By Stephanie Ebbert Globe Staff,March 3, 2019, 7:04 p.m.PORTLAND, Maine
For liberal activists, it has been a punishing two years of protest, waging battles over health care, tax breaks, family separation, and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Resistance, it turns out, is exhausting.
“People are getting burnt out,” said Marie Follayttar, a Portland artist who founded an activist group called Mainers for Accountable Leadership after the 2016 election.
If liberals are feeling increasingly beaten down by the never-ending demands of activism in the age of Trump, then perhaps no one is more dispirited than Maine activists, who for two years have been on the front lines of the nation’s most heated fights.
They tried, and often failed, to sway their US Senator Susan Collins, a swingable Republican, their way on issues from the fate of the Affordable Care Act to the tilt of the Supreme Court.
After losing an emotional round over the confirmation of Kavanaugh, who had been accused of sexual assault, some had nowhere to go with their frustration and resentment, or the memories they had unearthed of the violence in their own pasts.
“The mood was already grieving. People were already raw,” Follayttar said.
Achy, angry, and in dire need of self-care, they decided to take some time for themselves to learn to shake the weight of the world off their shoulders.
They’ve turned to yoga.
A series of classes, called Yoga for Sustainable Activism, is being provided free to activists at Portland Community Squash through several donors and Sea Change Yoga, a Portland organization that provides trauma-informed yoga to people who might not otherwise get to indulge in self-care. (Think of those in prisons, recovery centers, group homes.)
“What do we do with the fact that social justice never ends?” instructor Katie Beane asked 10 activists assembled on yoga mats on a recent Monday evening. “There are always folks who are marginalized and always people who need our help or need support. It can be really overwhelming.”
Kim Simmons, a sociologist who teaches in the women and gender studies program at the University of Southern Maine, planned the yoga curriculum in anticipation of Trumpian burnout. When she wrote her dissertation about coalition-building, she recalled, everyone she interviewed wanted to talk about “the pain of in-fighting.”
“As we entered the postelection-2016 era, I noticed my students were especially run ragged, worried, angry, hurting,” Simmons said. “Similarly, as I reentered more activist spaces, I noticed my own fatigue and guardedness.”
So she, Follayttar, and Beane built a class for sustenance, which looks much like any other mild yoga class, though it begins with a poem — on this night, Marge Piercy’s “To Be Of Use” — and ends with a discussion about organizing.
Admittedly, there may be nothing that sounds as self-indulgent as “self-care.” When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced she was taking time for it before being sworn into Congress, she was roundly mocked for needing a break. It sounds positively un-American, to want a vacation.
Self-care is, however, a basic human need, and though it’s most often associated with facials and kale, most have probably been doing it by another name. (Try “down time” or “mental health day,” filled with good-for-you ingredients that boost your health and spirits, without regrettable aftereffects.)
It’s hard to justify taking a break when the world seems to be falling apart, of course — a condition Beane calls “activist guilt.”
“There’s always more to do,” she said.
However, she added, “The reality is, if you are constantly doing the work and you aren’t stopping and pausing and practicing self-care, you will burn out. You’ll get sick. You’ll get angry. . . . Or you become filled with rage and it comes out on your family members.”
Self-care is what keeps people going, in the sometimes soul-crushing world of political activism, Simmons said.
And after all, they expect another two years of this.
Mainers Defend Their Right to the First Amendment and Fight Back Against Bogus Attacks from Senator Susan Collins
In a heated atmosphere around the Supreme Court nominations, an online fundraising pledge campaign supported by Mainers for Accountable Leadership, the Maine People's Alliance, and Be A Hero, founded by national health care advocate and ALS patient Ady Barkan has now raised over $1.2 million online from more than 40,000 small dollar donors to unseat Senator Collins, IF she decides to support the nomination of Kavanagh to the Supreme Court. See the campaign's metrics in real time by clicking here.
Instead of paying attention to the messages from her constituents, Senator Susan Collins ran to a notorious right wing news outlet to call the campaign “bribery.”
Jonathan Berkon, a partner in Perkins Coie’s Political Law Group, defended the legality of the program. “Through this grassroots effort, Mainers are making clear to Senator Collins that they will defeat her for reelection if she defies the will of the people and votes to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. The First Amendment guarantees their right to do so. And federal law protects their right to pool their funds together now, when enthusiasm is at its peak, so that their campaign against a well-funded, four-term incumbent is viable two years from now. It is shameful that Republicans are using bogus legal threats to stifle this grassroots enthusiasm.”
"The idea of Susan Collins attacking an effort by 35,000 small dollar donors as bribery is politics at its worst,” said Marie Follayttar, the co-director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership.
“Thousands of Mainers are trying desperately to tell her that she needs to protect abortion access and critical healthcare coverage across the country by voting ‘no’ on Kavanaugh.”
“Sen. Collins owes it to her constituents to hear them out, and explain why Judge Kavanaugh's demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade, opposition to covering pre-existing conditions and repeated lies is not disqualifying. If she doesn't, we absolutely have the right to prepare to unseat her. Unlike Supreme Court judges, Senators do not enjoy a lifetime guarantee of their seat; they are accountable to the people.”
Ady Barkan, one of the founders of the Campaign said “Senator Collins took over $5 million from PACs and large donors like the Koch brothers. In exchange, she voted to cut their taxes and take healthcare away from people like me. Senator Collins may not really know what small dollar donations are, because during her last election campaign less than 3% of her money came from small dollar donors, while 44% came from PACs, but that still doesn't excuse smearing a grassroots effort from regular people pleading with someone in a position of power to do the right thing.”
Barkan, father dying of ALS, filmed the initial video begging Senator Collins to “be a hero” and vote “No” on Kavanaugh. Barkan originally gained national fame when he confronted Sen. Jeff Flake mid-flight with a plea to vote no on the tax bill.
Other support has been flooding in to the campaign that is well beyond $1 million now and gathered another $50k within the hour of Collins complaining that small donations could be seen as bribery.Just a handful of responses can be seen here:
My name is Marpheen Chann, a board member at the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center and a volunteer organizer with Mainers for Accountable Leadership; and I had to do something.
In a recent blog post, I wrote:
I am a first-generation U.S. citizen born in California to a Cambodian refugee family. After we moved to Maine in the mid-90s, I was separated from my family and later adopted.
Thousands of Mainers came together from all over our big and beautiful state to say that we have zero tolerance for the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy and the separation of migrant children from asylum-seeking families.
But now, we have to put our money where our mouth is by making a donation, signing up, and laying the groundwork to get out the vote this November and elect leaders who respect the will of the people.
These next few months and the 2018 Midterm Elections in November will be OUR referendum on the Trump Agenda; OUR moment to reaffirm our values as a society and as a people.
That is why we cannot afford to stay on the sidelines and sit out.
If President Trump’s separation of immigrant families makes you mad as hell, turn that anger into action.
If President Trump’s Muslim ban makes you mad as hell, turn that anger into action.
If the Trump administration’s attack on women’s rights makes you mad as hell, turn that anger into action.
If the Trump administration’s war on civil rights, human rights, voting rights and LGBTQ rights makes you mad as hell, turn that anger into action.
President Donald J. Trump is a clear and present danger to our democracy and it’s going to take OUR DEMOCRACY to fight back.
This July 4th holiday, let's celebrate and declare our interdependence together as a community, as lights in the darkness in the fight to save the soul of America. Join me in taking action today.
Mainers for Accountable Leadership
Mainers for Accountable Leadership: Pressure our federally elected representatives to uphold the Maine values of equality, acceptance, and diversity.
Please join us by visiting our website www.mfal.me, joining our facebook page, following us on twitter @MFALpac, or sending us an email - firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Get trained:
Nonviolent Direct Action Training, MFAL FB Events page
July 14, 9Am – 3 PM, Portland, MEJuly 15, 9 AM- 3 PM, Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine
Open-Call Training, MFAL FB Events page
July 22, 1:30-4:30 pm, Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church
Come learn more about the issues, bystander intervention training, organizing 101
2. Get Educated, Donate, Volunteer
Visit these websites to get educated on the issues specifically related to immigrants, and donate as you are willing and able:
3. Volunteer or Join a Group
You can volunteer at any of the above listed organizations, or also join groups specifically dedicated to voter turn-out, including: Engage Maine; Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Civil Liberties Union; Maine League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of Maine; Maine League of Young Voters; Opportunity Maine; EqualityMaine; and Maine Women’s Lobby.
Moral Based Organizing
Moral Movement Maine or the Poor People’s Campaign
These are groups of people, locally based, all-across Maine where many newly activated people work together. Please email us at email@example.com and we can send you the running list.
4. Use the Power of your Wallet
You can donate to the organizations listed above or MFAL PAC.
You can also boycott the companies that are explicitly profiting from Trump’s “zero toleration” immigration campaign: https://grabyourwallet.org/Action%20Alert.html
Call our federal elected and make your voice known:
TOGETHER, WE CAN.
Alright Mainers, Senator Collins and Senator King need to hear from us TODAY!
Mike Pompeo is Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State: chief diplomat, who will represent us around the world. He will push Trump's extreme racist agenda and lead us further along the path to war.
Pompeo has promoted religious intolerance, a hostility to human rights, bigotry, and torture. He opposes LGBT and reproductive rights and will not promote the American values of sexual freedom and gender equality or the health of women around the world. Pompeo is a climate change denier. He will not protect the health and well being of our people and our future while negotiating abroad.
Our state and country is one of diversity of thought, people and religion. Pompeo is out of line with Maine and American values, and cannot be confirmed. These values, and not Mike Pompeo's, must be the foundation of our international policy.
We must speak out against his confirmation today! Please share widely, and forward to your friends.
Marie Follayttar Smith
Director, Mainers for Accountable Leadership
"Stop focusing on how I look, my color, my accent or my religion. I’m here. I’m an American.
I pay my taxes. I’m doing something for myself, for my family, for our community.
I’m doing something for this country.
Everything that I’m doing is what makes a good American citizen, but yet I can’t be considered that because of a place that I was born. It’s horrible that I’ve lived here for 15 years and my status, my identity is an alien number on a piece of paper.
No human is illegal.
We are all Americans"
Senator Collins is a pivotal Senator in the healthcare vote. Health Care is a moral issue.
Dear Senator Collins:
As Maine faith and community leaders, speaking from many traditions, we agree on the dignity of every human life and the fundamental moral principle that all should have access to consistent, affordable, and quality health care.
Speaking with one voice, we implore you to oppose the Better Care Reconciliation Act on moral grounds. Its cruel cuts to Medicaid will take coverage and care away from many of Maine’s most vulnerable seniors, children and people with disabilities.
This immoral bill, which was drafted in complete secrecy, would also raise health care costs for low-income seniors and hardworking families, and deprive millions of health insurance. It puts people with pre-existing conditions in jeopardy of discrimination and losing affordable, quality care. It leaves seniors and veterans without the assistance they need to afford private insurance.
Amid all this needless suffering, it carves massive tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans. It is the very definition of unjust legislation.
Senator Collins, as Mainers of faith, we remind you that public service calls for sound moral judgment. This bill presents a test of whether you can withstand partisan pressure and do what is right for your constituents -- especially those who need help the most. You cannot in good conscience support this legislation. God is watching, and so are we.
PORTLAND (WGME) -- A number of protesters gathered on the steps of Portland city hall Sunday, asking Senator Susan Collins to denounce President Trump and take action on specific policy issues.
The Stand Up to Trump rally began at 10:30 a.m. and focused on impacts of health care repeal and Trump cabinet appointments.