Love Army–One Soldier at a Time

She comes into my office. Slight build, long brown hair, brown eyes. Sanja (not her real name) is about forty years old. A second generation Indian (as in from India). She married a man she met in college and has two children, six and nine. This is our intake session and all I know before she comes in is that she’s feeling depressed and doesn’t know why.

As we talk, I find out that she has a job working fifty hours a week at a tech company and that she volunteers for her daughter’s Girl Scout troupe. At lunch, she dashes to the gym for thirty minutes on the treadmill, and on the weekends she works on a project for #LoveArmy and their Green for All initiative.

I listen for the better part of a half hour with part admiration for how completely Sanja lives into her personal value system and part guilt that only this year did I realize that single-use plastics like straws and picnic cutlery were a major hazard to our environment. Sanja’s household is almost at zero waste. She plays a game with her children to keep plastic out of the house. “Plastic out of the house is money out of the hands of polluters,” she says. “Then she says, “I’ve been working on this stuff for two years, but since the election I feel completely defeated.” And she starts to cry.

I sit across from her in my small therapy room. The sun is coming in the window at an angle so it hits me right in the eyes, but I resist getting up to fix the blinds. I want to hold space for her pain. Which is also my pain.

She goes on to describe her fears and how she feels like giving up on saving the planet, but how when she looks at her children she knows she has to keep moving forward even when she doesn’t feel hopeful, I start to well up too. A tear escapes, and I blot it away with the knuckle of my forefinger.

Sanja isn’t the first terrified client crying in my office over the election. Since my job is to hold space for clients, to let them sort through the triggers and pain in their lives by offering them supportive reflections and questions, I try to never let my own political cat out of the bag. But I find it so hard nowadays. I find it hard sitting with Sanja, someone who has lived her life for years in a state of conscious intention, believing she could make a difference.

“It’s no small thing to feel hope slip away, is it?” I reflect. “I’m sure that’s contributing to your depression.”

“No, this whole thing isn’t small at all. I know you can’t do anything about the big picture,” she stares out the window for a moment. “I guess I’m hoping someone can help me hang on to my faith.”

I nod. I don’t have any confidence at all that I can help her with that. My work since the election has been difficult. Not since 9-11 have I had so many clients in my office talking about world events as their major stressors. “I’ll try,” I say. “At least I can help you learn a new relationship with fear and frustration. Maybe if they don’t feel as unmanageable and overwhelming, you can see your faith through the fog.” Even as I say it, I can only hope it’s true.

We make another appointment, and I walk her back to the waiting room to say goodbye. “I feel a little lighter,” she says as she walks out the door. “Thank you.”

“It’s my privilege,” I say. And I mean it.

I go back into my office and adjust the blinds I resisted adjusting before. I think about how I should recycle more. I should march more. I should call my elected officials more.

I have a half hour before my next client. I heat up my lunch and pull out my new bamboo utensils to eat it with. I pop open my computer and Google Love Army.

“We need all hands on deck fighting for the future.” –Van Jones, founder of #LoveArmy

 

Cami Ostman is co-founder of the Red Wheelbarrow Writers and Director of Memory into Memoir, a program that gives writers everything they need to get their books done. She is author of Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents and Co-editor of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. You can find her at camiostman.net.

Pick Up That Tire Iron and Get This Rig Back On the Road

by Scott Swanson

From the introduction to Matt Taibbi’s Insane Clown President: “Yes, D_____ T_____’s* campaign was massively fueled by racism and xenophobia. But racism and hatred and fear of foreigners were not irreconcilable with hatred of the arrogant establishment that controlled major-party politics. Many voters out there hated both, and some hated the latter with the heat of a thousand suns.”

I guess you all saw the man with the T____* flag at the Bellingham Women’s March. Who was that guy? One of those “stupid redneck” types that Bill Maher likes to defame, a low-information, uneducated voter as defined by pundits and pollsters?

Again from Taibbi, in describing these people: “They can’t stand the book-smart college types who making cushy livings pushing words around… in professions that reward people who in real life need to call AAA to change a tire.”

Matt is quick to acknowledge his own surprise when Republicans swept the board, placing himself among what he calls “America’s population of Otherwise Smart People” who were stunned by the Democrat’s loss. He lays the blame on unwitting collusion between party hacks and the media, their absorption with polls and TV ratings that bolstered their bottom lines. But the Talking Heads aren’t the only reason the T____* campaign succeeded. Years of resentment and pent-up frustration propelled the desire for change, blue collar workers fed up with the bullshit that T____* called “political correctness”, enough to ignore the rhetoric of hatred they saw as just more of the same.

How they could do that, I do not know, but it serves to illustrate the depth of investment they shouldered in rolling the dice, if indeed they were betting on T____* at all, and not against Hillary Clinton. I didn’t vote for the Clintons myself, though I’m sure for different reasons. Did the flag waver know of the welfare reforms that threw millions of children into poverty? Or the Crime Bill that incarcerated thousands of black men, giving rise to for-profit prisons? Probably not, but he wouldn’t have had to; he might have just looked at his paycheck. Through Reagan, Clinton, the Bushes and Obama, wages have flat-lined and factories closed while wealth inequality soared. Since 1975, in fact, as the costs of living grew.

Not every T____* voter waves a flag or beats up people at rallies. Many had voted for Obama in the past, and might well have voted for Bernie. So they’re not all that different from you and me; at least me, whose collar is blue. I’ve sat with them in crew buses and crowded lunch trailers from the foothills clearcuts to Cherry Point. I’ve worked with them, laughed with them, and shared their smokes as well as their disillusionment. I too petitioned with my boots in the day, ducked not a few billy clubs. But I’ve traded my sandals for Redwings and corks and I’ve walked several miles in those shoes, and I’ve changed a few tires over the years, though I still like to push words around. So I’m all for marching and raising my voice, but I’m leery of what I might say.

Few can imagine the scale of betrayal that some T____* supporters must feel: the collusion with Russia, the corporate coup, the Wizard revealed as a conman. What will happen if The Donald goes down? Will the anger just go away? I doubt it. If anything it will just grow stronger as more flags are waved in frustration. If you’re still on the fence in this culture war – or Wall, if you prefer – then get off it, mingle, and open your mind as to why many drank the Orange Koolaid. We Otherwise Smart People would do well to heed the heat of a thousand suns. So pick up a tire iron once in a while, and get this rig back on the road.

*One of the rules of our Resistance Writing blog is that He Who Shall Not be Named, shall not be named, so his name has been redacted and replace with underlines (the editor)

Author’s Bio

Scott Swanson is a building contractor who has lived in Glacier for 45 years. He’s worked in logging, the oil industry, and commercial construction in the Carpenter’s Union. He recently self published a story on Kindle Ebooks named “Philly’s Bridge”, which oddly enough has to do with “resistance”. Another title, “Whose Woods These Are”, is currently in the works. Many thanks to Andrea Gabriel and Kari Neumeyer for their help in that endeavor.

Determination

by Diana Dodd

I have a photograph of a small bird that has in the grasp of its claws two separate pieces of pond grass. One leg is extended to the right and the other to the left, and then it is leaning forward to get a sip of water. That is what I call determination.

Determination does not come easily. It requires careful thought and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to reach a goal. In the realm of resistance, determination is key, because there will be times when the resistance succeeds and times when it fails. How many times did the bird attempt his trial of derring do before he achieved the fine balance that brought him success. It is easy, as time goes by and more and more happens in our country, to lose sight of the fierce resolve we might have felt on election night.

In order for the bird to balance on the moment the picture was snapped were all the times that the grass gave way or he misjudged the distance to the goal of the water and he shook his head to clear it off, and try another route. There are many ways to resist. We can support candidates both local and state when the option arises or even consider trying to serve in public office ourselves. We can write to our legislators both state and federal to protect the things we hold dear. We can promote organizations that assist those whose rights are in jeopardy. And on top of this, we must vote.

This first 100 days of the president’s term have been like a constant barrage and as confusing as being in the throes of battle. It can be hard to see what is happening when so much mud is thrown in the water. We must remain vigilant and informed. If a small bird can find the balance in his life, we can find the balance in ours and the determination to stay in the resistance.

An Authentic Hero: My Rant on Resistance

 

by Jon Shaunessy

I don’t expect much from anyone any more.

I spent most of my life organizing people to stand up for something, almost anything, they could believe in, something greater and more important than themselves.

I retired from trying to make a living at it but found it impossible to quit completely. So I tried to find something simple, low key, and that wouldn’t matter too much if I [once again] failed miserably at changing anything:

What could possibly go wrong?

It was 2014 and, while climate change might eventually bring the human race to an early extinction, that was way off in the future and everything seemed to have its ups and downs and maybes. Al Gore had made it into a hit movie and no one asked him about it anymore.

I could dabble. I could take my time. No one would notice if I got nothing done for a few years or a few decades. At age 66 I only had a few decades left, so . . .

What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, back in my home town, a little college town in the upper left hand corner, they started building the biggest “luxury college dorm” the town had ever seen. The most grotesque, bloated, monument to hubris money could buy.

And only one man stood in their way.

But he’s not the hero.

But I helped him stand in the way because I thought maybe building huge projects in the middle of narrow streets and tiny apartments and condos would make a bad climate situation worse.

And no one else really cared. And the local papers, daily and weakly, looked the other way. And neighborhood groups stayed focused on neighborhood issues. Global issues had nothing to do with local people.

And then the phone rang.

Someone [let’s call her KLH because those aren’t really her initials and she doesn’t really want anyone to know her name] called me up, out of the blue, to ask if anything could be done to STOP THAT

GOD

DAMNED

NOISE!

She seemed to think that she, mere tenant, a mere college kid, had certain inalienable rights, equal to those of two billionaires living comfortably in a sunnier state in the same union.

Those God damned machines at that too fucking big project triggered symptoms of her PTSD* condition in 2015, before she ever heard them, before they moved their first cubic yard of dirt out of the way and into the dump trucks.

Feel it in her bones, ringing in her head.

Which she refused to ignore, refused to shut up and go away, like everyone else would. She would stand her ground while others drifted away. She would speak truth to power when no one else was listening. Just as she still does to this day.

Just as her sister, Joan, a simple farm girl in France in 1425, seeing and feeling visions that would save her nation but not her life, was labeled a crazy witch for acting on her feelings. They knew where she bivouacked and they knew what to do.

Or her sister, Rosa, in Montgomery, who just sat in her bus in 1955 because she knew right from wrong. And she knew her rights and she knew that the Klan* knew her address.

And the older and wiser leaders of the local NAACP chapter may have looked at her the way most people may look at KLH today. Foolishly idealistic if not clinically insane for saying what she says and never really backing down, never really being as polite as she sometimes acts.

All I felt was blessed, probably the way MLK* felt about Rosa or the Dauphin of France felt about Joan before him.

Blessed with someone, anyone, who would stand up to anyone, anything to get what she wanted.

Wanted passionately for herself, but also for others, more than herself.

So it’s over, right?

There’s really nothing anyone can do about it, right?

So England will win the Hundred Year’s War, right?

And it’s still segregation forever, right?

And we will never, ever, STOP THAT

GOD

DAMNED

NOISE!

Right?

Author’s Bio:  Jon Shaughnessy is a climate care organizer who thinks most people will only take steps to prevent climate chaos if people who already care [and know how to write] improve the “messaging” of the global environmental movement. He has learned from personal experience that most people are concerned but don’t see or hear anything that speaks directly to their situation in the world. He has met many amazing heroes in his lifetime in many different walks of life, in many different struggles, and hopes to find more people like the subject of this essay before he dies. Most recently, he has been associated with Friends of Climate Care, which can be contacted at 360/671-0248 or redjon76@yahoo.com.

The Benefits of Being Wrong

by Barbara Clarke

We were in Best Buy looking to buy a laptop. But first, we were looking for a geek in the familiar blue shirt. “Someone who looks smart and won’t talk down to us,” we agreed.

“Hey, how’s it going?” said a non-geeky looking young guy. We started to walk past him—too cool sounding—we were serious! But, given that it was a late Sunday afternoon and a sales-associate desert, we stopped. Tony, by name, turned out to be so knowledgeable, kind, and so many other fine attributes we couldn’t wait to get home to send off our five-star reviews of him.

Later that night, thinking about writing this blog on resistance, it hit me. Wanting to be right is really a form of resistance—to being wrong. Or that middle place where you are kind of right, but short changing yourself by closing your mind too soon. And then my own examples began to pour out of me. All of the times I had been so sure and had missed out on—well, life.

Here are a few of the costs and benefits of being wrong:

  • This is going to take too long or an even better one—a very long time—so why start? It can run the gamut of a long line for coffee at 7:00 a.m. to signing up to start a memoir. I’m 90,000 words into my memoir—thanks, Cami and classmates!
  • This is going to be too hard. I don’t have the skill set, the training, and of course, the MFA. Everyone in the class will be way ahead of me, right? Wrong. We are all there to learn, whatever our training. When I think I’m simply not good enough or know enough, I lose out. If it were just negative thinking, I’d be more lenient, but this is pressure from me on me to not be caught wrong.
  • I’d like to attend an RWB gathering on Saturday, but I don’t know anyone, and when I picture myself there, my heart races like those “wall-flower moments” from my teen years. What if no one talks to me? Wrong, so, so wrong! I found my tribe. And they are very talkative.

I’ve been wrong on these occasions and many others, driving home with regret as my faithful companion. Now that I am writing a memoir and doing a lot of digging deeper, I found these personal sources of my need to be right—or resisting being wrong:

  • I grew up in Missouri—the “show me” state. A blessing and a curse. We are given a finally honed bollox detector, passed down through the generations. My homeland favors black and white, right and wrong—not so keen on the color gray where more surprises, more choice, and fun reside.
  • I don’t “get those people.” This is so prevalent in today’s post-T_____ election world. I worked in the healthcare racket for fifteen years and can’t tell you how many executives and doctors refer to their patients—especially the ones they blame for their illness—as those people. So now when I see variants of this on FaceBook and in the harsh comments after articles and posts, I cringe.
  • Rather than feeling so right(eous), I’d rather try for understanding. I may not wind up having “those people” in my circle of friends, but at least I don’t want to think of them as the enemy?* Since I’m flawed, seriously so at times, why can’t they be?
  • Being right sometimes—well, it feels good. But, having to make snap or hard-edged judgments, even in Best Buy, to overcompensate for own my insecurities, close my mind and heart to all that lives in the gray area—these are my losses.

I leave you with my favorite poet, Mary Oliver, who, whenever I’m lost or at a loss for an open heart, reminds me:

“Becoming keenly and consistently aware of what’s good, true, and beautiful demands a discipline: we must open our eyes, minds, and hearts, and keep them open.”

*One disclaimer to my compassion quest: my noble venture does not apply to so many politicians. They earn every bit of the resistance we can muster!

 

Author’s Bio:  Barbara Clarke works as a freelance grant writer and is extremely tardy posting to her blog www.thiscertainage.com . She is not tardy and working very hard on The Shape of the Brain, a memoir, and grateful for Memory into Memoir coming into her life. Her first memoir, Getting to Home: Sojourn in a Perfect House, was published in 2009. She uses Beckett’s “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” as her mantra and writing guide. www.barbaraclarke.net