I'm from small-town Idaho. When I arrived at my first political rally in Berkeley, Calif., in 1983, I was overcome by the intensity of so many bodies marching and so many voices chanting in unison. My first instinct was to step out, return to a reality of separateness and my Idaho bias toward independence and individual power. My first rally freaked me out.
But I learned by attending rallies. I'd stand in the crowd knowing no one and listen to the speakers. Farmworker rights, wars in Central America, pushing our university to divest from the racist South African apartheid government. I walked miles to support striking dock workers and oppose nuclear weapons labs. I stood in fields south of the Bay in the sun. I stood with young black men beaten with billy clubs on San Francisco streets. I grew brave. In 1985, I joined a sit-in blocking entrance to an administration building. I was one of 38 arrested and locked in the campus jail. It was not hard time. I was able to ask for books to study. I went to court. My dad paid my fines. Hundreds more were arrested and I watched a protest movement unfurl, weakening support for a government half a world away.
Resistance isn't complex. It's a matter of people voting with their bodies when they're given no voting booth. It's what we buy, where we go, who we inspire, what we write or sing or do to create a voice for those without one. We can block streets, gas pumps, shut down buildings, freeways, government functions—peacefully, if we're determined and organized. Power is nothing but people's willingness to believe they're not alone.
Contemplate the power of those who roll—those whose legs are wheels with motors or muscled arms. From this president mocking a reporter to Betsy DeVos' refusal to say she'd protect the right of students with disabilities to learn alongside their peers, I've held in my heart images of wheelchairs descending on D.C., shutting it down. When I think of the Dietrich case or our state's refusal to respect the complexities and fundamental necessity of mental and physical health care and the independence of people with disabilities, I think of wheelchairs filling the halls of the House, the Senate or the courts—so no one can move.
This is resistance. It's the power we hold in numbers. It's the power of our compassion and willingness to use our bodies to advocate for each other when the time comes.
Today, Congress is a sea of old white men who live in large houses. It's not a sea of faces that looks much like America. It should be. Democracy won't function until it is.
Elections are not one-day events. They're long and grueling hauls toward a day when progress is measured. Political money only buys the ability to pay businesses to do what ordinary skilled and unskilled people volunteering a day or an evening each week can do better. To win elections here and in other hard places it'll take movements—whole segments of the population becoming involved, going to neighborhoods and small towns, knocking on doors, making calls, investing their bodies and their money in the work of electing real people to office. What matters more?
This budding era of protest is striking. Six thousand women in the Boise streets. People meeting in synagogues and living rooms. Supporters of public lands rallying against selling the wild for subdivisions and fences—even they showed up in the thousands.
We're in different times. The powerful must gauge daily what they'll get away with, what outrage might spill over into their voting base, what level of dissent will bleed onto the pages of conservative papers making them look cruel or corrupt. Daily now, they have to measure how many more people will rise to become engaged as each passing week brings more people closer to the ground zero of damage inflicted by this administration.
The battle lines have been expanding: women, especially those with experience as targets of sexual assault or harassment and those who rely on Planned Parenthood for medical care; adherents to faiths outside the Christian fundamentalist bloc; the otherwise able; those of Mexican or Middle Eastern descent; the undocumented and green card holders, their family members and employers; gay and transgender people and Republican parents of transgender kids; black communities waiting for progress against racial profiling and police brutality; scientists; those reliant on public schools, including teachers; and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Who's left on that tiny island of supporters huddled around the oozing poison that is this White House and its powder keg of a president?
Resistance will be different in every household and in every person's mind; but, in Boise, as everywhere, it's for us to make—it's for our minds to invent and our bodies to make real. Show up. Invite. Whisper and plan. Everywhere, gather, decide what matters and how to make it count. When the big things come down, be there. Listen for the call. Pull others from armchairs and office desks. Resistance happens with our bodies. It's never too late to show up, to decide to engage.
I'll see you there when I'm voting, voicing my opinion with my body. Let us together be the sea, you and I. Let's go.