The summer of 2006 I was a high school graduate full of hope and excitement for the future. I was busy packing clothes and picking classes and taking bikini selfies for my Facebook profile. I was reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe – the required literature for incoming freshmen at Clark University. I had a scholarship, a laptop, and fiery passion for changing the world.
Two years later I was working as a bartender at a seasonal restaurant in Maine. Drinking PBR out of coffee mugs on the beach with my future husband. Just a couple months earlier I had tried to change my major from International Development and Social Change to Economics but it was too late to finish all the required courses and change my study abroad plans – so I would finish out what I started with a heavy heart and entirely deflated sense of hope for the human race. That’s what 400 hours of seminars about global crises, followed by 200 hours of debate over how to solve them and why it will never work will do to you. I was exhausted and overwhelmed, and I needed to check out in order to protect my health and my happiness. So I did.
I finished up my senior year with a couple of art classes and a dance practicum, skipped out on my free 5th year masters (sorry mom and dad) and hightailed it up to Maine to move in with my boyfriend. I got a job (as a writer – go figure), bought a house, had a wedding, and then popped out a couple of little girls for good measure. I was happy, average, and with the exception of a few rants on Facebook or over the kitchen table, completely uninvolved politically.
Even throughout the most recent clown show of an election, I remained for the most part, unperturbed. I voted for Bernie, and then Hillary. I predicted Trump’s landslide in the Republican primaries. And I was disappointed, but not surprised when he won the presidency.
On the morning after the election my mom called me, close to tears. She was devastated, and afraid.
“It is what it is,” I told her. “We’ll survive this, too.”
I don’t know I why I felt so numb to it all. Maybe because I was protecting myself. Maybe because I saw it coming. Or maybe because I am an American-passport-holding, white woman with employer-sponsored health insurance, a savings account and a large house in a well-to-do-town in a state within spitting distance of Canada.
When my mom and her friends were gearing up for the women’s march she asked me if I was going to participate locally.
“No,” I said matter-of-factly. “Why would I?”
She didn’t push it with me because she has a level of patience that only superheroes possess.
I told her I supported her and whomever else wanted to march, but that it felt self-serving and unhelpful to me. A way to pacify our own feelings of frustration without actually enacting any change.
It’s now a little over a week later and I realize I was wrong.
I hardly ever say that, by the way. And putting it in writing I’m pretty sure goes against some kind of familial code buried deep in the Perlmutter family genetics. But, today, after all the events of the last week, it is clearer than ever that I was wrong.
It will not be ok.
This isn’t business as usual. This is not “how politics work.” We will not survive this.
We are witnessing a moral decomposition of our country – a disregard for our founding, constitutional principals and rule of law that is unprecedented in our history. Things have fallen apart.
I promise you I am not a reactionary or an extremist. I’m not even close to “far left.” All of that fire and hope got beaten out of me in college.
I’m a realist, a moderate, a not-overly-political average citizen that believes in diplomacy and partisanship and compromise. “More of the same,” if you will.
But the recent actions of our president, and the ensuing silence of many of our political leaders, it woke something up inside of me that I buried deep down years ago to protect myself.
Now it’s time to get uncomfortable again.
Its time for our political leaders to stop fighting fire with greeting cards and coffee dates. It’s time to LIGHT IT UP. And if they don’t it’s time to hold them accountable at the ballot box.
This is no ordinary partisan disagreement. It is not about a Republican agenda that I personally disagree with. It’s about one man’s personal agenda that is immoral, unconstitutional, irresponsible, and frankly – idiotic. This is an assault on democracy, and our leaders need to start acting like it.
When Donald Trump won the presidency I didn’t get angry. I am not so naive as to believe that just because someone has an R next to their name they are unfit to lead. Despite his circus of a campaign I thought, maybe he’ll surprise us all. I gave him a fair swing just like I would any other elected official.
But then last week happened. The appointment of bigots to cabinet positions…and the National Security Council. The attempted silencing of scientists. The prioritization of pipelines over people. The Muslim ban. The MOTHERFUCKING DUMBASS WALL.
Just one week on the job and Donald Trump has already demonstrated not only a blatant disregard for the will of the people, but for the lives of others. For refugees. For Muslims. For black people. For poor people. For science. For women.
I saw the Women’s March as self-serving until I actually saw the march. Until I saw the grandmas and great grandmas standing in the cold D.C. winter holding signs that read “I can’t believe I still have to protest this fucking shit.”
For years I have let other people fight for me.
I still maintain that the march was not perfect. It was not fully intersectional, or impactful (from a policy perspective) or strategic. But boy, was it powerful. It allowed people to find their agency. It gave them fuel for their fire. It reminded hundreds of thousands of average, everyday, not-usually-politically-active Americans that their voices matter. And most importantly, it pissed a lot of people off.
It made people ask why. It made them complain. It made them angry that their Facebook feeds were “clogged with politics.”
Good. Did you people really think we would go quietly?
I missed the beginning of this movement because I found it overwhelmingly difficult to do something with meaning. Because I feared whatever I did would not be enough. Would not be fully inclusive. Would have unintended consequences. Or that someone else could do it better.
All of the same reasons I gave up at Clark.
But as I watch my friends and family, one by one, come out of the woodwork and find their voice I realize that it’s time. It’s time to do something. Anything.
This morning I donated $50 to the ACLU and $50 to a Syrian refugee family resettling in the US (my aunt and uncle are helping them to resettle in San Diego, please contribute if you can). A hundred dollars that I really needed to pay our grocery bills, but, we’ll survive.
Others might not.
Next I’m calling my senator, Susan Collins, to urge her to reject Betsy DeVos’ nomination.
I’m not sure that I’m doing this right. But I’m doing something – and I’m ready and willing to do more.
It took me a minute but I’m here now. So what else can I do to help?