Among the joys of travel are encounters with ordinary women living in extraordinary times who accomplish seemingly impossible things with minimal resources. Take the Kenyan village that Rich and I once visited on behalf of an American charity. Located close to ground zero of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the remote jungle village had lost half its men to disease, and most of the other males had departed to seek work, often disappearing forever. The women were left behind to figure out how to survive on their own.
The well-meaning charity gave them a bull, but — as the women later told us — that animal was of little use to them. The minute the charity’s representatives were gone, the village women sold the bull and bought a young cow to breed and provide milk. The milk money went to buy a sack of grain, which was sold off in smaller, more profitable quantities, with some held back to plant for themselves. With tremendous pride, they showed us their modest crops and small herd of cows. A calf was born during our stay in the village, and you can imagine how flattered Rich was to learn they’d named it after him.
On various assignments, Rich and I have spent time with Bosnian war widows, Salvadorian sewing collectives, and Kenyan women rescuing children from forced marriages to village elders. I've learned that in truly dire circumstances, it’s usually women who step up to do what needs to be done.
Now that my country is in dire political straits, I’m not surprised to find it’s our women who are mobilizing for action. A poll of 28,000 activists shows that 86 percent of those calling legislators are female, and 60 percent of those women are over the age of 46. Some 70% of people polled had participated in the Women’s March and/or travel ban protests, and 97% say they’re likely to protest publicly against the administration in the future.
These days, American women are everywhere, staging sit-ins, running for office, holding politicians accountable, registering voters, making the wheels of protest turn. I’ve spent the past year listening to Resisters, posting articles about their accomplishments, making videos about their work, and now writing a book called Women of the American Resistance.
Here’s what I’ve learned: It’s likely to take 11 million active resisters to achieve peaceful regime change in America. That’s based on research evaluating every major effort to overthrow or replace a government anywhere in the world since 1900. Non-violent civil resistance proved the most effective method, and no campaigns failed once they’d achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population. In the US, 3.5% means 11 million people — approximately twice the number who engaged in the 2017 Women’s March and one sixth of the 65,844,610 people who voted Democrat in the 2016 presidential race. Clearly 3.5% is an achievable goal; in fact, since nobody knows how many people are currently active in the Resistance, it’s quite possible we’ve mobilized more than that already. Or maybe we’re poised at 10,999,999 and just need one more person to get up off the couch and push us over the tipping point.
And that’s why the subtitle of my book is You Are the One We Have Been Waiting For.
This book was written for the millions of progressive sympathizers who remain on the sidelines, unable to envision a role for themselves in the struggle. They are outraged and agonized but simply can’t connect with a specific task that seems meaningful and high-impact. The goal of this book is to transform those sympathetic onlookers into activists.
The book shares remarkable stories of ordinary women who have found extraordinary ways to address the challenges facing our nation. And it provides descriptions and contact details to connect readers with dozens of organizations seeking volunteers for fieldwork, online activities, and administrative support in offices, law firms, and clinics. Yes, you can make a difference — and these organizations are standing by to help you figure out how.
Altering the course of the ship of state is never easy, and it's going to require all hands on deck, starting now. This can't wait for a more convenient time, or the excitement of the run-up to the 2020 election, or for some leader to come along and save us, like Prince Charming rescuing us from the tower. We need to rescue ourselves.
Women of the American Resistance: You Are the One We Have Been Waiting For is now available for preorder as a Kindle e-book. The initial deep discount of 99 cents for the Kindle edition will continue until after the Women's March, in honor of all those who are mobilizing.
This book is the result of more than my research into the post-election upheaval and conversations with progressives working for change. Writing the book drew on perspective I've gained in a lifetime of travel to places where people faced challenges we Americans can scarcely imagine — for instance spending nearly the entire twentieth century under the successive rule of tyrants from the Russian Empire, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union, as so much of Eastern Europe did.
A Bosnian women once told me that when the four-year Siege of Sarajevo broke out in 1992, she was utterly blindsided. “We were a modern European country,” she said. “It was literally unthinkable.” Progressive Americans cannot claim that we don't see trouble coming from the current administration. The question is, what are we prepared to do about it?
Women of the American Resistance: You Are the One We Have Been Waiting For
Publication date: January 5, 2018
Formats: Paperback and Kindle
All revenues from book sales: Donated to Planned Parenthood