Break’s Over: My Big League Personal Plan to Fix Everything in Rural Iowa and Indeed, The World
All right, it’s been about 10 days since the figurative shit hit the metaphorical giant wind tunnel fan and got chopped up and sprayed everywhere like that guy in that super early episode of X-Files with the twins and the star stickers. Most of the (like, hundreds) of folks I know who are liberal have proceeded, at different paces, through the stages of grief. I was in the panic paralysis stage for about 4 days. The protracted “fuck everything” mixed state of anger+despair lasted awhile longer, and was enhanced by a soupçon of personal life bullshit just to make things seem extra doomy.
I met with my friends, I cried a lot, I didn’t relapse, and I started organizing. I listened to Rachel Maddow on Friday for the first time since Election Day and read my first WaPo article. If Bobby damn Kaufmann hadn’t got all worked up, the worst of the chaos would have worked itself out without the need for idiotic, poorly named laws. I’m ready now, I think, to say the stuff I’m planning to do.
Start with the state
The state is where oppression starts and where it ends. State’s where Buttercup laws get introduced and actually have a chance of being passed. State’s where it takes a protracted judicial process to get those Buttercup (or worse) laws overturned.
State’s also where integration starts years in advance if others, where pot becomes legal and so does marrying the person of your choice. State’s where mental health care, education funding, and justice reform will all have to happen.
State’s where it’s at.
So I’m starting with the state: the legislature and my governor, riding their asses about everything. Our legislature is basically all Republican but that doesn’t mean I can’t make their lives awful. If they want to disenfranchise our people — and I do include the rural communities here — they can do it with my shrill harpy pantsuit wearing voice reasonably imploring them to change their minds using common principles of human decency, the golden rule, basic patriotic principles, lessons from history and badass righteousness.
Make some friends
That said, I don’t live in Des Moines and I only have 1 representative (my senator is a Dem, I’m not messing with him unless he pisses me off). I gotta do more in my community, county, and state district to fix whatever it is that made us have an Internet flame war in real life.
I need to talk to people in small ass towns that are far away. Like, I live in a small town, but I’m not out there. I don’t know what’s out there. That’s dumb. I’m going to go with my gut feeling that most people aren’t inherently evil, and therefore I can, hopefully, as a reasonable, friendly, articulate white lady with a personal history that includes having been broke and on the debt hamster wheel; addiction; mental health issues; and a healthy appreciation for Casey’s and DQ, connect. I lived in the south, which messed me up but also gave me a sense of how to navigate potentially hostile waters without lying or crying and WITH humor and friendliness. I might be good at the talking part.
Getting hyper-reticent Iowans to talk….. ok I’ll work on that part, gah.
Gotta use my skills. Gotta teach newcomers how to take their energy and put it to use, otherwise we’ll blow all the rubber on the tires with a burnout. Gotta listen a lot and teach people some history without being an asshole.
I don’t consider myself particularly advanced when it comes to political “work” (work because it’s hard and boring, but not work because I do it for free), but compared to almost everyone else I know a lot. Quantifiably, I’ve done a lot, and given my inherent teacherish ways, I can’t not teach some women to fish. I know how to write a sample letter to a legislator. I know how to ask a question at a public forum effectively and without puking. I know where to find stuff and who to talk to.
I also Need fill some people in on how a bit of history can help us make sense of now and get over some of our collective issues. Even old white dudes who think I’m a walking stereotype-maybe especially them.
Once, in a big fight, my husband asked me what I was more interested in: being right or preserving our relationship? I ask myself that question all the time. It’s possible to do both of course, and to compromise without violating your conscience or the lives and rights of others. But we gotta preserve the relationship. It’s no fun being right but divorced, or right but dead.
At least, as a white woman in a white town and state with some shared experiences and a willingness to dialogue, the best use of my talent and time for the betterment of society and to protect us from the horror clown is to work with white people to fix things back and forth. Or at least give it a serious try.
I will also support all the dissenters, shit-stirrer-uppers, protesters, marchers, artists, and civilly disobedient. Those patriots engaging in the most American thing of all: using voice and action to expand freedom without trampling the rights or safety of others. I will listen with my big ears to all of my POC, LGBTQ, immigrant, non-Christian, women and disabled friends and neighbors. I won’t be able to reconcile it all into one coherent and all-encompassing philosophy of activism but I will listen.
That said, I will NOT FEED THE TROLLS.
I don’t know how I’m going to do this, exactly, but I believe it incumbent upon anyone inclined to any kind of social justice or political activism right now should start thinking about how we’re gonna step up. Everyone agrees we have a very shallow bench in the IDP, that we need new young leaders, and in Iowa and in politics, people with grating temples are considered young. I think we should all considered ourselves called to service. City council, school board; hell, after this year I vould credibly run for President. I’m also hassling my friends about this and emailing them info about offices and advisory boards they never asked me to send.
Iowa Starting Line is kicking ass and taking names with a series of dense and intelligent analyses of what the IDP must do next. This article written by two people high-up in both the Bernie and Hillary camps in Iowa during the primaries, nails it.
What are you doing?