Sunday, June 4, 2017

Heidi Hill's Acceptance Speech at the 2017 Norm Miller Dinner

Heidi Hill and Kendall Miller were joint recipients of the 2017 Norm Miller Leadership Award. These are Heidi's remarks on accepting the award. Kendall's remarks were posted previously.

There are many in this room as deserving of this award as Kendall and I and we don’t take that for granted. We are so grateful to those of you doing the really hard work of politics.  And we know that there are also many in this room that might be just beginning to look for ways to become involved.

In the course of less than a year, I have been at both ends of this spectrum. And if I can do this, trust me; you absolutely can, too.  Let me tell what I mean… Many of you wouldn’t know that I spent the better part of 30 years wanting to be a white rabbit in the snow.  I was in a car accident in which I sustained a traumatic brain injury concurrent with an assault, leaving me with significant Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How this relates to this story is that not uncommonly, one of the biggest ways that this impacted me was that I wanted to remain unnoticed; anonymous. Being a white rabbit in the snow. Including in my politics. This became so ingrained in me, it became almost unconscious. I did my work, don’t get me wrong. It simply became my new normal, and therefore mostly unexamined after I integrated it.

And then Nov. 9, 2016 happened. I spent the next couple of weeks in deep shock after the election.  Audre Lord, the feminist, civil rights activist famously said, “Your silence will not protect you.”  I realized that I could be afraid, and I could still do what needed done. I just simply could not remain silent anymore.  In January, I found myself speaking from a stage about my very personal story; with a microphone and press cameras at the Affordable Care Act rally because, like many in this room, I am the face of the ACA. When Kendall retires this year, after working at the same place for 36 years, the same month he retires, his company is stopping offering benefits to retiree spouses. I will need insurance. 

A week after the ACA, I found myself on stage welcoming over 2500 people to the Sister March at John Dam Plaza!

Tribes and Othering

What these numbers, and the FIERCE LOVE on everyone’s faces at the Sister March told us is that we are not alone in our community. I can’t tell you how many people told me that they instantly felt welcomed in to a much larger tribe here in the Tri-Cities—even after living here for decades.  And that it felt incredibly good.

Who are Progressives?

What do we call that Tribe?  Who gets to decide that?  Do we get to self-identify that?  Do others get to decide this?  Identifying as a far-left progressive, I went to a manifesto called Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions.
As the handbook states, the central message is one of fairness and equality: we believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at a decent, fulfilling, and economically secure life through doing his or her fair share of building this life through education and hard work and through active participation in public life. And everyone should play by the same set of rules with no special privileges for the well-connected or wealthy.

This is done through four pillars of thought.

1. Freedom. The most basic value is freedom—1) Freedom from undue interference by governments and others in carrying out their private affairs and personal beliefs 2) and freedom to lead a fulfilling and secure life.

2. Opportunity. Like freedom, the concept of opportunity has two components: one focuses on political equality and the other on life-enhancing economic and social arrangements.

3. Responsibility. Personal responsibility requires each of us to act with honesty and integrity. Responsibility to others and to the common good requires a commitment to putting the public interest above the interests of a few.

4. Cooperation. Cooperation is the foundation of our most important social institutions. Cooperation as a value requires that we try to be open-minded and empathetic toward others and that we are accountable for their well-being. Progressives believe that if we blindly pursue our own needs and ignore those of others, our society will degenerate.

Call-Out Culture

Whether you identify as progressive or moderate, I don’t believe anyone in this room could find much of anything to disagree with what I just shared.

But, unfortunately, Democrats are disagreeing with each other right now.

Studies show that when we feel tribal, our health flourishes. But there’s a problem when our tribe feels threatened--people will act out accordingly.  When I make you an “other”, I don’t have to show up for you.  Unfortunately, Democrats are making people “Others” and calling people out.

Asam Ahmad tells us that the business of the call-out culture is toxic and its purpose is to make someone an outsider--to banish and shun them and dispose of individuals rather than to engage with them as people with complicated stories and histories. There is a totalitarian undercurrent in how progressive communities police and define the bounds of who’s in and who’s out.  As defined by George Lakoff, I believe call-outs are taken right out of the playbook of the Authoritarian Parent model of Republicanism.

In an article in The Atlantic- Why Can’t the Left Win? Freddie DeBoer observed that “A fundamental, structural impediment to liberal political victory is that their preferred kind of moral engagement necessarily limits the number of adherents they can win. It’s just math: you can’t grow a mass party when the daily operation of your movement involves finding more and more heretics to ostracize from the community.”

Getting Democrats Elected

Kendall and I believe that we cannot afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  We are Democrats and we need to get Democrats elected.   We won’t succeed unless we start calling people IN. As the Resistance is showing us, spectacularly, we are so much better when we show up for one another.  Pramila Jayapal, WA State’s congresswoman from the 7th CD,  shared in “The Nation”, “We can’t tear each other down. If we start to divide ourselves now, we’re really lost. It doesn’t mean we can’t disagree about things. But we agree we’re all working toward the same place. That’s when we begin to win.“

Kendall and I are regrouping right now and we understand that you can’t regroup without the group.  Like many of you, we wondered what more can we could be doing to effect change.  Gloria Steinem would say, “work on what hurts the most.”

In order to fix what hurts most, we need to get Democrats elected so that we can make laws in our community and our country that reflect fairness and equality. Kendall and I are identifying candidates that we will be supporting with our time, energy and money and we hope that each and every single one of you will do the same.  We believe that we build our tribe strategically, with impeccable integrity, and by calling people IN one by one.

Marge Piercy – Feminist Poet voices this well:

It goes on one at a time,
It starts when you care
To act, it starts when you do
It again after they said no,
It starts when you say WE
And know who you mean, and each
Day you mean one more.

Find. Your. One. More. Call them IN to this tribe, the tribe that we all hunger for—the one that demands fairness and equality--and LET’S. ELECT. DEMOCRATS!

No comments: