People* say—at least so I’ve heard-—that the nation is infested with angry mobs.
Must be true, I guess. After all, I’ve been hanging out with an angry mob for a couple of years now.
Let me tell you about my angry mob.
We’ll talk about the “mob” aspect first, and tackle the “angry” part later.
Technically, we’re not a mob.
We’re a pack.
We’re the RATT Pack.
That’s Resistance Action Tuesdays & Thursdays, an informal gathering twice a week in front of the Roseville field office of Representative Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove**), We’re a silent protest—we stand along the sidewalk, holding our signs and waving at passing motorists, and chat about everything from the latest political news to which BBC mystery series have the best period costumes to where to get the best Indian food in town***.) There are also two weekly support vigils at the local branch of Planned Parenthood, and a weekly vigil at the FBI’s Sacramento field office, located here in Roseville, in support of the Mueller investigation and the general principle of an independent Justice Department.
Barb and Pat, our fearless leaders, maintain communications via an email list. (We used to be more public, but some online and in-person unpleasantness with a local Proud Boy and other trolls led them to take the list private.)
The Tuesday McClintock gathering is the largest of the week, usually with anywhere from 30 to more than 100 people, depending on the latest breaking issues. We’re a varying but fairly stable mix of regulars and more occasional protesters, with sprinklings of teens and kids (less so now that school is in session again), and a few canine participants, some of whom wear their own signs.
(By the way, we are rarely alone out there on the sidewalk. On their spot across the street, there are usually two or three Trump/McClintock supporters. A few times, I’ve seen as many as seven—though on one of those days, there appeared to be fisticuffs among them.)
Back in August, Barb and Pat were kind enough to send out a survey to the 300ish members of the mailing list, so we could find out who we all are and why we keep showing up so consistently after nearly two years. We left our SurveyMonkey questionnaire open for 10 days and received 52 responses. While this was simply a voluntary questionnaire and not by any stretch of the imagination a professional statistical analysis, it seems to be a pretty good representation of the people who show up each week.
For the most part, we’re pretty old. This isn’t too surprising, since we’re out there during the work week, and the 65-and-over crowd is more likely to be free of pesky annoyances like jobs or school. This leads, however, to our favorite insult, usually shouted out by a male 20-something in either a pickup or customized dark coupe: “GET A JOB!” Mostly we get a lot of waves and thumbs-up and honks, occasional bird-flips, and more rarely, “Commies!” or “Traitors! You should all be locked up!”
We do not appear to be the outside agitators we have been accused of being. Most of us live within Roseville or neighboring towns like Rocklin and Lincoln. More than a few, though, drive down from foothill towns like Auburn, Placerville, and Foresthill. (California’s 4th is an odd and large district geographically: roughly 500 miles north to south and 100 miles west to east, mostly foothill and mountain counties, including lots of national forest and park lands like Yosemite, with a populous little blob on its northwest corner.)
As for participation, some of us are fanatics, who get to every event. Some of us are “most Tuesdays” types, and some come once a month or less, though many of the less frequent attendees are those from more remote areas of the district, who have to drive one to three hours to get to Roseville.
We’re a reasonably accomplished group, too. The survey asked an open-ended question about participants’ personal background:
Tell me a little about your education, work background, and/or hobbies. If you’re retired, what did you do before you retired?
Some college (less than 4 years, includes 2-year degrees) – 7
Bachelor degree – 19
Master’s degree – 7
Ph.D – 2
D.Pharm – 1
(Also, 2 respondents specifically mentioned that they were law school dropouts)
Agriculture/farming – 2
Animals (veterinary & wildlife) – 2
Arts professions (including art, craft work, photography, music, writing & journalism) – 8
Business administration – 1
Education (including teachers, administrators, school librarians, special educators) – 16
Food & beverage services (including restaurants/catering, retail grocery) – 4
Government (civil service & postal service) – 2
Health professions (medicine, nursing, pharmacy, psychology) – 7
Inventor – 1
Legal/paralegal – 1
Military – 3
Phone company – 1
Religion – 1 (rabbi)
Science & engineering (including engineering, computer industry, & biotech research) – 5
Small business (including accounting & finance, human resources, real estate & property management, general contracting, miscellaneous non-food retail) – 13
Social services (including social work, child welfare, disability services) – 5
Transportation – 1
Art & photography – 3
Bicycling – 2
Dogs/cats – 2
Fishing – 1
Golf – 1
Hockey – 1
Knitting – 4
Mahjong – 1
Motorcycle riding – 1
Music, singing, dance – 7
Racquetball – 1
Reading – 4
Rock collecting – 1
Spending time with family & friends – 3
Travel – 4
Volunteer work – 1
Walking/hiking/camping – 3
Yoga – 2
Politics & activism – 5
Devout Christian – 2
LGBT issues & rights support – 4
Hobbies on hold until Trump is gone – 1
That’s us. That’s who we are. Just like most people you know. Essentially, we’re your neighbors, your friends, your families, the people you work with, the people you buy from and sell to, and see around town every day.
And yet… there we are every week, making a point of getting ourselves to that sidewalk.
Partly it’s that there are specific issues that concern us. In the survey, I provided a list of issues, along with the option of adding others, and asked respondents to check all that were important to them. I plugged the responses into a spreadsheet, from which it is transparently clear that we are not a group of single-issue voters. Check it out for yourself by clicking on the link (and just hit your back button to come back from that PDF):
But it’s more than just abstract concern about issues. I also just straight out asked “Why do you participate in RATT Pack events?” Here’s a sampling of the responses:
• Because our country has taken a drastic turn in the wrong direction. I can’t sit back and watch. I want to do everything I can to help turn things around.
• Tom McClintock must go
• Doing something positive with like-minded people helps my soul. Educating the public about our Evil Regime helps my fears.
• As a retired military nurse, it breaks my heart to witness the destruction of our democracy this administration is doing.
• Get Jessica Morse elected…👍🏻
• Keeps me hopeful
• We have had presidents at war with the environment before, but NEVER this destructive. If we don’t protect and nurture the earth, how can it protect and nurture us?
• My country is at risk. The lies, the bigotry, the evil is more than I can accept.
• I don’t want my grandchildren asking why I didn’t do something
• So I can live with myself. To stave off post-election depression. I am politically active and this empowers me. I was a Teach For America teacher in Louisiana and am dedicated to educate myself and try to be part of the solution.
• I want to align myself with worthwhile causes. McClintock must go and I want to help make that happen.
• I can’t stand by and do nothing.
• As the mom of a 6 year old girl and aunt to 11 year old twin girls I see the threats to their success, health and well-being under attack. They are strong girls. They speak up but how can we stop the trainwreck that is just shoving them aside and invading their chances at a full and happy life by removing choices and opportunities that fulfill them and really extend through out their lifetime. I never want them to feel that they are less than . . . but our administration is constantly berating and insulting good female human beings is ludicrous.
• Bring attention to people of the defects of the current administration and our Congressman. Show that there is support for resistance to these policies. Also helps motivate me to see others who think the same
• Partly social therapy (I’m not alone!), partly to make a statement, partly (when NRA nuts or Proud Boys show up) to practice my John Lewis civil disobedience skills.
• Flip the 4th!
Which brings us—finally—around to the angry aspect of our angry mob. Anger seems almost too small a word to describe the emotion we feel as we consider why we keep showing up for RATT Pack. Fury, maybe, or rage. But it’s not a helpless rage. And that’s the secret of the angry mobs the title refers to. Our anger is our fuel.
You see, when we finish our pleasant hour with the RATT Pack, we’re not going home to stream Netflix (though that has its place). We’ve got other work to do. We’re members of Indivisible groups and local Democratic clubs and Sierra Forward and environmental groups and the ACLU and the League of Women Voters and the California Alliance for Retired Americans. We’re canvassing and phonebanking and registering voters. We’re doing voter outreach at high schools and new citizen ceremonies, and searching out infrequent voters to turn them into voters this year and for years to come.
As a matter of fact, it’s Tuesday morning and almost time to leave for RATT Pack. Plus, I’ve got a data entry shift coming up a little while after that at Jessica Morse’s local campaign field office. If we don’t flip the House this November, it won’t be because I didn’t do my part. But before I go, let me leave you with a quote from Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad, her new book about women’s anger and how and why our society so often treats it as a problem, and how it can be a positive, useful force, that long-term fuel we’ll need for the years ahead.
The task—especially for the newly awakened, the newly angry, especially for the white women, for whom incentives to renounce their rage will be highest in coming years—is to keep going, to not turn back, to not give in to the easier path, the one where we weren’t angry all the time, where we accepted the comforts of racial and economic advantage that will always be on offer to those who don’t challenge power. Our job is to stay angry . . . perhaps for a very long time.
“It is probably going to be years,” Emma Gonzalez told reporters in 2018 about her battle against the gun lobby. “And at this point, I don’t know that I mind. Nothing that’s worth it is easy . . . We could very well die trying to do this. But we could very well die not trying to do this too. So why not die for something rather than nothing?”
* Some people, anyway.
** As a resident of Elk Grove, Rep. McClintock is himself represented by Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove), and has never lived in his own district, which partially accounts for the creation and continuing energy of the RATT Pack.
*** Mehfil, definitely.