Americans Go Offline, Embrace Neighborhood Democracy Movement
13: Practice corporeal politics
Power wants your body softening in your chair & your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends & march with them.
– Timothy Snyder – On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons
I believe the distributed micro-protest model Bryce Tache launched with #StandOnEveryCorner – a quickly growing national movement of people coming together to hold regular, peaceful, family-friendly protests in their own neighborhoods – has the potential to reach the highest office in the land. Below, I share what stepping away from the computer nearly every day to protest has meant to me, and how SOEC’s new website can help you tap into your own power as a citizen & neighbor. Skip to the end for the skinny on our website! And remember: the “standing” is metaphorical – people are protesting from chairs, wheelchairs and strollers!
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My first #StandOnEveryCorner protest was in Portland exactly one month ago, on July 15: the day before Helsinki.
I was exhausted. Still recovering from the national Families Belong Together rallies on June 30. Frankly, I was depressed. During the two weeks I’d spent on planning our Portland rally, more child abuses had come to light. Another Supreme Court seat had been negotiated while the Administration had several key cases pending before the Court – for which the retiring justice held the swing vote. His son was the President’s banker. It had become obvious Trump occupied the Presidency in part due to crimes committed in concert with a foreign adversary of the United States. News of corruption within the Cabinet broke multiple times a day. A secret meeting between Putin, who’d ordered the attack on our last election, and the candidate he had assisted – now himself America’s wannabe strongman – loomed over us all like a thundercloud. Republicans were silent.
I was appalled. I needed to speak out. Immediately. Organizing another big demonstration was impossible. I’d been following Bryce for a long time, and knew he’d begun daily protests on June 20. Suddenly, I needed to join. I tweeted a time and location, scrawled a sign saying “No more TREASON,” and walked over. I thought I’d be alone, but a stranger who’d seen my tweet was there! Most days since, one or both of us have been at our corner; others have come too
I was unsure, at first, what response we’d get. But in the real world, there are no paid bots, and the large majority of people are highly supportive: they honk, wave, stop to talk, give thumbs up, pump their fists, cheer, express gratitude and solidarity. That’s only increased over time. They offer concrete support: on a hot day, a girl brought us cold bottled water to say thank you. A neighbor walked over to discuss my Federalist 68 sign, and offered to make us some more. My next-door neighbor said we’d inspired her to volunteer for midterms. Yesterday a college student promised to get her friend registered to vote.
This form of protest fights gaslighting. When I saw all the support, that fog of lies, which had squatted unwelcome in my brain for months, dissipated like a marine layer exposed to a hot, sunny summer day. I felt it physically leave my body.
The new connection with my corner friend is probably the most important change: she offers me support and courage daily. We talk about our fears for our kids. We share ideas, commiserate, and discuss concrete action on local political developments like Occupy ICE, white supremacist gangs, bigots targeting LGBT Portlanders, and badly-needed reforms of the Portland police.
When white supremacist gangs announced they would be armed at “free speech” rally, we “buddied up” to attend the August 4 counter-protests by fellow anti-fascists. She also educates me daily: for example, she pointed out that South Korea’s “Candlelight Revolution” didn’t impeach its corrupt president after just one big protest. It took about 100 days of weekly vigils. But they won. We will too.
As a lawyer, I swore to uphold the rule of law – not one powerful individual – and the equality of all humans before that law. Our republic depends upon both. Both have been repeatedly assaulted over the past two years. I know from the history of fascism that the incremental gains we Americans have made over more than 240 years are not irreversible. The same history shows it takes decades – even generations – for a nation to recover from a turn to dictatorial power. I won’t let that be the future my child faces.
Without civic engagement, democracy falters and dies. The powerful effects I’ve experienced from #StandOnEveryCorner have taught me to see it as a key part of reawakening American civic engagement and fighting fascism. Our one corner has reached thousands of people. We register people to vote. I am now less isolated, more connected to my neighbors. If enough of us do this, we will be unstoppable. Try it out: don’t worry about doing anything but showing up with your sign. You don’t even need our website!
But, if you’d like to join others or make it a regular practice, check out www.standoneverycorner.com. We – @brycetache, @AshleySWeitz and I – wanted to stay true to the grassroots nature of this movement and keep it simple: help people connect with each other for weekly or daily corners. We’re so grateful to our developers, @dbggtt and @marccull, for spending late nights turning our nontechnical ideas into reality, and to Kate Sharaf and Amelia Nestler for content!
We aimed to make it as easy as possible for you to find nearby corners or start your own. Enter your city or zip code: if there is a nearby corner that works for your schedule, join up! If not, simply zoom in to your desired location, drop a pin, enter your information, decide on a convenient date and time, and submit! That’s it! Now make your sign, and show up for the magic. You won’t regret it.
We welcome your bug reports and suggestions as we refine the site. Note that we chose to focus on repeated events, but we love that this is a DIY movement: there are corners getting started on the spur of the moment, and we encourage that to continue! Every micro-protest – even just for one day – is so effective! You’ll reach dozens or hundreds each time, and when folks see you speak out, they’re inspired to do the same. Ripples spread.
Portland has been a national leader in this movement and now has more regular corners than any city in America. I feel energized by the steely look in folks’ eyes when I ask if they are registered to vote and they say “Yes – and I can’t wait.”
And I am reminded, once again, that the power does rest in us, the people. If we work nonstop for these 2018 elections. If we take a stand. Find your corner. [https://www.standoneverycorner.com]