I didn’t want to write this. I didn’t want there to be a need for me to write this. Like so many of you, the 64.2 million of you who voted against Trump, I’d much rather be directing my snark against the paltry federal minimum wage or our lack of paid maternity leave. In 2016, we shouldn’t have to be debating the proper terminology for Nazis. We shouldn’t wake up to news stories about swastikas painted on public property or women being grabbed by the p**sy. We shouldn’t have to demand that Trump “take a break” from his Twitter war with the cast of Hamilton to denounce the outward displays of misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and racism that are being committed in his name. And yet, here we are.
Overnight, our country went from one on the road toward equality for all residents to one where we would need to fight for our right to be Americans who aren’t all rich white men. On November 8, we went to sleep in terror, or in many cases didn’t sleep at all. On November 9, we awoke with a deep breath and a quiet unyielding anger.
We knew that we had a job to do.
In the days leading up to the election, supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders alike mingled in social media groups like Pantsuit Nation, discussing our Election Day attire and lamenting the lack of “I voted” stickers in our voting districts. On November 9, those same groups became breeding grounds for the progressive revolution that we hadn’t known we would need. Pantsuit Nation sprung from a secret Facebook refuge to a 501(c)3 movement with organization on the national, state, and local levels. Lawyers of the Left emerged as a rallying ground for progressives with legal credentials. Together, we organized our agendas, created action items, and reached out to like-minded progressives who were all terrified of what was to become of our nation. We had, and still have, our work cut out for us. And as much as we would love to storm Congress, overturn the Electoral College, recount the swing states and install a sane and qualified individual in the White House, we realize that our efforts need to start from the ground up.
My hometown serves as Exhibit A. Western New York is made up of a deep-blue urban core with deep-red rural outlying counties. Most of us have family and friends on both sides of the aisle, so we have experience with seeing people we know and love do things that horrify us to the core. We have patriarchy-smashing vegans at the same Thanksgiving table with people who still use the N-word. In other words, we have the opportunity to directly change some minds through local action.
Earlier this week, we awoke to see the below banner ad right below the masthead of the Buffalo News online edition:
Red Western New York had a good laugh, made a few comments about those lady-folk always demanding their husbands take them out on nice dates, and went about their day. The rest of us were justifiably furious. Did Russell uncover a time machine and transport himself back to 1950? Did he feel emboldened by the Trump victory, as so many others did, to let his inner misogyny and hetero-normativity shine outwardly? Was he smoking something?
Prior to November 8, our justifiable fury might have blown over. But not today. Not when every freedom that every non-white, non-Christian, non-hetero, non-cisgender and non-male person holds dear is under a direct threat from the Trump administration. Now we had the the motivation to take action, and take action we did. We shared the misogynistic ad far and wide, pledging to boycott Russell’s and the Buffalo News over their overt misogyny and heteronormativity. We mobilized on social media to write emails, make phone calls, and shout from the rooftops our anger at Buffalo News and Russell’s for the gall to take that sexist and homophobic tone and expect us to live with it. Within 5 hours of the ad going up, it was changed to the following:
Those of us who spoke out got personal apologies. Not “I’m sorry you were offended” faux apologies but real, honest-to-goodness, “We were wrong and we admit it” apologies. We had won. It was a tiny victory, minuscule in the face of the national tone of misogyny, racism, homophobia and xenophobia emanating from the new GOP, but it was still one for the win column. We’d take whatever we could get.
After our victory over the misogynist restauranteur, other small but meaningful victories started to emerge. Erie County Legislator Pat Burke thwarted the New York State GOP’s refusal to ban abusive “gay conversion” tactics by introducing a county-level bill preventing the dangerous pseudo-medical procedure. The bill’s name? Preventing Emotional Neglect and Child Endangerment Act. For short, the PENCE Act. It’s expected to pass based on blue-WNY grassroots advocacy, over the objections of red-WNY which feels that the name is petulant. On the anti-racism front, Canisius College bowed to intense public pressure and took disciplinary action against students who hung a Black baby doll from a noose in a dorm room, going so far to classify it as a hate crime. Governor Cuomo spent the past 15 days making New York State into a “great blue hope” of tolerance and freedom by creating a dedicated hate-crime task force within the State Police department and a hotline specifically for people to report discrimination and bias. These are all small acts, but together they form the seeds of a progressive revolution designed to mitigate the damage that Trump and the GOP seem intent on causing.
We know it won’t be quick, easy, or painless. The revolution will not be comfortable. But we also know that we cannot falter, and we cannot fail. We are a vast network of progressives dedicated to taking millions of small steps to resist Trump’s xenophobic, racist, homophobic and misogynistic vision for America. We are the death of a thousand pinpricks that will thwart him at every level. We are the force dedicated to unseating so many pro-Trump local, state, and federal elected officials who won’t see us coming until it’s too late for them. We are a chorus of single honest voices that are louder than the crowd of tyranny and hatred that threatens our nation. We will act locally, knowing that our impact will be felt globally.
Vive la resistance.
Erin Cody is a local attorney and unapologetic feminist, who still yells back at the television whenever Trump speaks.