I have been there. Just recently, I was stuck – did not know what to do next in terms of political action. Then on January 2nd I had an inner explosion (yes, after seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Now I’m on fire – you can be, too. You are meant to be.
I grew up in a white working class suburb of Chicago. My dad was an installer for the phone company (his only job ever) and my mom was a cashier in a grocery store. Besides being solidly pro-union, there was nothing politically progressive about our home. My parents were nice to black people, but Martin Luther King and Jessie Jackson scared them to death. You didn’t hear the n-word from anybody in my home, except when my Nana was there – but she said it mostly to be outrageous and was herself nice to black people.
I pretty much saw my first black people when I went to high school in the city. In my freshman year of college (1965), my history prof said, “I won’t be here next week – I’m going to Selma and you should too.” But we were too young, too green, too ignorant to go. Three years later (1968) I marched with Dr. King in downtown Chicago. I’m proud of it and tell the story, but here’s the rest of it: I would not have marched with him had the march not gone right by the office building where I was working for the summer, at my lunch break. I was back at my job at the end of my lunch hour. And this scared, green, suburban kid did not join Dr. King in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago – where the marchers were confronted with hundreds of enraged, screaming, threatening racists.
Just a couple months later, after the second night of “police riots” at the 1968 Democratic Convention – after I had watched on TV the police beating the anti-war protestors with their nightsticks – I went to that same job running manual elevators in an office building knowing that I really needed to be in the park with the demonstrators.
When a second full elevator of businessmen were revelling in “those fucking hippies getting what they had coming to them”, I turned to the packed car, said “Fuck you” and walked off the job and into Grant park, in my elevator operator’s uniform. When I showed up at my girl friend’s house late that night, that uniform was so full of mace and tear gas that she broke out in a rash as soon as she hugged me.
I has some anti-war and anti-nuclear involvement in the 70’s, which I will write up later.
I’m proud of working in Barack’s Senate campaign in Chicago in 2004 – before his Democratic convention speech that made him famous. I was very excited about him but, honestly, I think I probably did just a couple of shifts knocking on doors.
I did work relatively hard for him in 2008 and 2012 – every Sunday afternoon for three months. In 2016, I worked hard for Bernie and then for Hilary.
After Trump won the election, I – like many people – was overwhelmed and depressed and mostly took two months off. I did march in the Women’s March in Asheville, which was a total turn-on but didn’t keep me from capsizing.
In March of 2017 I got a mass mailing email from MoveOn promoting Resist Trump Tuesdays and something stirred in me – I knew I needed to go. When I arrived at the rally at the Federal Building, early, the organizer of the march vented to me that this was not the right role for her, that she just took it on because nobody else had scheduled a rally for Asheville. I had never before organized a political rally – only attended and volunteered – but something made me say, “I could do it.” I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that those words changed me forever.
I’ll bring you up to date in various blog posts.