrill and paranoid whenever the national mood is mentioned, and how desperately they try to defend their legitimacy.

When you have called your congresspeople (which you’re doing, right?) you have probably noticed the strain in the voices of their staffers. That’s not business as usual. You can watch news broadcasts of town hall meetings and see how rattled congresspeople are.

It is really, REALLY unusual to not care what other people think about you. I’m not even talking about “your job is at risk.” I’m talking about how horrible it is when you think you are disliked by your peers. As humans, as social animals, we want to believe we’re good people and our work is appreciated and society will include and protect us. Even criminals want that, so badly. Even if you think Trump doesn’t care (he does) or Bannon doesn’t (fair enough), the people who will be carrying out orders are definitely affected by what they think the public at large expects of them.

So if your conspiracy theory says protests are useless, it is probably not a good theory, or at least that part of it is not good, and once again seems like it’s trying to tell you you’ll get more done by not doing anything right now, which is kind of silly don’t you think.

Dream Bigger

Trigger warning: I’m about to talk about “white guys” but I am not calling out white guys. Promise. Just bear with me a sec, it’ll make you feel good, I think.

I’ve noticed that most of the “calls to reason,” the ones that tell me not to expect, say, that it’s possible to impeach Trump, and that we should all lower our goals, are being written by straight white men. You know the posts I’m talking about. These guys really want things to be different, but “looking at the situation realistically,” think that we need to acknowlege we’re already defeated and should focus on what we can get, which they define much more narrowly than I do.

And I want to say to straight white liberal-but-realistic guys who have given up hope: dare to dream. It’s more possible than you think. When we tell you all the time that you need to diversify your inputs and listen to women and listen to homosexuals and listen to non-white folks, we’re not just saying that for our benefit. We know some things.

There are whole demographic groups of us who have been WAY out of power before, and those of us in one or more of those groups have spent our whole lives in a system that wants us to accept less than equality. Our history of hard-fought battles tell us it’s worth fighting for the things we want. We win more when we don’t settle, when we don’t start by assuming an ideal society is impossible. And we do it without becoming vampires on our own hearts.

As long as someone’s going to say no to us, make them say no to a big thing, a beautiful thing. It’s not worth giving your all for something that wouldn’t make you happy.

Pressure on PA

Keep believing. Nothing can stand in way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

Ben Wideman says:

Just got back from a visit to Senator Pat Toomey‘s Johnstown office with 15 other Borough of State College & Penn State area people to talk about the immigration ban. Here are my takeaways;

1. Everyone we spoke with was rattled. They have never experienced this much constant feedback. The phones haven’t stopped since the Inauguration and they admitted they can’t check voicemail because there is no pause to do so.

2. Letters are the only thing getting through at this point. Regional offices are a much better mail destination because the compile, sort, and send everything – DC mail is so backed up right now it takes twice as long to send things there.

3. Toomey’s staff seem frustrated with Trump. They said his barrage of Executive Orders are not how government is supposed to work, and was what they hated during moments of the Obama era. One of them said, “we have a democratic system and process – Trump needs to stop behaving like a Monarch”.

4. Our representatives are listening because people are raising their voices. This feels like no other political moment in recent time for them.

5. Toomey’s staffers are far more empathetic than I assumed. Also far more technology illiterate (one asked me how to use twitter, and how we already knew about Toomey’s published statement). They resonate that the immigration ban feels immoral and unAmerican.

6. Regional offices are not designed to handle this volume of unrest.

7. Personal stories matter. Tell the stories of people being impacted by arbitrary religious and ethnic legislation (I got to tell a bit of your story, Baraa). Staffers want to know.

8. Don’t stop. Do whatever small part you can do to keep raising your voice to your representatives. Not just this issue, but every way marginalized people are being (or will be) exploited under this President.

Refugee Renegotiation

Excerpt from the January 27 press release by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA, member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee):

“as conflict and war force millions around the world from their homeland, the United States should welcome more refugees, not less.”

Agreed. If we’re going to renegotiate this whole thing, the choice isn’t between what we compromised on already and zero. If this is on the table again, it’s on the table again. I want more.

Protest Non-Fatigue

I’m interested in this idea that these outrages are trying to induce protest fatigue, the assumption that “fury at injustice” is a finite resource that is depleted each time you use it.

For me, I find my will to resist increases the more I do it, like physical exercize, like an immune system, like muscle memory and reflex. It becomes a habit, a regular part of my day. I am less and less able to imagine not doing it.


Sabs says: Same, up to a point. That point is where I start to get involved in the behind-the-scenes organizing and it turns circular firing squad.

But up until that point, if I go to one protest, I can go to ten more. It’s the long gaps in between that make it difficult to go to the first.

Romie: I just got through watching the documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, and toward the end, one of the major voices in the women’s rights movement in the US was like “I quit three times, about once a decade” and everybody else was like “yeah, there was that time my group declared me ‘the opressor’ and kicked me out because I was too famous and therefore must be complicit” “same, I was running meetings too effectively so other people felt silenced” and then everybody laughed a lot. It was very relatable.