Adventures in Activism

Day 1: Alice falls down the rabbit hole.

Day 2: Attend post-election protest. Become an activist.

Days 3-5: Take off for a weekend in Palm Springs with your boyfriend. Cry on the way to the airport. Let the trip become a respite from the shit storm. Relax pool-side. Play golf (or rather, ride in the golf cart while your boyfriend plays golf). Discover that the golf course serves the best Bloody Mary on the planet. Have a conversation with Sara, a Mexican server at the hotel, and learn that already her seven-year-old niece has been harassed at her elementary school. Discover that there is no respite from the shit storm.

Day 9: Hear about the Women’s March. Sign up.

Day 14: Have coffee with two old friends. Share jokes because everyone just needs to laugh and laugh and laugh right now.

Day 16: Thanksgiving. Avoid politics. Have stiff, polite conversations instead. Wonder if you can hold it together.

Day 31: Engage in a politically charged conversation at a nice restaurant in Vail with good friends from out of town. Realize over pasta and wine that these people you’ve always liked and gotten along with see the world in a completely different way. Marvel at how this happens. Be humbled by it. At the end of dinner, hug one of your friends and tell him, “You know I still love you, right?” Laugh and smile at each other, but then notice he doesn’t join everyone for drinks after dinner. Wonder, briefly, if you are the reason why.

Day 34: Write a letter to the White House about the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Day 36: Get a reply from the White House.

Days 37-51: Compile a reading list. Obsessively bookmark and share news articles. Obsessively watch Democracy Now and Link TV. Read The Best Democracy Money can Buy and lie awake in a panic for three nights. Wonder if everything is a lie and always has been. Remember to verify.

Days 52-55: Go to Florida with your boyfriend and his son to visit your boyfriend’s parents. Avoid politics. Take a zumba class with his mother. Play golf (for real, this time). Realize, hilariously, that this retirement community north of Orlando, the one you like to make fun of, is turning out to be another kind of respite. Be grateful for it. Go out to dinner at a French restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg with friends on New Year’s Eve. Feel normal again, if only for a night.

Day 56: Realize you’re not a victim. Realize that it’s up to you. Realize that you are realizing so many things lately, and that it’s only just begun.

Day 58: Reach out to a random, politically minded acquaintance you’ve met once before. Ask her if she wants to form an activist group. Write this to her:

I’m waking up to a new world in which the people I previously thought would have everything handled—you know, the ones who were actually called to politics and activism as their life’s purpose—would take care of us all and not let things get too bad. That was the problem in the first place. We were all complicit in some way, through willful ignorance and apathy and belief in saviors other than ourselves. If democracy is supposed to be about power to the people, we handed ours over blindly.

Day 60: Discover a local activist group you could join instead.

Day 62: Continue search for paid work. You are a freelance writer. You live an artist’s life. You must eat.

Day 63: Develop an unholy obsession with the actor Tom Hardy and his show Taboo. Realize that escapism is a necessary part of the process.

Day 72: Attend a talk by the legendary Julian Schnabel about the abstract expressionist Clyfford Still. Breathe. Because art is, after all, a long and sustained breath.

Day 73: Join local activist group. See there are already 800 members. Do not watch the inauguration. Have a phone conversation with your mother, after which she sends you a meme: “Change is slow.” Realize why this makes you so prickly. Because, you want to say to her, sometimes change is fast. The Berlin Wall toppled in a matter of hours, and with it an entire regime. One day you go to bed an ordinary citizen; the next day you wake up an activist. Yes, sometimes change happens fast…very fast indeed.

Day 74: Attend the Women’s March with friends. At the bus stop in the morning, witness an act of kindness as a stranger hands over her breakfast to two of your friends who haven’t eaten yet. When bus after bus drives by full of marchers, decide to drive instead. Offer a ride to an elderly woman. For the next few hours, witness more kindness, and unbridled enthusiasm, and even joy—and some of the funniest, cleverest, most boldly defiant signs you’ve ever seen. Go home. Put your feet up. Soak it all in. Realize how important it is to put yourself into the throng, to feel the tangible energy of human bodies pressing forward in spirited resolve, to witness the sheer numbers. Be amazed. Be humbled again.

Day 76: No, you were not paid by George Soros. Yes, this is a grassroots movement.

Day something-or-other: A moment of weariness. Break your own rule about getting dressed every morning, no matter what (since freelancers sometimes have an excuse not to). Instead, sit around in your pajamas all day, glued to your computer, and to the news, and to how things are happening exactly as predicted by historians, scholars, seasoned journalists. Sweat. Eat. Watch mid-day sink into afternoon, still in your pajamas. Look in the mirror at 3 p.m. and be stunned and slightly amused by your own capacity for grossness. Soothe yourself with the thought that Tom Hardy in 18th century England wouldn’t care.

Next day: Get dressed, put on make-up, put on shoes. Leave the condo. Re-enter the world. Notice heart palpitations. Wonder if you are developing an anxiety disorder.

Day 79: Sign petitions. Wonder if your info is going into a database to eventually be used against you. Develop feelings of paranoia and more heart palpitations.

Day 80-82: Host Florida friends in Vail. Spend Saturday and Sunday entirely alone while they ski. Feel deep sadness encroaching. Depression. Feel fear that the world is ending and nothing will ever be the same or even good again. Want desperately just to be with your boyfriend, who is a known island of comfort and security in an uncertain, unknowable sea. Cry and wander around, lonely and distraught, distraught and lonely. Try to pull yourself together when you join up with the group later. Try to explain yourself when you’re alone with your boyfriend. Try, but fail.

Day 83: Walk around the park with your New Age friend. Restore some of your faith in humanity. Bask in the glow of a highly energized human being who is blessed with some kind of second sight into what is real and possible.

Day 84: Indulge your fanciful interest in astrology and research the Cardinal Crisis we’re in. Gain perspective. Appreciate it.

Day 88: Form an impromptu rapid response team with an old work colleague who has also joined the local activist group. Contact your senior prom date who is now a reporter for a local news station. Connect him to a constituent your colleague found who agrees to be interviewed on camera. Get the story on the news that afternoon. Be amazed at what you just did. Realize this is a need in the group that has to be filled.

Day 92: Attend a rally outside a senator’s office.

Day 95: Have coffee with your old work colleague. Appoint yourselves the co-leads of the newly created media team for the activist group. Wonder if you will have the time. Wonder if you know what the hell you’re doing. Wonder if you will fail not only the group but yourself. Shrug your shoulders and do it anyway. Wear your Mother of Dragons t-shirt because it makes you feel like a bad-ass.

Day 96: Vow to aid and abet journalism. Vow to prop up the Fourth Estate. Vow to help them do their jobs. Feel fierce mother-bear protectiveness for the perilous road ahead. Laugh in the face of absurdity. Embrace your true Sagittarian nature: a torch-bearer of Truth and Justice.

Day 98: See that the activist group is now over 3,000 members.

Day 100: Meet a friend for coffee as you do every Wednesday morning. Remind yourselves about self-care. Remind yourselves about the need to bring love and positive energy into activism. Remind yourselves that it is not always about shouting and anger and intensity. And remember also that activism makes it sound like we are separate, standing over there with all the answers. Except that we’re not separate, and we don’t have all the answers. If only everyone understood we love our country, too, and we’re trying as hard as they are to figure it all out. We’re just doing our jobs—finally. We’re just being humans, a demos, practicing our divine right as citizens to wake up, to claim our power, to demand that someone listen, to demand a better world.

Day 200, 230, who knows anymore: Still volunteer for the activist group; still watch the news (sometimes); mostly keep your attention trained on long-form sources of knowledge and information: podcasts, magazine articles, books upon books upon books. Feel fewer heart palpitations. Wonder if this is a sign of the normalization everyone warned us about. Notice the group is over 4,000 now. Think: it’s summer…I just want to chill. Feel guilty about chilling because the fight for healthcare is on. Remember that healthcare matters not just to the populace at large, but to members of your own family. Try to stay focused. Let your mind wander to voter suppression and the environment and free speech, where your true concerns lie. Still look for paid work. Still struggle to stay afloat. Remember that your personal struggle is a microcosm. Watch a video about how to connect with those who think differently. Be humbled (again) by the complexity of human communication and the power of tribalism. Re-dedicate yourself to the cause. Know it will look and sound different tomorrow, and again next week, and again next year. Vow to keep showing up. Vow to bring more love and understanding into it. But also vow to be watchful, wise, and unshakeable. Vow that on your death bed (when you’re at least 94), you can say with assurance, “I did everything I could.”

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