Don’t (just) mourn, organize. Kavanaugh/Columbus Day 2018 edition
On the night of the 2016 election, I quoted the words of Joe Hill, a labor organizer and songwriter, who was falsely charged with murder and executed in Utah in 1915, in a telegraph to a Bill Haywood: “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”
Over the past two years, the organizing work you’ve done — to save our democracy, protect the most vulnerable, and fight for something better resembling justice — has been nothing short of remarkable. Together, we’ve marched, rallied, protested, occupied airports and Congress, been arrested, built organizations and community, knocked doors, made calls, texted, contributed, written postcards. Over and over. Women have bravely shared their stories of sexual violence so that others would not suffer it.
This week, I know it was harder to feel like it was worth it.
To be sure, some mourning is required: Thanks to the Senate’s cynical, partisan, stolen confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court will very likely be a vehicle for the repression of the rights of Americans for several decades to come. It will likely gut Roe v. Wade and women’s reproductive health and freedom. Roll back voting and civil rights. Uphold capital punishment and solitary confinement. Prevent the EPA from combating climate change (even as we get frightening new data about what’s coming). All worth weeping over.
Rending sadness and harrowing anger are necessary responses, also, to the way that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — and so many other survivors of sexual assault who found the courage to tell their stories — were treated. The message they received from GOP Senators, as Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila, poignantly told Jeff Flake, was that “they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them.” So by all means, mourn.
But we also know this: The only chance we have — to mitigate the harms the Kavanaugh Court will do, to deny Trump and McConnell their goal of demoralizing us, to be worthy of the courage that Dr. Ford, Maria, Ana Maria and so many other women found — is to keep organizing together.
For the next 30 days. And for the next 30 years.
For the next 30 days: it’s all about the Midterms.
You know the stakes if we don’t win the House. They’ll gut health care, torture immigrant families, let corporations sweat their workers and pollute the air, reward racist policing, and much more.
If we win, we can prevent Trump from passing a single additional piece of legislation. Open overdue investigations into Trump’s corruption and Kavanaugh’s lying (as Congressman Jerry Nadler vowed this week) that will slow down the harm they can do. And prepare to put universal health care, higher education, and housing back on the agenda.
In New York State, if we win the State Senate, we can secure sexual and reproductive rights, improve our elections, protect tenants and immigrants, and move toward 100% clean energy.
In the South, a victory by Stacey Abrams, Beto O’Rourke, or Andrew Gillum would herald the coming of an America where the legacy of slavery and repression turns toward justice and inclusion.
It’s on us to spend as much time as we can over the next 30 days making that happen.
If you’re in Brooklyn, the extraordinary working groups of GetOrganizedBKhave events every day from now until the election. You can text-bank anytime (from your own couch) with Red2Blue. Join RunNYC or Indivisible NationBKor WHARR to canvas for Liuba Grechen Shirley, Max Rose, Andrew Gounardes, and more. Send postcards to voters with BKRising. Wherever you are, Indivisible and Swing Left have great tools. Or sign up with me as a BlueWave 2018 volunteer and we’ll keep you in the loop about opportunities to join me.
The Kavanaugh fight may have, perversely, energized the Trumpist base. And there’s no doubt we’re fighting on a gerrymandered, unlevel playing field. But the only real response is for us to work harder to turn out our voters.
Beyond the Midterms: for the next 30 years.
This week, I started reading These Truths, a magisterial new history of the United States by the brilliant historian Jill Lepore. It argues that our whole history can be understood as a series of battles between our ideals of equality, rights & democracy and the realities of genocide, slavery, sexism, and repression.
That feels especially appropriate today. More and more cities now observe this day as Indigenous People’s Day, to better attend to the brutality our nation visited on Native Americans, and to honor their struggles, triumphs, and cultures. But you may have noticed that Trump extolled Columbus Day on Twitter, precisely to celebrate forces of domination and repression.
Our history is precisely that centuries-long series of battles, so it’s not going to be “solved” in one election or movement. After November 6th, we’ll have to keep organizing. To insist that we are still a nation that welcomes immigrants and refugees. That Black Lives Matter. That women are fully equal human beings.
Let’s remember that even amidst the horrors of the past two years, we’ve been making progress through organizing. Thanks to the powerful organizing of the Fight for $15, tens of millions of workers (largely low-income women-of-color), have seen big increases in their wages. Closer to home, we’re moving to integrate our middle-schools, motivated in part by the need to better live up to the values we cite in our resistance. And there are so many more examples.
If you’ve become newly activated for these elections, I hope you’ll keep organizing afterward. GetOrganizedBK has groups that will keep working — in partnership with frontline organizations — for racial justice, immigrant rights, reproductive justice, voting rights, health care. And of course there are countless other groups to join our support.
Since it’s a life-long struggle, it requires taking care of yourself. So I hope you’ve found some time this weekend to cry, to scream, to heal, to laugh with friends and family. I know “privilege-checking” can sound cliche; but this week, walking around in my skin as a straight, white, highly-privileged man, I was more attuned than usual to the pain and rage and sorrow that violence and inequality bring to women and people-of-color especially.
I wish we had some better option than: Work as hard as you can for the midterms. Try to take care of yourself & your loved ones. And find some places that work for you to organize for justice the long term. But that’s what we’ve got.
You’ll make it more likely that we win on November 6th. You’ll make it more likely that our kids have a more equal and inclusive world than we do (and hopefully a planet that’s not irreparably damaged). And you’ll find solidarity in action, too.
Said more succinctly (clearly not one of my strengths):
Don’t (just) mourn, organize.