B. Shira Levine
Navigating new wilderness

Resisting my Ossoff

Last Sunday I canvassed for Jon Ossoff through Jews for Ossoff canvass launch, a weekly program for Jewish Ossoff supporters to meet together at the office and then head to the streets.  This event is happening again this Sunday at 3 p.m. — the last time before the election.

I did my shift under suboptimal conditions, to be sure — at 6 PM, with a 3-year old, in a Nissan Leaf in John’s Creek 30+ miles away from my house.  Eden and I hit a whopping fourteen houses out of the twenty-five we were assigned.  We made it to the field office at 5:00 for a 3:00 PM shift, having overcome obstacles ranging from a long ballet recital to an unfortunately-timed car nap to google maps directing me to the campaign headquarters instead of the field office.  After a quick overview with a staffer, Eden and I hauled another 20 minutes out, with the primary goal of pushing early voting.

Armed with my Ossoff literature, early voting information, and an ipad to mark whether I reached anyone, I began knocking, Eden in tow.  Eden enjoyed pointing out the flowers in the garden, and ringing the doorbell and knocking incessantly thereafter (If I had been confronted on this I would have just said, sheepishly, that my daughter enjoyed knocking).

Of those who were home (about half), only a handful seemed particularly receptive to our message.  Even those individuals sounded a bit flaky. “Yeah, I plan to go tomorrow,” a college-age girl said.  “I’m concerned about early voting because I’m worried about lost ballots,” one woman said.  “Early voting is really just like regular voting,” I corrected her.  “You show up and your vote is counted–it’s not like absentee voting.”  Then there were the two houses who, in response to my asking if we could count on their support, said either “we’re going the other way,” or just a flat “no.”  A couple of other houses seemed mildly annoyed but said they supported Ossoff–perhaps they would have bickered with me more about the oversaturation if I hadn’t been with a preschooler.  One young woman said “I’m not political. I won’t be voting.” Finally, one young-ish dad responded to my question about whether he was planning to vote Ossoff with a glare and a “We’ll see.”  These less-than-enthusiastic reactions were not exactly heartening, but (I hoped) contained useful information, and (I hoped) would turn out at least 1-2 votes.

Two hours later–only about halfway done with our assigned houses–we returned to the field office, sweaty and tired.  Even with a BOB stroller those John’s Creek houses are too far apart to walk that whole thing with a kid, and it takes forever to fiddle with the carseat every time!  Even so, I was content with myself for the small act of getting out there and doing it–as all we resisters should be, no matter how much and in what way each individual lends their support.

For all the smoke I blow on the internet, one might be surprised–and I am certainly embarrassed–that this was my first time I hit the streets for our candidate.  We’re at t-minus 8 days here.  I’ve blogged and tweeted, but never phonebanked, canvassed, or even made it out to register people to vote–despite voter registration being what I believe to be the key to this election, plus one of my longtime passions, and my thrill at that court decision extending the deadline. There are a few “logistical” reasons for this – I traveled for work every week in May, for example.  And I do have two little children (though that did not really stop me between November and January).  There was also some trepidation that surfaced after everyone started complaining about “oversaturation”–my crazy life doesn’t leave me with the emotional capital to get yelled at by people who have to walk 500 yards to answer the door because their houses are so big.  

If I’m being completely honest with myself, however, there’s another big reason for my lackluster, keyboard-focused support for this candidate at such a critical moment: resistance fatigue.

(Dramatic pause for everyone to recognize the double meaning in the post title… “resist”ing so hard I am spent over it, AND “resist”ing the Ossoff campaign.  Get it?)

November through March was a blur of marching and signmaking and postcard-writing and calling Congress and rallying and dyeing my hair blue and organizing and training for activism and irritating everyone with my opinions. Other things somehow happened too–I completed a client secondment, developed a strategic plan for my practice group, drafted scripts for and filmed four promotional videos for my law firm, weaned my son, threw my daughter’s upsherin, performed several gigs with my husband, and attempted pathetically to serve on a preschool board and co-direct an a cappella group.  My son took his first steps and said his first words; my daughter wrote her name.  But during these four months, resistance was everything–I barely remember anything aside from flailing my tiny bucket of water over the side of the country’s rapidly-sinking ship.

A period of urgency and transition at work forced me to take a step back in early spring; I never quite returned.  By that point, the initial solidarity of the resistance began to fray, an entirely-predictable but greatly-disappointing circular firing squad emerging as cracks in the façade.  Friends and armchair journalists obsess over and infantilize the “white [cisgender heterosexual and largely male] working class” at the expense of targeted minorities. Everyone has an opinion over why someone else’s resistance is “ineffective,” and skepticism over the “sustainability” of this resistance abounds and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hillary Clinton dared step out of the woods and literally got told to go back there (of course, plenty criticized her for not speaking up enough during her well-deserved and absolutely necessary break). Subconscious and conscious prejudice feels emboldened from all directions.  People watch everything burn down and hem/haw about whether Pence would be worse and whether we should strategize to keep Trump in power instead. Many media outlets project a mixture of self-importance and paralysis but reliably delivering the false equivalence that got us here. I facepalm over Bernie antics at least twice a week. Misogyny lurks around every corner with daily consequences for me; racism and xenophobia too; denial of it all lies in plain view.

These post-dust-settling observations knocked me out; the energy and resolve upon which I had drawn post-election evaporated. I spent April and May going to bed at 8 PM, immersing myself in the augmented reality of Pokemon Go, and telling myself “screw it, everything is insane, I’m having a Chick Fil-A egg and cheese biscuit” multiple times a week.

I cannot help but feel that in entering a sort of “post-breakup mode” at this particular time, I squandered an actual opportunity to make a difference.  I burned up all my fuel on some-think-“ineffective” marching, concluded I’m injured, and benched myself (aside from irritating people with my opinions online, of course).  What unfortunate timing, just Jon Ossoff rises like a phoenix from the Trump ashes, a rare beacon of hope and optimism, right next to me!

Immediately after the election when I was on overdrive, some friends approached me lamenting their comparative inability to get as involved as they’d like to be.  I told them, don’t guilt yourself–just fuel up for your moment.  This resistance is shift work, and everyone needs a time to rest up while others man the fort.  We humans don’t always know enough to conserve our resources optimally.  In December, swingleft showed Alabama’s 2nd as my closest swing district; weeks later, it was part of my daily commute.  I remain under heavy clouds of fear for the country, including a paralyzing fear that Ossoff will lose.

I remember thinking on November 9, what else could I have done?  I can’t erase my absence from the campaign thus far–but we’re in the home stretch now, and it is not too late to make whatever contribution to the campaign we can offer.  There are little things we all can do without exceeding capacity, whether it be last-minute donation, reaching out to friends in the 6th, showing up to canvas, or putting signs out–the campaign even has a new “June 20” sign.

With a little over a week to go, perhaps we can all let in a little sunshine and volunteer our Ossoff.  Join in for this weekend’s Jews for Ossoff canvass event!

About the Author
B. Shira Levine writes about Jewish spirituality and observance, parenting, intersectionality, and the U.S. and Atlanta Jewish communities. Views are her own and not those of her employer, synagogues, or any other organization.
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