Inspiring stories of ordinary women who figured out ways to meet the extraordinary challenges of our times.
“We know that when you improve the systems and quality of life for disabled people,” Rebecca Cokley told me, “everybody else’s quality of life goes up, too.”
Rebecca is one of the speakers at this weekend's Women's Convention organized by the Women's March. Like her parents and her children, Rebecca was born with achondroplasia, a common cause of dwarfism. During the Obama administration she held several White House positions related to diversity and disability, most recently Executive Director of the National Council on Disability.
As you may have noticed, supporting diversity and disability causes is not high on the White House to-do list these days. In fact, many in the current administration are actively trying to convince voters it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money to make the world more accessible for the disabled. These politicians are deliberately perpetuating old, threadbare myths about members the disabled community being takers who have nothing to offer, an unfair drain on society’s economic resources, and second class citizens who can and should be shunted aside in favor of “better” people.
OK, so let’s stop right there and consider just a few of the disabled people who have made an impact on our world.
Anybody who thinks the disabled have nothing to offer clearly hasn’t been paying attention. And right now the disability community is doing great things in the Resistance — for a start, by playing a heroic role in blocking the administration’s first efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which many disabled people view as a life-or-death issue.
“They kept vigils day and night, sleeping in wheelchairs when necessary,” John Nichols wrote In The Nation. “They participated in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience that led to daunting moments of confrontation and removal. They challenged the inaccessibility of public buildings — and public officials. They willingly faced arrest in what they termed a ‘Fight for Life and Liberty.’ In Senate office buildings, they unfurled banners that declared: ‘Capping Medicaid = Death 4 Disabled.’ The protests were so bold, so effective, that congressional leaders were shaken.”
The protesters won the first round. But the government has redoubled efforts to repeal and replace and continues to sabotage the ACA via funding cuts. Meanwhile officials are retaliating directly against the disability community. On September 7, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee passed HR 620, the so-called ADA Education and Reform Act that relaxes compliance requirements for businesses. A few days later, I spoke to Rebecca about the implications of the bill.
“What that really does is terrifying,” she said. “It removes any incentive for voluntary compliances by businesses that are not accessible. It puts all the onus, all the responsibility on the disabled person who encounters the access barrier to send a very detailed book, chapter, and verse [report] citing which chapters of the ADA the business is in violation of. And it gives the business six months of time in which to respond and comply. The ADA is 27 years old; businesses have had 27 years to fall into compliance, and they haven’t done it yet.”
Right-wing politicians who are bent on gutting the ADA are conveniently forgetting that disability is an issue that touches every family, including their own. “There’s no way to live in this country and not be directly impacted by disability,” Rebecca told me. “We are the largest minority in this country; we are 57 million people.” The US Census Report of 2012 (the most recent available) confirms that 19% of the population has disabilities, more than half of them severe. This makes us all part of the disability community’s extended family. The disabled aren’t “out there” somewhere; they are in our homes and in our hearts. They're us.
Disability issues are civil rights issues. No disabled American (or anyone else, for that matter) should be stigmatized, marginalized, denied access to public transportation or government offices, or prevented from seeking an education and gainful employment. It’s morally wrong. And even if it weren’t, it’s a self-defeating strategy. Despite what some Republican lawmakers say, the Americans with Disability Act, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and other such government programs aren’t some form of charity that we, the non-disabled, are bestowing upon them, the “less fortunate,” because we’re hyper-idealistic, bleeding-heart softies. These programs are a practical necessity for all of us to survive as imperfect people in a challenging world.
I won't be there to hear Rebecca speak at the Women's Convention this weekend, but I am sure she'll have a lot to say about the strength, courage, and tactical wisdom of today's disability activists. If you need reasons to hope that the Resistance will be successful, start by looking at what these fearless protesters have accomplished already.
This video is Episode 10 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on my other blog Enjoy Living Abroad, Americans Resisting Overseas and various social media sites. Please feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
In these dark times, when you hear so much about greed, corruption, and self-serving villains (and yes, I’ll be getting to all those topics in a minute) it’s almost shocking to discover someone cheerfully sacrificing her life goal for the common good. Kat Calvin was just launching a promising law career in LA when the 2016 election convinced her she needed to do something to help her country.
“I had other plans for my life,” Kat told me. “But this was an emergency.”
With so many huge and terrifying threats looming — global warming, the heightened likelihood of nuclear weapons being fired in a fit of infantile rage — she looked for a way one individual could make a real difference. And that’s when she began considering how to fight voter suppression. For years Republican legislators have used the myth of widespread voter fraud to whip up support for state laws that require voter ID. No big deal, right? Just about everybody has a driver’s license or something, don’t they?
It turns out that 21 million Americans don’t have valid photo IDs. And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that 92% of them are non-whites, mostly living in poor neighborhoods. So why don’t they just go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a driver’s license or an identification card? For one thing, many of them don’t have a birth certificate due to circumstances such as being born in a rural area or in the old Jim Crow South, where African Americans weren’t allowed to give birth in hospitals. And even if they have a birth certificate, they may have to travel ten miles or more to the nearest DMV. “Most states,” Kat told me, “when they pass these voter ID laws, they pair it with the closure of DMVs in low income areas and communities of color.”
Kind of makes your blood boil, doesn’t it?
Kat took a hard look at the situation and formed an organization called Spread the Vote. She works with local service agencies, Indivisibles groups, churches — anyone who can help her connect with people who are disenfranchised by the voter ID laws. Then she finds out what’s needed to get them valid identification papers — usually a complex effort involving visits to county records offices, endless paperwork, and about $75 to $100 in fees. It’s labor-intensive, one-on-one work and she loves it.
Her team now includes dozens of volunteers, mostly in the battleground states of Virginia and Georgia, and she will keep ramping up as the 2018 midterms approach.
“I’m in this for the long haul,” she said. “Not just the current cycle. Whatever happens in 2018 and 2020, I’m looking ten-plus years ahead.”
Among the many things I love about Kat’s story is that she welcomes volunteers, both on-the-ground workers and remote activists providing online support. She’s just developed a Spread the Vote app to help people find their place in this particular piece of the Resistance effort, and her website includes a volunteer form you can fill out describing your availability, skills and interests.
I’m just wrapping up a summer in a blue state, and I keep hearing people say, “I’m totally outraged. But what can I do? What’s the point in calling legislators who are already voting the way I want them to?”
Luckily, the Resistance is much larger than that. People all over the country are working to advance progressive causes and fight back against the blitzkrieg of appalling legislation raining down on our citizens. For those who are seriously outraged and genuinely want to help, here are a few organizations that can offer you meaningful Resistance work right now, wherever you are.
Kat always suggests that would-be activists start by looking close to home. “I’ve never seen a community that has 100% voter registration,” she says. “Why not begin there?”
And if you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ll mention just one outstanding local opportunity I’ve discovered.
Last night, Rich and I went to a meeting of At Home Humanitarian, the dynamic new group founded by Katherine Lowe. Like Kat, she’s a visionary who saw a crisis and felt compelled to take action — in this case, coping with the influx of refugees, whose support from local agencies is limited to 90 days and urgent needs. Katherine started At Home Humanitarian to supplement those services with a mentorship program, acculturation activities, and education. Her goal is to foster friendships, tolerance, and understanding while easing the transition for both newcomers and the community. She welcomes volunteers in California and Utah, and if you don’t happen to live in one of those states, she’ll talk with you about building a chapter in your area.
This is all very good news for you. Why? Because next time the president and his cronies do something that makes you crazy, you’ll know that you actually can do something to fight back. And won’t that feel more satisfying than just sitting around shouting at the TV?
This video is Episode 9 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on my other blog Enjoy Living Abroad, Americans Resisting Overseas and various social media sites. Please feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
It's been long, hot summer in the USA, and I'm going to be heading back to Spain soon, where I'm hoping for some rest, some international perspective, and some time to work on my upcoming book, Women of the American Resistance. I'll post more videos in a few weeks. Until then, stay strong, my friends!
After the 2016 election, one woman I know spent two weeks in bed eating Oreo cookies three meals a day. I didn’t lose my grip quite so completely — although if it had occurred to me that was a genuine option, I might have been tempted. Like millions of my fellow Americans, I continue to struggle with post-election stress that even my usual remedies — wine, chocolate, and comedy films — can’t completely cure. I sometimes worry about being so worried, which obviously does nothing to alleviate matters.
So I was particularly glad to have the opportunity recently to interview a medical professional and fellow Resister: Patricia Salber, MD, MBA. An internist and ER physician, Pat currently works as a health consultant and writer. Her blog, The Doctor Weighs In, began covering obesity and weight loss in 2005, expanded to general wellness, and now includes a healthy dose of articles about government policies that impact our physical wellbeing. She continuously monitors the news stream, keeping the president’s shenanigans under close observation.
“When we wake up in the morning,” she told me, “my husband and I say, ‘What did he do last night? Did he resign yet? Did he make any crazy tweets?’”
Pat and I agreed we should strive for a balance between being news junkies and sticking our heads in the sand. It’s not easy. Too much news turns us into jittery, hyperventilating insomniacs, but totally ignoring it is as dangerous as saying, “Damn, I just broke my leg! Guess I’ll go to bed and hope it’s better in the morning.” Putting our heads under the covers, with or without Oreos, isn’t going to make us safer in the long run. At some point, the trauma needs to be dealt with.
The hard truth is: You should be worried. We all should. Sweeping changes in public policy are creating dangerous health hazards. For instance, the US pulled out of the Paris climate accords — but hey, who needs breathable air, anyway? And now contraception is under heavy attack. Apparently those who don’t remember the 1950s are trying to recreate them — back alley abortions, Jim Crow laws, and all. Pat writes about many of these worrying topics on her blog.
Climate Change and Human Health: It’s a Killer
The Anti-Contraception Agenda is Fueled by Fake Science
The Stale and Failed Health Policies of Republican ACA Replacement Plans
U.S. Healthcare Ranks Dead Last Compared to 11 High-income Countries
10 Stupid Things Politicians Said About Healthcare Recently
I loved this last article, which neatly demonstrates how incredibly clueless some lawmakers are. When a constituent objected to the Republican healthcare plan because it would leave millions without coverage, Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, snapped back, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.” Really? Tell that to the 45,000 Americans who died each year due to lack of healthcare before Obamacare passed. Fake news? Nope, a Harvard study.
We all have to be skeptical these days, with the epidemic of false facts and fake science going around. Much of it is generated by the new government appointees running family planning and other health programs. Here are just a few things they've said publicly (and I am not making this up):
Contraceptives are anti-family, medically irresponsible, and don’t work.
Abortion causes breast cancer.
Contraceptives cause miscarriages and break your uterus.
Condoms don’t protect against HIV.
The best remedy I’ve found is working for the Resistance. “Writing is one of my forms of Resistance,” Pat told me. I’m with her. Every time some outrageous statement comes out of the Oval Office, or some vicious whacko gets put in charge of an important government agency affecting millions of lives, I sit down and write a blog post and make another video about Women of the American Resistance. Taking even that modest action makes me feel better. Because if we're not clear about what's going on, how can we make a realistic diagnosis of the problem so we can work on solutions together?
But that’s just one way to get active. Many of my friends in blue states struggle with the challenge of finding meaningful work for the cause. “I’ve called all my reps, mostly to thank them for their last vote. Now what do I do?” they ask me.
Resistance takes many, many forms. Sure, grassroots organizing is an essential element, but so is every kind of volunteerism that supports community services that are under attack. Worried about women’s reproductive healthcare? Climate change? Civil rights? LGBT legislation? Refugees and immigrants? Find a volunteer opportunity near you. Here are few general resources to get you started. (And I hope I don’t have to mention that no one is sponsoring these links.)
While you’re exploring options and, with luck, finding meaningful volunteer work, remember to take good care of yourself. We all need to carve out small pockets of old-fashioned normality in the midst of the bizarre “new normal” we’re now inhabiting. I keep waiting to wake up and find it’s all been a ghastly nightmare. Until then, we’ll always have Oreos.
This video is Episode 8 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on my other blog Enjoy Living Abroad, Americans Resisting Overseas and various social media sites. Please feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
When Rich and I moved to Ohio as newlyweds, one of his more brilliant ideas was partitioning the attic over the garage with a wall of bookshelves that concealed a hidden door. You climbed the stairs, entered Rich’s cozy den, and then — abracadabra! He would swing open the center bookshelf to reveal the secret chamber (which was, prosaically, used for storage). Naturally it was dubbed the Anne Frank room, and when showing it to friends, we’d remark, “And the great thing is, if the Nazis ever invade Ohio, we’re all set!” And the idea was so preposterous, so absolutely-never-going-to-happen, that everybody would laugh.
That idea doesn’t seem quite so laughable now. As all the world knows, Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, and white supremacists marched openly through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia last Saturday. The guy arrested for running his car into the crowd to kill and maim was a big fan of Adolf Hitler. And after the president’s lukewarm, belated, obviously forced, and soon retracted criticism of these hate groups, it’s clear they feel emboldened and ready for more.
“I think there will be more violence like this in the future to come," said Justin Moore, the Grand Dragon for the Loyal White Knights of the KKK. "I'm sorta glad that them people got hit and I'm glad that girl died. They were a bunch of Communists out there protesting against somebody's freedom of speech, so it doesn't bother me that they got hurt at all."
America’s a very scary place these days. And for German-born American citizen Eva Melusine Thieme, it contains all too many echoes of the past and the era she calls “the biggest disaster in world history, the one my parents' generation felt forever ashamed of.” She’s always admired the French Resistance and wished people in her country had spoken out while there was still time to change their future.
When I wrote an article called “Where Were All the Good Germans?” Sine posted a comment about how easy it is for good people in an authoritarian environment to find themselves committing acts of greater and greater evil. She ended with, “And that is why I'm busy knitting pussy hats with my daughters these days:-)”
Knitting is a family tradition. Sine (as she’s known for short) learned the basics at school, but it was her grandmother who inspired her. This year, after joining in the Women’s March, Sine decided it was time to teach her daughters how to knit, and the three of them spent countless evenings working together in front of the TV. “We watched the entire Gilmore Girls and started in on Downton Abbey,” Sine told me. They sent me two boxes of hats for our protest marches in Seville. Most of us expats had never seen an actual Pussyhat before and we were thrilled to feel like part of the team.
Sine’s story is a great reminder that Resistance work comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, it’s a family-based effort. For many, it involves grassroots political action groups such as Indivisible, PAGE, and the Women’s March. But with the new administration working to marginalize so many of its citizens — basically the 69% of the population that doesn’t happen to be white and male — there is so much more to be done. To me, the work of the Resistance embraces any organization fighting for the rights of women, people of color, LGBT citizens, immigrants, refugees, and others now at risk of losing income, services, social status, and even the right to vote.
For instance, I recently learned about Kat Calvin and her organization Spread the Vote, which she founded to counteract voter suppression. Some 31 states now have laws requiring voters to show government-issued identification before casting a ballot, and 21 million American citizens — mostly poor, black, or Latino — don’t have IDs and find it difficult to obtain them due to lack of formal birth certificates, endless paperwork, long distances to offices issuing IDs, and up to $75 in fees. Kat Calvin refuses to let any of this be a barrier. Her organization reaches out to the disenfranchised and helps them obtain valid IDs so they can exercise their Constitutional right to vote. And by the way, she’s looking for volunteers.
Friends tell me, “I call my representatives, but living in a blue state, what’s the point? I wish there was something real that I could do!” There is! Each of the videos in my series Women of the American Resistance includes links to organizations doing great work. But I’ve realized more is needed to help people find their place in the Resistance. So in the weeks ahead, I’ll be compiling information about organizations where volunteers are doing vital, interesting work. If you know of one, I want to hear from you!
Sine has marched and written postcards to her representatives, but her biggest contribution to the cause is knitting pink Pussyhats. To her, they represent the precious freedom to show dissent in public and the solidarity first felt by millions during the Women’s March. If we learned anything from what Germany experienced in the 1930s, it’s that we need to speak up sooner rather than later. As one protest poster put it, “I can’t believe I am still protesting Nazis.” I guess the good news is that we still can.
This video is Episode 7 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, my blog Enjoy Living Abroad, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
Every time the guy in the Oval Office does something that makes us all crazy, he creates countless new volunteers for the progressive cause. He is our best possible recruitment tool!
But then what? Being all fired up is great, but what exactly are the next steps? First, we zero in on our goal: changing the course of American history. Yikes! No pressure there…
Learning grassroots skills at Resistance School
Luckily, finding useful ways to work for progressive change isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds. Lots of people have pitched in to develop simple, effective resources. For instance, there’s the Indivisible Guide, created by Capitol Hill staffers to provide insider strategies for influencing your legislators. Want weekly recommendations? Among the best are Jen Hofmann’s Americans of Conscience checklist and the PAGE (Progressive Action Global Exchange) action plans. But for many of us, the best place to start is by learning the “practical skills for taking back America” offered in a free online course called Resistance School, launched in April by a group of Harvard grad students.
Resistance School is a spectacular resource for newbies and veterans alike. I’m far from a novice activist; my mom started taking me to join picket lines and marches and sit-ins when I was maybe 10 or 11. We spent the sixties fighting for civil rights, peace, and justice. Although I worked to get Obama elected, I have to admit I’d let my grassroots skills get pretty rusty. So I was thrilled to discover that in April, some of the best and brightest students in America launched Resistance School to give us up-to-date training.
Fresh from their studies of public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and seasoned with years of field work, these grad students put together a four-session course designed to share some of the best approaches to energizing political advocacy, communicating values, organizing, mobilizing, building a grassroots movement, and sustaining momentum over the long term.
When I spoke with one of those Harvard grad students, Yasmin Radjy, she told me, “We built Resistance School thinking if we were extremely successful and worked incredibly hard, maybe we could get 200 viewers … mostly our moms.” Instead, the course drew nearly 200,000 viewers from all 50 states and 20 countries; a second semester is now in the works. Resistance School has become wildly popular by giving us smart tools and, more importantly, confidence in our skills and in ourselves.
Fieldwork & where to find it
Having completed her Masters, Yasmin now serves as the Virginia State Director for Mobilize America, an organization whose efforts include connecting volunteers with the most urgently needed tasks via the new Moblize app.
She told me her top priority right now is getting Democratic candidates elected in advance of 2021, when America’s voting district boundaries will be revised. The age-old political tactic of gerrymandering — redrawing boundaries to exclude voters unfavorable to your candidate or party — has been systematically exploited lately. Often, the voters are no longer choosing their politicians, the politicians are choosing their voters. If we don’t do something now to get more Democrats a seat at the table when the new voting disctricts are hammered out, it’s going to get a whole lot worse.
Do you have what it takes to volunteer?
Of course you do! You don’t need a Harvard degree, or even a high school diploma, to come to the aid of your country. Never doubt that first-time volunteers are the backbone of the Resistance. If you choose to join the millions of Americans who are working hard to build a better future for our nation, you will be welcomed with open arms. Because it’s clear that we’re all going to have to stand together if we’re going to fix this mess we’re in.
This video is Episode 6 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, my blog Enjoy Living Abroad, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
I love to ask people, “If you could look the president right in the eye, right now, and say one thing to him, what would it be?” This always prompts a moment of silence, a glassy-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights stare, then a deep breath and a steely gaze, followed by something from the heart.
When I posed this question to philanthropist and social entrepreneur Betsy McKinney, she replied, “I would say to our current president, ‘Engage all women and people of color at the decision-making table. We are essential to creating a vibrant democracy. And I am asking you to safeguard our democracy. That is the most important thing you have been hired to do.’”
The idea of democracy was treated with great respect in Betsy’s childhood home. While she was growing up as one of six kids in a working class Catholic family in Cincinnati, Ohio, her mom liked to say, “American democracy is a love story.” Betsy took this to heart. After traveling the world and studying the best and worst aspects of government, she devoted her life to helping our democracy live up to its dictionary definition: “A system of government by the whole population.
As the founder and CEO of It’s Time Network, she brings together individuals and organizations to work on creating a democracy that truly represents all its constituents. Her Network City Program enables diverse members of the community to work together to give urban women and girls a fairer chance at education and jobs.
How is the USA doing when it comes to the gender gap? Frankly, not so great. Our world rank is an embarrassingly low 45th -- below Rwanda, Nicaragua, Moldova, Bolivia, Cuba and dozens of others. Now the current administration seems determined to roll back even the baby steps our country has taken towards racial and gender equality, apparently seeking to ease the pain of white male victimhood. With white males making up 31% of the US population, you have to wonder: if 69% of your citizens are marginalized, can you really consider yourself a democracy?
I sat down with Betsy recently to ask if she still thought American democracy was a love story. This short video reveals her answer.
This video is Episode 5 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, my blog Enjoy Living Abroad, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
Donna Red Wing
“I know somebody you should interview,” a friend wrote me. “The Christian Coalition once called her ‘the most dangerous woman in America.'”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I definitely want to talk to her.” With so many of us embracing political activism for the first time in decades – if not the first time ever — I thought it would be fun to chat with somebody who has been serving in the trenches since she was thirteen.
And it was fun. As a veteran protester who got her start during the Vietnam era, Donna Red Wing has seen it all and has the battle scars and war stories to prove it. I took an instant liking to her, although the fire in her eye warned me that if you crossed her, you would do so at your peril.
Donna grew up lesbian in the hardscrabble world of a housing project in Worcester, Massachusetts. There she developed a passion for justice that has carried her around the country and into a series of progressive causes, first as a teenage volunteer, later in positions including Executive Director of the LGBT organization One Iowa, Chief of Staff at the Interfaith Alliance, and National Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign. She served as one of three members of President Obama’s kitchen cabinet on LGBT concerns and was the first recipient of the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award.
She was working for Howard Dean’s campaign when the Christian Coalition declared her “the most dangerous woman in America,” much to her delight. “That’s going on my tombstone, I hope you know that,” she told me with a grin. “That’s the best thing they could have done for me.”
What is Donna’s superpower? Why is she so feared by bigots and religious right-wingers?
I’ll let her tell you herself in this very short video showing highlights of our conversation.
This video is Episode 4 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, my blog Enjoy Living Abroad, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
Every journey teaches us something, even if it’s only that pig’s ears really are as rubbery and tasteless as you’d imagine, or that the best time to check for bed bugs is when you arrive at night, not when you get up the next morning. For Jen Hofmann, a writer and social media teacher in Oregon, her 40th birthday inspired a host of what’s-life-all-about questions that led her to a pilgrimage on the famous Camino de Santiago across northern Spain.
What wisdom did she find on the journey?
"The entire route has yellow arrows that help guide you,” Jen told me. “In my own life, I’ve learned to identify what those arrows look like and feel like inside of me.” One critical turning point came after the 2016 election. “I had about two weeks of lying in bed eating Oreos,” she recalls ruefully. “I was seriously depressed and disillusioned." Then one day she got up, got dressed, and went to a meeting of local Resisters.
The group was struggling to make their way through the morass of social media to discover reliable information and figure out how to take meaningful action. Jen volunteered to research, verify, and post a checklist of useful actions for the forty people in the group. By January subscribers had grown to 7,000, and after the Women’s March, it went viral. Today, her Americans of Conscience checklist has 70,000 subscribers.
I asked Jen if she could look the president in the eye and say one thing to him, what would it be? Jen (who is clearly a far more spiritually evolved person than I am) replied, “It would probably be to heal. I’m aware that behind his egregious actions and massive ego is a deeply wounded man. I wish for him healing in whatever it is that plagues him.” And I say amen to that!
This video is Episode 3 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, my blog Enjoy Living Abroad, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
Feeling powerless isn’t in Tanya Halkyard’s DNA. She grew up hearing stories about her great-great-great-great aunt, Susan B. Anthony, who blazed a trail through 19th century American politics, championing the abolition of slavery, votes for women, and other causes considered radical, if not outright insane, at the time. But Tanya never imagined, when she moved to Rome in 2011 to start a language school, that she would find herself on the front lines fighting for causes – such as gender and racial equality — that apparently haven’t progressed as much as we’d thought since Susan B. Anthony’s time.
“After November’s election, I mourned for a day.” Tanya told me. “And the next day, I got to work.”
Her first act was founding American Expats for Positive Change Italy. She then reached out to the Women’s March, Progressive Action Global Exchange (PAGE), Americans Resisting Overseas, Democrats Abroad Italy, and many other international, national, and local organizations. She coordinates with them on marches, protests, contact-your-reps campaigns, and a host of other activities. I was delighted that Tanya’s team joined the #VirtualTaxMarchlaunched by my group, American Resistance Seville.
“Living abroad does give me a different perspective on American politics,” Tanya says, speaking of her international news sources, conversations with people from all over the world, and opportunities to watch European political dramas unfold over time. She’s able to “see what’s important globally. Now I think that having a president who can represent the country in a diplomatic way is really important. And making enemies abroad is not a good idea. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord was really about international relations; [the president] was saying, ‘I don’t want to work with the international community.’ Part of being an American living in Italy is trusting that Italy and America are going to be friends. When my president makes an enemy, it changes the dialog about who I am and how people are going to perceive me.”
In these turbulent times, Tanya is steadfast in her confidence that the Resistance is working. “We are far away from home,” her website says. “But we cannot give in to feeling powerless. Now more than ever we need to get involved and stand up for our beliefs. We must work together to make change. If you're wondering what you can do, join us, and we will figure it out together.”
This video is Episode 2 of my ongoing series Women of the American Resistance. You can view the complete series here on this website, on YouTube, my blog Enjoy Living Abroad, and American Resistance Sevilla; many episodes appear on Americans Resisting Overseas and other social media sites. Feel free to repost this video or link to this content. My goal is to tell the world about these remarkable American women and the work they're doing to help fix the mess we're in.
Karen McCann is a bestselling author whose travel tips and adventure stories have appeared in Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, and Lonely Planet. She is a founding member of American Resistance Sevilla.