Hooded

Kavi wanted a hoodie because she’s wearing short sleeves because it’s opposite day so she’s wearing her pajamas to school and she couldn’t find her hoodie and it was almost bus time so I told her to just take mine and she did and now she’s gone and I am still a little stunned that I just realized that she’s almost as big as I am and my clothes are totally going to start fitting her any day now. WHAT.

Plans! (An exclamation point makes them sound more fun.)

Plan for this morning — write up a post about donations in this first few days, also write up final summary of March experience, look into pitching something to Oak Leaves or Wednesday Journal, start some laundry. At 9, Franki shows up, and we’re going to work on sending thank-you notes to donors; I need to figure out how to get her access to my CrowdPac account, and also make sure I know how to transfer funds to my bank account. At 10:30, I head off to Loyola Radiology for a 18-month follow-up with Dr. Small, which should be quick — I’m honestly not sure what exactly radiology would expect to see / catch at this late date, but the oncologists tell me what to do and I obey. They cured my breast cancer, and I am ridiculously grateful. And obedient.
 
I’m not sure what I’ll be doing this afternoon. I want to work on the novel — plotted out several new scenes yesterday — but I’m also tired, and may take the time to just read instead. Reading for a few hours sounds so luxurious (!), and I want to finish How to Win a Local Election and start Every Day is Election Day. At 3:30-ish, I’m planning to take the kids and swing by Pem‘s — she’s hosting a kid-friendly postcard-making event to send messages to our elected representatives. Suggestions for who / what I should send right now would be welcome — it always helps knowing where best to target such efforts.
 
Then home to make dinner. I have plans for a chicken curry with chicken liver added, which I don’t think is a traditional recipe, but which I find delectable, and always fortifies me when I’m a bit tired. If I have energy, I’ll make kale salad too, and maybe some Indian-style roasted beets. Tonight, I go to the monthly library board meeting, just as a citizen attendee, where I will find out exactly what I’m hopefully letting myself in for on this campaign. Lots of somewhat dull meetings, I would expect? Although maybe the library board is more contentious than it sounds. 🙂
 
Obliglink to campaign — I’m afraid you’ll be seeing this a lot for the next month!

Money in Politics

Someone asked me yesterday why I couldn’t just use free digital avenues to build support for my campaign, instead of asking for money. I thought it might help if I explained some of the costs, which frankly kind of shocked me after I started my run. This may also be helpful in understanding why money is such a HUGE factor in politics (and why Republicans keep winning).

I do plan to keep leveraging every digital avenue I have, but there are lots of people who aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, or really, much online at all, especially older voters. And the people who bother to vote in off-year elections (about a tenth of the local populace) are often among our older population.

To reach the voters, you can do things like go door-to-door (which I’ll be doing), but at least around here, most people are working during the day, so your window to reach them is very limited. There also aren’t that many days between now and April 4th, so I’m not going to have time to knock on every door, even if I wanted to. You can stand outside grocery stores and train stations, and I already have some of that in the schedule too. But the main other thing you can do is spend money.

Let’s say I want to do a basic flyer, about me and about what the library board does. If I send it to all the likely voters in this election, about 6000 people, that’ll cost $3000 just for the postage. $3000! I admit, I was really startled by that number. If you want to make five hundred buttons, that’ll cost perhaps $300 for design and printing. Full color bookmarks? That might run another $1000, if you want to send them to all the voters. Political palm cards, with info about you and the date of the election, that can be tucked into the doors that you’re passing — another $1000 or $2000. A full-page ad in the League of Women Voters program book will cost something; so will a newspaper ad. And let’s not forget pizza for your weary volunteers!

When I started this, I thought, oh, I don’t even know if I’ll need to raise money at all. And then I thought, well, I’m sure $2-3K will be plenty. Now I’ve realized that I could easily spend $10,000 on print materials alone, and even that wouldn’t guarantee that all the voters in Oak Park would even see my name once before they got to the ballot box. And someone told me recently that it usually took about seven ‘touches’ — seven mentions of your name — before someone decided to actually vote for you.

So, hope that helps explain why I’m asking for money, and why, if there’s anyone whose campaign you want to support, contributing money is actually really helpful.

Democrats, in particular, I think are more likely to be reluctant to give money to political campaigns (rather than non-profit orgs), feeling like money in politics is somehow a little corrupt, that we ought to be able to win on the purity of our ideas alone, the rightness of our cause. I know I gave to the ACLU and the SPLC long before giving to any candidate. But I’ve recently come to realize that before the voters can vote for the good guys, they need to know their names, and ideally, a little of what they stand for.

Money helps tremendously with getting the word out.

(And I would be remiss if I didn’t at least link to my own campaign, after all that. https://www.crowdpac.com/campaigns/163679/mohanraj-for-oak-park-library-board)

Home again, home again

I got home around 9 (thanks to the UIC person who kindly added twenty minutes to her trip to give me a ride home and save me waiting for an Uber), and kind of collapsed into a chair for a while, after snuggling the kids. Kev wandered down after a bit, said hi, made them bacon and eggs. They ate all of that but said they were still hungry, so I made them oatmeal. Anand, in particular, is eating twice what I do these days, it’s kind of amazing.

I managed to get myself a little lox and bagel, and started feeling slightly more human, and now I have finally managed to make tea and take my meds. (The little white Tamoxifen pill, I think of as cancer-be-gone.) Still kind of exhausted, but starting to come back to normal. I have a few more photos to upload from the march, and then, it’s time to get to work. 

“This is not a moment, this is the movement.”

Stay Woke

Groggily awake, about forty minutes from home. Slept better last night, due to my seatmate not being here; she was coming back later on a plane; I got to curl up a bit, which helped mightily. I admit, if I’d planned this further in advance and could’ve gotten a reasonably-priced flight, that would’ve been a better option — I wouldn’t recommend the Rally bus for the experience alone. Well, maybe once. But it’s definitely a little rough. (And the WiFi didn’t seem to work; I’ve been tethering my laptop to my phone’s WiFi, and I don’t have unlimited data, so I imagine I’ve used it all up, and possibly then some.)

D.C.’s entire population is only about 670,000. The march concentrated 500,000 people on the Mall and surrounding streets. It was a little frustrating at the time, not being able to see the performers (or even come close enough to see the Jumbotron scenes), or to hear anything. But in retrospect, given those numbers, I forgive the organizers for not setting up more speakers and screens. This was an unprecedented event.

Very glad I went, though it’s going to take me a little while to really understand the experience in some ways. But at a time when the future is feeling so uncertain, it felt like in that moment, the best thing I could do was put my body out there, demanding to be counted.

I know not everyone who wanted to march could do so, due to physical, financial, or other challenges. But however you choose to participate, now is the time to do so. Stand up. Be counted.

*****

(Pictured below, me and an old friend I haven’t seen in forever, Angeline Martyn. It ended up far too crowded for us to find each other at the march; we marched separately. But we were together.)

During the March

Me and Katie. She’s not technically my sister-in-law; she’s my sister’s sister-in-law. But I might need to adopt her anyway. 

My sister, after some persuasion, gets up on her husband’s shoulders to take better crowd pics. I feel like there should be some profound metaphor here about the men who support us and lift us up, without hesitation.

Some researchers from a local university were asking every fifth person if they’d fill out a two-page survey about their participation in the march, and in politics generally. I was a little shocked, if delighted, to find that I was able to check off every box on the civic participation list. At least a full third of them would have gone empty three months ago. Something is changing. Something big.

(Reprinted this bit of their survey by permission.)

Arrival in D.C.

We rolled into D.C. about half an hour after schedule — my sister kindly came to pick me up as I staggered off the bus. It really wasn’t so bad, except for the fact that my feet don’t quite reach the floor so my knees kept waking me up all through the trip. Oh, these bodies. But all discomfort was forgotten when I joined the stream of people (mostly women, but not entirely) leaving the parking lot — it was exhilarating, even those first few moments.
 
Of course, most of them weren’t going to go spend their first hour in D.C. with such adorableness as I was. Note Veera modeling Sharmi’s pink hat and her “The Future is Female” t-shirt. Tagore looks on approvingly with those huge eyes of his, that seem to gaze deeply into your very soul, asking what kind of future you planned to provide for the pair of them.
 
Could you disappoint those eyes? I submit that you could not. And so, we marched.
Getting ready to march. Wearing the right t-shirt is apparently important to us (me, SharmsKatie), even if it’s going to be covered by a jacket for the entire march. 

Split

Thank you to EVERYONE who made it possible for me to read my Obama poem at Split this Rock before leaving D.C. — my sister, Sharms, who took me there, the fabulous Split this Rock hosts, the bus captain who held the bus ten minutes for me after my urgent text asking if it would be okay, Gowri Koneswaran, M.C. of tonight’s show, who squeezed me in at the very last minute, the myriad of poets who didn’t complain when I jumped the line so I could read a poem and still have a hope of catching my bus back to Chicago, the audience who gave me snaps and murmurs and clapping and silence at all the right places — they were amazing! — and the other Chicago passengers who didn’t utter a murmur of complaint when I ran across what felt like miles of parking lot and skidded onto the bus, full of apologies. It felt sort of ridiculous, the whole thing, but also sort of incredible. I felt like I needed to read my Obama poem there tonight, at the end of this strange and intense day, not far from the House that he occupied with such grace and brilliance and careful, deliberate thought for eight years. I managed to make it through the last line without quite breaking into tears. But it was close.

Entering D.C.

We’re 10 minutes out from out drop-off in D.C., and I’m grateful that my little sister is waiting to pick me up and take me to her place. I’ll get a few hours to nap if I need to, though I think I’m mostly okay; a big dose of NyQuil and hot milk steamer from Starbucks knocked me out reasonably well. I wouldn’t say it was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t the worst either. But I can freshen up, and play with the toddlers (yes, twin pictures are coming your way soon!), and then make march plans. Her in-laws are in town, and they’re planning to switch off staying at home with the toddlers, which I think is smart. It looks like the rain is letting up — fingers crossed that we have a beautiful day for this.
 
Let’s make some noise.

Pennsylvania

Just past Pittsburgh at 3:30 a.m. The lines are getting longer.

There’s a strange, surreal feeling to being awake in the middle of the night with hundreds of women at a roadside rest stop. Marches are odd — I’ve done Pride for many years, and there’s a certain clarity to why we’re there, why that’s worthwhile. Taking people who were living in the shadows and putting us front and center, in all our brilliant rainbow queerness, making us visible. You cannot frighten us into darkness. 

A lot of people are asking what the women’s march is for — the driver who told me he wasn’t political, as he took me to the bus drop-off, for one. We talked a little, and I mentioned the sanctuary village meeting in Oak Park, our joint refusal to collaborate with ICE — he thanked me, sounding startled, emotional. He said of his five siblings, he was the only one born in the U.S.

We talked a little more, in the ten minute ride — he asked if Trump would actually do anything — wasn’t he just a blowhard?  I talked about the Republican Congress, and how with Trump in office, they were now going to steamroller through a lot of very damaging legislation, that people’s lives would likely be lost when they repealed the ACA without anything to replace it. He got emotional about that too, asking why the government was spending money on silly things when people’s lives were on the line? Maybe he’s more political than he thinks he is.

Why do we march? It may be as simple as at Pride — the sense that there’s a massive constituency of women that have been used to, if not hiding exactly, then being pushed to the side, their concerns sidelined. There is a desire to make ourselves supremely visible.

Women have spent their money, their time, put their bodies through long, uncomfortable bus rides — as one grandmother said to me, “I’m no spring chicken!” Somehow, we thought this worthwhile, even lacking coherent goals.

We’re here. Some of us are queer.
They’re damn well going to get used to it.