Thoughts on Activism and Voting

I'm the same age as Hillary so I've been around a few years, and like her, I'm a mother and a grandmother of two toddlers but also two teenagers. One thing I’m certain of as a mother and grandmother is this is unequivocally one of the most important, if not the most important, elections of my lifetime. It's not important because of Hillary Clinton or even Donald Trump. No, it's a critical election because it's a battle for the very ideals and values we hold dear and to regain rights that are being diminished or stripped away. My greatest fear is that if we lose those rights, we may never regain them. This is not an election to trifle with or to sit out or to cast a protest vote for an ineffective candidate. And I have a good reason to be passionate about it.

Like Hillary Clinton, my mother was my most important influence, my beacon that guided me through my life and still does even though she's no longer with me except in spirit. We have a saying in my family, WWAD-- What Would Alyce Do. My mom Alyce was born in Oklahoma to parents who never went beyond the eighth grade. She grew up in a small New Mexico town of about 800 mostly white farmers. Her parents, in spite of very little education, owned a thriving little grocery store. Sometimes my grandmother didn't know what to do with my mother, who came home more than once with a bloody nose, her dress torn, or a cut or two. She was a fighter, a scrapper. She didn't back down from a bully, and she never backed down from defending what she believed in. Back in the 60's when she was a teacher, she forcefully pushed for a strike, something unheard of then and against New Mexico law. She couldn't gather enough support, but her resilience and courage on that day turned me into a warrior for justice.

This is what my mom taught me. She taught me to be a fighter--to stand up what I believe but to be certain I knew what I believed in. You keep fighting when others are trying to destroy you. You keep fighting when a win looks hopeless.  And even in the hours before her death, when I was sobbing beside her, she focused those crystal blue eyes on me, eyes that still had fire in them, and said, "Suck it up. I didn't spend my life raising weak daughters. I spent my life raising strong women."

In 1972, at the age of 24, I began taking on the white male establishment when I discovered my male counterpart in a job just like mine made a higher salary than I did. I came out of that battle pounded by abusive language and threats to ruin reputation by implying I was mentally unstable. And mind you, this was at a liberal arts university. I didn't win that day. I may have been bowed, and I may have lost, but I was not beaten. Since then I have looked more men in the eye and denounced their treatment of women than I care to remember. I've had men sit a bar and plot to ruin reputation and destroy my career because I told them in public to do their jobs and make their priorities about kids not themselves.

I made headlines in 1985 in the local newspaper in a very conservative community when I publicly supported abortion rights. Just try to imagine the vile abuse hurled my way in that redneck town. I've led protests and job actions. I've been on the front lines for change. When I was fighting to save children's lives from addiction, my life was threatened. My family and home were threatened. My mailbox was blown up as a warning that my house was next.  Do you know how many nights I was up all hours worrying if I was putting the lives of my daughters in harm's way?  But every day I got up and swallowed my fear and fought on. Rumors of my "corruption" swirled through the school district where I worked as Director of the Student Assistance program. You see, people were sure I  took kickbacks from treatment centers. Nearly 30 years later those rumors are still alive today even though I'm long gone.  Does my story sound familiar?

Whenever I have seen a problem in any community where I have lived, I've fought to make that community better. When I was on a local school board, I pushed and pushed for and got a student medical and mental health clinic at the high school. And because of that I was called a baby killer during a public forum. I, who had spent 35 years teaching and advocating for kids, was reduced to a “baby killer.”

I served on the board of a free mental health clinic and a citizens’ review board for Children, Youth, and Families. I’ve addressed legislatures, civic groups, churches, large forums and small.  I have trained teachers all over New Mexico and parts of the Southwest on strategies to help disadvantaged students and their families and most importantly, how to love the least lovable of their students and lift them up. I’ve implemented assistance programs in school districts other than my own so staff could identify and help struggling students. I’ve set up support groups for young victims of rape and incest, teenage mothers, and students with substance issues that were destroying them and their families, and I established support groups for their families. I have changed the climate in schools and communities.   Along the way,  just like Hillary, I’ve made mistakes and shown poor judgment.

As you can see, change is never, ever easy, and it is often accompanied by resistance and sabotage, hatred and betrayal. The rewards are few, but they are great, knowing that your activism made the lives of others better. But I’m no special snowflake, and that’s why I’m recounting my story. Millions of women share a similar story with me and have been in the trenches just like Hillary Clinton for decades. In spite of having had every conceivable assault and threat thrown our way and our integrity and character slandered, we still got up to fight every day, not just for our daughters and granddaughters and sons and grandsons but for the children of countless other mothers.

I'm an older woman who "has more yesterday's than tomorrow's." And here’s the thing--I don't want to die knowing my granddaughters can be imprisoned because they had an abortion. I don't want to die knowing my friend Neil might be gunned down by a cop who only sees the color of his skin. I don’t want to die knowing my friend Xiomara, who has a master's degree from a prestigious university, can only get a minimum wage job because she is a black woman. I don’t want to drive through another reservation or pueblo knowing the gut wrenching and heartbreaking poverty will never be addressed. I don't want to die knowing that the courageous Mr. And Mrs. Khan and the young soldier who lost his leg in battle will be deported because they mistakenly had faith in the First Amendment. I don’t want to hear my fellow New Mexicans diminished because their parents or they risked their very lives crossing the border to find something better. And I sure as hell don't want to see a wall built.

I don't want to see my family's lives destroyed by draconian economic policies or the air they breathe or the water they drink contaminated. Or see precious rights denied to my daughters and granddaughters or anyone else's. Or see my grandsons grow up thinking calling women cunts or bitches or pigs is acceptable. Or see my friends of color denied what is rightfully theirs. Because of those reasons and so many more, I implore all of my fellow liberals, progressives, and leftists to do more than vote for Hillary Clinton. I want you to campaign, donate your time and money, register voters, and organize. Educate yourselves about local and state elections, and then support progressive candidates like your lives depend on it because they do.

To the supporters of Bernie who aren't with her, I want to share with you what I know about activism. It’s hard work, damned hard work.  As you can see from my life,  your days may be filled with pain, tears, threats and assaults, but you must stay focused on your goals, your dreams, and your mission. You have to tame your disappointment, your fears, and yes, your anger. You must have the humility to accept the cause you are fighting for is not about you and your grievances. The cause must be about the principle, not the personality. At some point Bernie Sanders will disappoint you--he’ll cast a vote you don’t like, he’ll say something with which you disagree, he’ll turn down an invitation to a rally, or he’ll compromise. You need to let your leaders, and believe me, you’ll need them, rise up through the movement. That’s exactly why  you need articulate, passionate, and knowledgeable leaders. You don’t need leaders like the young woman I saw on national television who probably couldn’t even spell TPP, much less articulate the details of it. Don’t let the lure of celebrity allow those addicted to the spotlight appropriate your movement.

This is my most important piece of advice.  Don’t alienate your natural allies, people who want what you want, who share the same goals, values and ideals. Don’t denigrate those who have already traveled the road you're on. Don’t boo or ridicule men and women like John Lewis but tap into their wisdom and experiences. And organize and train, train, train.  Begin in your local communities and states. For example, pressure your city council to implement a higher minimum wage or your state legislature to do the same. Your numbers simply are not great enough to have the impact you need so you will need to win over those natural allies I referred to earlier. We who have been around for a while need your passion, your spirit, your energy and enthusiasm while you need our wisdom and our votes!

And that brings us back full circle. We need each other's votes. Don’t waste an opportunity to implement the most progressive platform ever--a platform for which Bernie and you fought so hard. Don’t waste your precious vote on Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or by sitting out the election because in the end all you will have is a pointless sense of self-righteousness and look at what you’ve lost--an opportunity to shape your own future.  There will come a time you will need our votes and our voices. It’s a fair trade--your vote for my vote.

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