Do one thing

Do one thing

Brandy Williams No Comment
Ally

I was crushed when Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic primary in 2008. I could see that black people around the country were deeply moved and celebratory about Barack Obama’s win. It felt like it was their moment and that mine had been deferred. I didn’t realize at the time how racist that was.

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You might remember 2008 as year two in the economic crisis. That was the year I turned Libertarian and tuned into Michael Ruppert’s dystopian vision of economic and ecosystem collapse. I spent my social media time posting links to stories to wake people up! My family turned a closet into a pantry and filled it with dry goods. We all went out and got concealed carry permits. I didn’t know a single one of my neighbors and wondered what would happen in a true emergency.

There are only so many cans of beans you can store before you have to get out and start talking to people. I decided to do one thing. The thing I decided to do was food. Where did Kitsap County get its food? If the trucks stopped rolling into the grocery stores who would feed us? I started a food blog to chronicle our efforts to feed ourselves entirely from the local ecosystem. This dovetailed neatly with the contemporary fascination with local food.

The blog introduced me to a lot of people. I went to farmers markets. I tracked down every farm in a five-mile radius. I learned that local farmers were concerned about zoning policies so I started going to county hearings. I met my county council rep, my state senator, the mayor of the nearest town, a chef who was invited by Michelle Obama to the White House to talk about feeding kids. I attended the annual Human Rights conference to listen to them all talk about how to solve food deserts and make sure the food banks were filled. I became a Master Gardener and learned that our demonstration gardens grow produce for the food banks. I started keeping bees and ended up as president of the local club.

While we were grounding ourselves in local community I also took on some big philosophical questions. As a lifelong feminist I have been a passionate advocate for women’s community, and I wrote an entire book about gender and spirituality, The Woman Magician. I edited the anthology Women’s Voices in Magic to use my writer platform to make space for other women to speak.

As a Pagan I started talking publically about theurgy, working with the gods. In this work I was called out for racism. I did some reading and realized that I had a lot to learn! That started my journey in social justice as an ally leveraging my own privilege to advocate for others. I finally realized how important Barack Obama’s presidency had been. I cringed at the inexcusably vicious racism his family was subjected to every day. I looked at my own work with a better educated and more critical eye and vowed to call out racism in myself and others. I accepted the invitation to co-edit the anthology Bringing Race to the Table to use my writer platform to make space for the discussion of race.

Somewhere in there I realized that the Libertarian vision which had awakened me to the threat humans pose to the world trended more toward isolation and individual advantage than in mutually solving our problems. Also I was depressing the heck out of my friends posting nothing but dystopian links. I jumped to the progressive side of the house when the Occupy movement rose up. My family was travelling the country that fall and we ran into demonstrations everywhere. When we got home I joined Occupy Bremerton and connected up with the local social justice community. This community has two long-time supporters: the churches, in particular the Unitarian Universalists, and the unions. I don’t belong to either so I’m always an outsider. I introduce myself to each gathering with the joke that I bring diversity to the group.

Occupy ran out its course but local social justice activists remained engaged with community. At the annual county Human Rights Conference I learned the history of the Suquamish Tribe whose territory I have settled in and vowed to uphold the treaty that governs our relationship. I listened to LGBTQ concerns. I welcomed the enthusiasm of the Millennial generation who seem to me to be ready to save us all.

Black Lives Matter surfaced through social media as a dispersed community, not an organization but a hashtag! The local social justice community started holding discussions about race. I turned up for public vigils called by BLM, putting my own body in the streets in an effort to protect my neighbors.

My own neighborhood turns out to be an example of the diversity of the country. In our plat there are two duplexes and two single family homes housing 13 people: two black men, a Nepalese family, an older white guy and his wife running a small business, a new Navy family expecting their first girl, my two guys and me. I give my neighbors vegetables, lavender, and Christmas cards. They started keeping vegetables and chickens too. We watch each other’s houses and play with each other’s dogs. I can hardly remember what it was like to huddle in my kitchen and wonder what my neighbors would do in a crisis. I know now – we would pitch in and help each other.

Eight years after Hillary lost the Democratic primary (despite my vote!) she launched another campaign but didn’t initially get my support. The world had changed so much and I had changed so much. As a progressive I had discovered Bernie Sanders and when and he threw his hat in the ring I initially supported him. On my trip around the country I had stood on a street corner in Burlington Vermont watching the Occupy college kids speak out and his campaign seemed like a logical extension of that.

What gave me pause was a Burlington newspaper editor’s up-close account of Bernie’s temperament and record. Then the Bernie Bros started their painfully sexist meme campaigns. I realized that his candidacy was not only tapping into the youthful enthusiasm for change but the deep-rooted misogyny that has made the U.S. late to have a woman leader. The people repeating “I don’t trust her!” were caving to 25 years of GOP smears which the Bernie Bros picked up and happily repeated. Millennials didn’t trust her because they’ve been hearing that stuff their entire lifetimes. Reporters running fact checks reported that Hillary was the most truthful candidate in the campaign.

Unlike the folk repeating one-inch-deep misogynist headlines, people of color brought up real issues. They pointed to Clinton policies which helped create the New Jim Crow. Women got the vote in 1920 but racist policies effectively disenfranchised black women until the Civil Rights Act in 1965 and white feminists supported those policies. Hillary’s white feminism follows in those suffragist footsteps. It should not be surprising that black women’s support for Hillary would be tempered with mistrust.

I also sympathized with critics of the corporate oligarchy who argue that neither party is significantly different from the other and that the act of voting is an acceptance of being ruled. One millennial anarchist on my FB feed advocated voting for Trump so that the system becomes so intolerable the majority will wake up to the need for change. Others announced their intention to opt out of voting altogether or cast a protest vote for the Libertarian Gary Johnston or the Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Dan Savage decisively denounced grandstanding politics, pointing out that an effective party isn’t built on a presidential campaign but years of fielding candidates for dog catcher and state rep. Savage pointed out that the people who would suffer under a Trump presidency are not the white people (mostly upper class) supporting either of the alternate candidates, but people of color, LGBTQ people, minority faiths, and women.

I didn’t get to vote for Hillary in the 2016 primary because Washington state doesn’t have one. It’s a caucus state and went for Bernie. There was a primary ballot that delivered no delegates and Hillary won that symbolic vote. Eventually she won the Democratic primary. The Bernie-or-Bust people insisted that party leadership’s opposition to Bernie’s campaign had rigged the election, even though Bernie’s press secretary said “No one stole the election from us”. Bernie had never been a Democrat or supported the party and said he was joining so he could get more votes – why would party leadership welcome him? This is a good example of the need to build mutually supporting relationships before launching a presidential campaign.

I watched only snippets of the Republican National Convention, a sea of white faces bellowing hate and crafting a platform that demonizes women, LGBTQ people, and non-Christians, of which I am all. Then I watched the entire Democratic National Convention on CSPAN. It was such a relief after the RNC hatefest that I sobbed the whole time. The DNC celebrated optimism and teamwork. I saw people like my neighbors and people like me. I saw an infomercial, I didn’t lose sight of that, but it was selling a view of the world that is the one I want to live in. The convention was about electing a Democrat, but it wasn’t just about that. It was also about the affirmation of a deeply positive view of the world. The entire convention was a call-in to join with our neighbors to improve each other’s lives and improve the world.

Bernie Sanders stepped up and turned into a politician who can get things done. In trade for getting 90% of what he wanted on the platform, he endorsed Hillary Clinton. It was what he wanted, and it was what I wanted! I want his vision of the world, I want his policies enacted. This is where Bernie discovered that the hardest core Bernie-or-Bust folk didn’t support his agenda, they just hate Hillary. In thwarted-white-entitlement-burn-the-world tantrum they’re voting for Trump. Really.

So Hillary finally got to step onto the stage. For decades she’s been criticized for talking too softly, shouting too loudly, being too liberal, being too hawkish, not smiling, laughing too loud, wearing the wrong things, being too standoffish, wanting power too much, being a woman who dared to lead. At the convention she’d finally cracked the code, navigating all the expectations and looking authentically herself. On the day of the roll call she showed up on TV in red – this woman is a boss! On the day Barack Obama endorsed her she came out to hug him in blue – this woman is a team player. On the day she accepted the nomination she wore suffragette white. This is what a feminist looks like, when she is nominated for president.

She gave the most important speech of her life and knocked it out of the park. She used progressive terms – one percent, systemic racism. She called for overturning Citizens United. She vowed to extend Social Security, provide universal health care, craft a path to citizenship for immigrants, make college free and forgive existing college debt. She offered an economic plan and planned to pay for it all by taxing the rich and corporations. This is a new New Deal. And she did it as “my mother’s daughter and my daughter’s mother.”

I cheered and I cried. I watched that speech again and cheered and cried again.

Then I sobered up and said okay, it’s a lot to promise, it’s campaign rhetoric, but given the contrast to the rhetoric of hate, it is the rhetoric I will support. Then the Moody’s report came out which validated at least her economic plan. Ten million new jobs under her presidency, while Trump’s would usher in a deeper and longer recession than 2007. Also, she believes in science, and Trump would overturn the Paris accords.

Sadly, it turned out that the misogynsts have by no means given up silencing women. Any woman who dared to enjoy the moment that a woman was nominated president by a major party was immediately jumped on. I posted one FB post and was barraged with one-line “I don’t trust her” comments, along with women who said quietly, “Is this a place where I can say how happy I am?”

Yes, it is. My work is about protecting women’s voices. You can say “I’m with her!” on any of my channels. I will always dialogue respectfully with people of color and people working for social justice, and you’re invited to say “Girl I guess I’m with her” and tell me why.

If you’re not voting for Hillary I’m not going to try to convince you to do it. I’m also not going to debate you. The ship has sailed. If you’re voting for Trump because you agree with him, I support your right to vote, but our values do not align and I don’t have the time or thick enough skin to discuss it with you. If you are voting for Trump because you think we can weather four years of Trump, we thought we could weather four years of Bush and he gave us Clarence Thomas and the Iraq war and broke the world economy. If you’re protesting by voting for Gary Johnston or Jill Stein, they do not have a chance to win (Bernie knows it) and it is a protest vote. If you are casting a protest vote or abstaining you are letting someone else make the choice. You’ve chosen silence and I respect your choice so no talking here. If you’re undecided, remember if nothing else that the next president will appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices who will weigh in on gay marriage, health care, voting rights, corporate personhood, and all the social justice issues that will determine our quality of life for the next decade at least.

I am under no illusions that the new New Deal is a done deal. I am not unaware of the existence of the corporate oligarchy or Hillary’s culpability in the rise of the New Jim Crow. I will do my best to oppose the rule of the few and oppose white supremacy. I’m not giving Hillary a free pass, I’m going to hold her accountable for the prison reform and bank reform she’s promised. That said, #I’mwithher, however much or little she manages to accomplish, because the world she pictured is the one I want.

I’m not going to let anyone use my channels to silence women or broadcast hate or vent a complaint. If you post “I don’t like/trust Hillary” I’m deleting with no further notice. But I do want to hear your voice. Instead of telling me what you oppose, tell me what kind of world you want. Then tell me, what are you doing about it?

Whatever it is you choose to do, Do one thing. It is bound to connect you with others who can help you make it happen.

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