On March 8, I will not leave organizing to someone else.
The Day Without an Immigrant on February 16 did not have much impact here in immigrant-filled Southern California, so I initially held out little hope for the Women’s Strike.
That is when I realized that I needed to organize something public for myself. I chose an impromptu beach clean-up. Recent storms have washed more trash than usual here, and even in politically-polarized San Diego County, it seems that most of us can come together around protecting the ocean. It has been a while since I saw a pelican slowly starving to death, strangled by a plastic six-pack ring encircling her neck – but it’s an unforgettable sight that most of my neighbors have witnessed, too.
I sent out a call to my on-line networks of Indivisible groups, the social justice action network from my liberal church, moms I know from my kid’s school, and women who shared a bus to the women’s march in January. Turnout numbers for this sort of progressive organizing have impressed me lately. More than forty people showing up at a postcard-writing party a friend and I organized after the Women’s March.
On March 8, there were only four of us. Whether self-employed or work-from-home, we were privileged enough to strike fairly easily — although each of us had discovered we could only manage a partial strike from caring for children and pets. Some of us had already missed several days of house-care and childcare recently, because of illness or travel or work. Missing another day on March 8 seemed too much. Even so, the strike raised the conversation about women’s work, paid and unpaid.
And these four women cleaned the beach. We filled five trash-bags with Styrofoam and plastics, pieces of tires & shoes & takeout containers, too many straws and tampon-applicators and balloons to count. When other beach-goers thanked us, we offered them trash-bags too, and one woman accepted. An older man, returning from surfing, thanked us and announced that he loves the ocean. He predicted that Trump’s “revisions” to the EPA would be great for the environment. Most of us walked away, but Christina tried to engage. She pointed out this neighbor’s contradictions, but with little success. Words like “environment” and “community” seemed to mean different things to this man than they do to us.
As we continued to clean the beach we discovered that this work, much like most work society delegates to women work, is difficult to stop because it is never completed. We chatted about the other frustrating recent conversations with people who loudly declare their own morals yet seem to us to be acting profoundly immorally, in violation of their own professed values.
There is so little common ground, even on our shared beach.
On March 8, I smiled in solidarity at the few other people wearing red, but still, I worried about all the trash we left behind and all the contradictions left unresolved.