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[Editor’s Note: Some of our readers will no doubt remember Susan Uballe, a longtime OC activist who served as DPOC North Vice Chair and Secretary a decade or so ago, and whose husband Esiquio Uballe ran for State Assembly against Chris Norby in 2010. She’s an expatriate Orange Countian now, as they moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — aka “The UP” — but we stay in touch. (Conflict note: I do some legal work for them, but that doesn’t bear on my decision to publish this. I’m publishing it because it’s a fantastic oral history of an exciting time.)
Susan is still active in politics and still a strong and acerbic writer. She’ll be contributing to OJB from time to time, reporting on how national politics look in the rural Midwest — you know, the areas that elected Trump. Her message prefacing this piece was “Look, this isn’t what I want to be writing. Not how I planned to spend my time this year.” But like so many others these days, she’s been following the classic dictum (actually a typing exercise, but whatever) that “Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country!” (Translated from pre-feminist English, of course.) And she has a tale worth reading. (Some Republicans might not entirely agree, but….) More local opportunities for resistance appear below her story. — GAD]
Even Their Enemies are Blessed by Their Love
by Susan Uballe
“When the revolution comes, I’m the one that’s going to kill you,” he said, pausing as he walked past me to press his face two inches from mine. A few strides further he turned and threw a snowball. It hit the “Defend our Democracy” sign I was holding against my leg. The snow slid to the sidewalk. “But we are doing this for you, for your rights, to save our planet and our democracy,” I called to him. Warmth from my core rose up and streamed across the snow and concrete to embrace him. Poor white mouse, poor thin, pasty faced, undersized runt. Wizened by poor nutrition and a life of stunted expectations. “I love you, brother,” I said, forcing myself to make eye contact and not avert my gaze. From further down the sidewalk I felt his shock. He mumbled, “I, I love you too”, and turned away. His beefy companion, wearing a checkered wool jacket, was in the process of scooping up some icy snow from the curb. As he heard white mouse respond he tossed it to the ground. Disappointed? Don’t know. On down the block they went.
I told my husband to pick me up at 6:00 even though the Bergman Birthday Bash was scheduled for 4:30 to 5:30. I thought some people would linger. I didn’t think about the snow and the cold. The picketers left at 5:30 on the dot, cheerily waving goodbye.
“Oh, shit, oh shit!” I repeat-dialed Zee. “Come get me, the protest’s over,” I demanded the third time I got his voicemail. I knew he wouldn’t hear it, but I felt better bitching at him for not being there. Someone had to pay for my being left alone, unprotected. I huddled in the well of the lower post office doorway and considered ditching my sign. Felt ashamed at my cowardice.
Pushing myself reluctantly back to the street corner I displayed my sign again. An old sedan stopped at the light. Window rolled down. “What are you protesting?” asked the man in the car. Tentative, I said “Jack Bergman’s Birthday – he hasn’t been here since the election.” The light turned. He paused. I tried to stop myself from taking a step back. From running back to the doorway. “Wolf Pack dot com, check it out”, he told me. Waved his support and drove on down the hill. I sighed. “Okay, see”, I scolded myself. “Stop hiding.”
To give myself something to do I crossed the street. Called Zee more six times. Got voice mail each time. Walked back the next time the light changed. Went back to the doorway, this time to stay warm, sign propped against the wall.
The Slow Moving Train Wreck
I remembered how underwhelmed I was with Al Gore, how I told myself I would vote for him but not send him money, not work for his campaign. Hated that Tipper, the simpy wife turned music critic, who railed against the debauchery of rock and roll. Al was too careful. A stiff mannequin. Too timid to let Big Bill campaign for him. Voting for him was like drinking lukewarm tea. When Florida happened, when the f***ing Supreme Court decided to stop the recount and give it to Bush, I learned a lesson. Since then, even if “meh”, I will always do everything possible to get the Democrat into office. Because the Republican option is so much worse. 9/11 worse. Two wars worse. Torture and jihad worse. Starting a great depression worse. Definitely worse.
Bush 2004 taught us that if the election is close, the Republicans have ways to fudge the results. Diebold machines that went wonky and made your D vote change to an R in Ohio. Mysterious power outages in “certain neighborhoods” on election day. Conspiracy theories? Without proof they are easily dismissed as such. But “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, uh, uh…..you can’t get fooled again,” as Dubya said.
During the Bush years the rules of political punditry changed. Here’s how it happened: mainstream and center left cable news got some well credentialed, reasonable and well educated pundits on to discuss politics, and they would bring in someone from the far right to argue “the other side”. They found commentators from the Washington Times, the paper started by the Moonies; from shock jock radio stations; and think tanks started by Goldwater Republicans and the John Birch Society. Years of network news, CNN and MSNBC trying to be balanced journalists and Fox News feeling no such compunction. Rupert Murdoch wanted entertainment, not news. After a couple of years an online liberal group started that asked people to count the lies on Fox news each day. This finally fell apart after people couldn’t keep up with the falsehoods. They definitely earned the nickname “Faux News” — so ironic now that Trump says CNN is fake. Because when CNN and MSNBC played fair and discussed both sides of an argument, the conversation skewed ever further to the right.
Cable news was in the can for Hillary during the primary. CNN was in the can for her. MSNBC was in the can for her. Rachel was even in the can for her. Oh, Rachel, how could you betray me like that? Cable news accused Bernie of wrecking Hillary’s chances. Older more centrist friends accused me of wanting to see Trump get elected. As if supporting Bernie, as if Bernie not conceding and just giving the nomination to her was going to pull her down. I said, “If Hillary is our candidate, Trump will win.” Not that I wanted that, but she was only slightly more inspirational than Al Gore’s lukewarm tea. And I knew Millennials wouldn’t vote for her. They were suspicious of her pandering, her situational ethics, her heavy years of baggage, of bad PR, whether deserved or not. They wanted to be inspired by their candidate, to be able to admire them. Not loyal to a brand, to a party. They picked Bernie. They did not pick Hillary.
Cable news sustained me during the Bush years. It was a good source of information during Obama’s years, mostly. During the 2016 election cable news copped out. TV loved Trump. Les Moonves, in a fit of honesty, said that Trump might be bad for the country but he was great for CBS. None of them could stop swallowing Trump’s bait every day.
I learned new terms from this election; “Speed Lying”, “Bird in the Mirror”, “Alt Right”. Some kind of weird brainwashing rays exuded from the TV set. An unstoppable torrent of yammering, shrill, mean voices proclaimed impossible, patently false statements so frequently that the moderators sat stunned and glassy eyed, unable to respond. And I sat paralyzed, unable to turn off the set or walk away.
I started worrying when Trump wouldn’t stop praising Putin. Something smelled. Why is it that the people see these things so much sooner than the media? Crafty old KGB head knew something about spy craft and manipulation. The fix was definitely in when Giuliani couldn’t stop grinning, even though Trump’s numbers were in the toilet. He said he “knew” that there was a game-changer, he had friends in the FBI that said something was coming. Yes. A coup.
Good Thing I’m Sick
I gladly worked for Bernie, spent too much money supporting his campaign. When Hillary got the nomination, however she did, I only sulked for a couple of weeks. Then I sent her money and started campaigning for her, lesson learned from Bush v. Gore. So I swallowed my anger and went to call. Each day I went the voting software was scrambled and all the calls from previous days were wiped out. People were getting multiple calls from us a day. We were calling disconnected numbers again and again. Usually friendly people were yelling at us over the phone to stop calling them. Turned out the voting system had been hacked. Once it happened in Michigan it started happening all over the country. Trying to stay motivated I came back three times to try to make the get-out-the-vote calls. Finally I couldn’t stomach it and quit going to the campaign headquarters.
Three days before the election I caught the flu. It kicked my butt so badly all I could do was drag myself to the recliner for a couple of hours a day to watch the speed liars and their bizarro world depictions of reality. It was hard to care, because I felt like crap. So when election day arrived and the results came in it couldn’t really get worse. Good thing I was sick.
Zee got used to me shouting at the TV that he insisted on watching. When I was in the room and more details oozed out about Putin or the FBI I would stomp around the room and yell. “The election was stolen!”, “It was hacked!” “Russia committed war crimes!” “Why isn’t anyone doing anything?” The TV tortured me by parading gleeful Republicans that smirked and said “Get over it” and called us sore losers. Rubbed their hands together and snickered like vaudeville villains.
Get On the Bus
In a serial nightmare I was rounded up in the back of a pickup in the style of ISIS, Al-Shabaab, or Boko Haram. Men with rifles and checkered wool jackets in the cab, and two riding in the back, jammed in with a numb and cowering group of women. No men or children to be seen. Inside some kind of compound, all of us were wearing long, drab heavy dresses in Branch Dravidian high fundamentalist style. Our hair in scarves like babushkas. We were warned by our sisters not to look them in the eye, not to sass. “Do what they say.” “Don’t think about what happened. “ “Just keep your head down.” No hope of escape.
After a few nights I would go to bed anticipating what might happen next. I was trapped in my own “Handmaid’s Tale.” I never found out if I was a Martha or a Handmaid. That book gave me nightmares for years when I read three quarters of the way through back when, and could never finish it, it scared me so. Damn Margaret Atwood anyway.
There couldn’t be enough valium or whiskey to numb this dread, so I didn’t even try. I tried binge watching sci-fi and Disney movies. Meditation and thinking about Buddhism helped, but reality kept creeping in. I had to do something. In my practice I often help people out of existential dread and on to effective coping by telling a story out of the cold war. It’s about little Johnny, the only one in his Kindergarten class that doesn’t raise his hand when the teacher asks if children are afraid of the atom bomb. Johnny explains he isn’t afraid because his parents work very hard to “Ban the Bomb”, so he knows it’s going to be all right. If you teach it, you have to follow your own advice. I had to take action.
The week before, fb posted something about a Million Women’s March in Washington planned for the day after the inauguration. Some local women were trying to get a bus to go. I still hoped that Obama would come out and say, ”After investigation determined that Trump colluded with Putin and members of the FBI, the results of the 2016 election are nullified and the perpetrators of this attempted coup are to be tried for treason.” I guess Obama was tired of relentless opposition and just wanted a rest. For a while I tried to will myself ala string theory, holographic universe style, into the alternate reality where the Dems won. Zee kept popping my balloon when I brought any of this up. I knew on some level it wouldn’t happen but I wanted it anyway.
After a long, sweaty night, dry eyeballs, peeks at the clock, each time an hour later, I finally fell asleep at 6 am. When the alarm went off at 7 I tore myself from bed and said to Zee, “I have to go to Washington.” “Okay, do what you have to do”, he replied. I give him props for patience. Three weeks later, through a series of fortunate events, I got a seat on a bus to go the Women’s March on Washington.
The bus ride could have been smoother, it could have been more comfortable, but it could not have been more convivial. The only thing we did not do was sing. We shared food, we shared news, we shared chargers and deodorant and toothpaste. We smelled each other’s body odors. A woman behind me ate a disgusting something with broccoli in it and I had to breathe through my mouth until she finished. We bird-bathed in truck stop sinks and changed in bathroom stalls. Each time we stopped, all through the night, we saw more and more busses full of bleary eyed but cheerful people, all ages, more women than men, wearing sweatshirts that said Lawrence, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, Des Moines. In the middle of the night the bus we were caravanning with overheated and for a couple of hours we fretted that we weren’t going to make it. Somehow, with chewing gum and baling wire, the drivers fixed the engine. Onward toward the Capital!
We were supposed to be dropped off at Central Station. The driver, anticipating crowds from what we now know were in the longest bus caravans in history, told the bus captain that we needed to be dropped off at the end of the line, the furthest out stop of the DC Metro. So we were dropped at the Shady Grove metro station in Maryland. We disembarked amid a sea of pink pussy hats and signs, chatter and smiles. And long, long, long lines. Everyone was exhausted from unknown hours of bus fumes, crinked necks, and stiff joints but excited and full of anticipation.
Four of us made a pact to stay together, the four musketeers. There is no way a larger group could have stayed together. By the time we got to the capital people were sidling past each other to order to move at all. We stood shoulder to shoulder and sidled along to try to get to the speakers. Sometimes waves of the crowd squeezed us and I thought of stories of surges crushing people, of trampling and suffocation. I lobbied the group to get further from the center and to an area where there was some room between bodies. Where we stood we could hear none of the speakers, saw no one else from Michigan, no one we knew at all. We could only see a tiny bit of the giant screen at the center of the rally through tree branches.
People were perched in the branches of most of the trees, and up on light poles. Some had megaphones, and were leading chants. But we couldn’t hear them. We could only hear the roar of the crowd. People said to one another, “This is the beginning.” “It’s only the beginning.” “We can’t let this end here.” Periodically a roar would start from one end of the crowd and go through. When it got to us we would yell until our lungs were empty. Later I realized why it felt familiar. It was the ululation of triumph and community. A war yell.
So many clever signs. People in wheel chairs. Signs in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish. So many different languages spoken. So many different ethnicities, races. Men, trannies, women, children, elderly. Lots of people wearing rainbow capes. So many young girls, jumping with excitement. A group of girls in pink tutus, ages 3 to tween sang a song about their bodies being their own, complete with dance moves. Another group of girls, sisters, started a chant, “We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter”. Families snaked through the crowd, obviously related, three, four generations, holding hands so they wouldn’t get separated.
Later on I found out what had happened. Why, after the march had been delayed nearly an hour, a chant started, “Let us march!” The march was at least 500,000 people strong by 1:00, when the march was supposed to begin. All the streets were filled with people. Crowds were still streaming in: those who had been stranded because the traffic jams on the highways did not allow their busses through; those who could not get in with their cars; those who could not get on the metro. They were walking in, making their way in even if it meant abandoning busses and cars on the highway. Numbers swelled to upward of 800,000 people. The organizers were told it had to be a rally, there were too many people to march. But we couldn’t hear them. As a part of that mass a feeling grew in all of us. We were connected, united, one huge body. And then it felt like we had to march. People started streaming past us from the rally. We asked what was happening. “We’re marching! Go to the Monument”, they said. We were more than each one of us, and more than the massive crowd. The mass of humans became a movement. It grew a brain. It moved. We marched.
Only the Beginning
On the way back we gathered emails and made promises to organize and make this sacrifice mean something. Sunday night, home at last, I joined 60,000 people on an emergency organizing call by Move On, Indivisible and Working Families. A structure and some actions were outlined. By Tuesday UP Women Indivisible was born and 30 people visited Gary Peters’ Marquette office. Some were from the buses; some weren’t. By the next Sunday, 110 people gathered at Black Rocks Brewery Plant and started a UP-wide resistance movement. A long list of newly formed groups and existing organizations are members. UP Women Indivisible merged with other Indivisibles and various other groups to become Rise UP! In two weeks the Rise UP! membership grew to over one hundred people. It continues to add members exponentially and daily. It now spans the entire Upper Peninsula. Rationale for the movement lies in the Solidarity movement of Poland, in the movements for liberty in the Middle East, in Africa, in Central Europe. In the face of tyranny we hang together or we hang alone.
In that spirit, here are some upcoming local events! Add your own in comments.
- MoveOn’s Resistance Recess!
Dear MoveOn member,
Next week is the first congressional recess of Donald Trump’s presidency—and for many of us, it will be the first opportunity to speak directly with our members of Congress.
That’s why MoveOn, Daily Kos, Indivisible, and other groups across the progressive movement are launching a huge effort called The Resistance Recess. Together, we will make sure that members of Congress and the media hear that Americans won’t tolerate the Trump Republican agenda, including attacks on our health care.
Here’s how it will work:
- We will show up at our elected officials’ events, town halls, and other public appearances to demand answers to the questions that we, their constituents, deserve to have answered—from whether our members of Congress will pledge to protect and improve our health care (instead of stripping it from millions of Americans) to how they will stop the unconstitutional actions of the White House.
- We will make it clear to Republicans that the Trump administration’s dangerous policies are completely unacceptable—and that we won’t let these attacks on health care, our communities, and our democracy occur unanswered. If Republicans put themselves on the wrong side of history, we will hold them accountable.
- We will make it clear to Democrats that progressives demand full-on resistance to Trump’s agenda. That means fighting for an immediate, independent investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, rejecting his Supreme Court nominee, working to overturn his racist and xenophobic attacks on immigrants, and using every available tool to block his toxic agenda that would bankrupt our nation and divide our communities for the benefit of billionaires and corporations. Although some Democrats are starting to stand up, we need all Democrats to catch up to the resistance in the streets and do their part in this unprecedented moment.
- And if lawmakers refuse to hold public events for their constituents, we will hold our own. Some lawmakers are trying to wiggle out of holding town halls or other public appearances. When that happens, we will hold “constituent town halls” to highlight to the public and the media the lawmakers who won’t even meet with their constituents.
We need you next week! But according to our records, there isn’t a Resistance Recess meeting close to you yet. Can you post an event, so we can invite other constituents in your area? Here’s how:
First, double-check to see if there’s an event near you. (It’s possible that event has just been added, or that we don’t have your full address.) Click here now to see if there’s a local Resistance Recess event targeting your member of Congress.
- If YES, they say that they are holding a town hall or office hours, submit the details here, and we will invite nearby MoveOn members who are constituents to join you there.
- If you discover that NO, your members of Congress are not hosting a town hall within a reasonable distance from you, you can host a constituent town hall—an event that constituents hold to have their voices heard and highlight their lawmakers’ lack of a formal town hall. A constituent town hall is a great way to get media attention and highlight that your lawmaker is avoiding constituents during the congressional recess! Here’s how to host one:
- Find a location—like a library, event space, or even outside a member of Congress’ district office—and pick a time and date.
- Invite your member of Congress.
- Click here to post your event on ResistanceRecess.com, and MoveOn and partner groups will invite fellow constituents.
- Put together an agenda and let the media know.
- Check out our materials page for all the guides and information you need to plan an event.
- Have an awesome event!
Since the election, we’ve seen a beautiful and powerful surge of grassroots energy. Every week, we’ve seen rallies across the country pushing back on Trump’s nominees and the Republican agenda, demanding that Democrats show spine, and defending frontline communities.
We know that our efforts are working. Democrats have begun to stand up, working to block the members of Trump’s #SwampCabinet. Republicans have started to abandon their own plans to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans. And now officials in both parties are recognizing the dangerous and potentially unconstitutional actions of Trump and his team with regards to national security.
But we need to keep the pressure on. Next week’s recess is our biggest opportunity yet to make sure that Republicans who side with Trump are held accountable and that Democrats understand that using every single tool at their disposal to block Trump’s toxic agenda is not just justified, but absolutely necessary for our democracy—and our most cherished values—to survive the Trump era.
Thanks for all you do.
—Katharine, Gabriela, Manny, Victoria, and the rest of the team
2. A Town Hall Meeting on Cutting-and-Running from Obamacare; Invited Guest: Rep. Darrell Issa!
|Attend this Emergency Town Hall Meeting to ask Congressman Issa to fight for our healthcare|
Join us to learn and speak out against the reckless plan to repeal healthcare coverage and protections with no serious replacement.
The graphic for the event is at the top of this post; here’s the (textual) rest of it:
This, despite its unusual length, IS your Weekend Open Thread. Talk about that or whatever else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of discretion and decorum.