I believe in the great unity of us all.
Living in Arizona, this is critical. It is central to who I am and what I do to believe that at the end of the day, these values are not left nor Democratic, they are just and true. I do not have the luxury of fighting for party or any such other soft notion one can fall back into. This is the struggle for justice. This is the fight for equality. This is the war for us all.
It is a strange thing being me. Some years ago when I was diagnosed as HIV positive, among the strangeness that went through my mind and soul was the acceptance of my own death. Over the years, this has hollowed me out. I accept the futility of my own life, I understand that I will live to see not much more than the groundwork of my greatest dreams, if even that. But in a strange way this destruction of self has allowed a broadening of me. I no longer have my own cause. I am without agenda. I do not seek power for my own sake. I merely believe in the light of a brighter day because I have lived the black of a darker night. Everything has already been cut away from me. All that remains is a bleeding heart too willing to stand the gap for the lost and the downtrod. I am all but too willing to throw all that I am and have between my countrymen and the abyss.
These are not idle words for me. As I write this, the weight has become so heavy that my viral load has broken through, my T-cell count is flagging, but I would rather die than give up. I do not see nor accept the damage to my health. I see the challenge of lifting the students I work with out of fear and danger and giving them a better world. I do not calculate nor consider my own mortality. There is only the eternity of us all.
Unity matters. The ties that bind make us who we are, make us one. Without these shared principles, this oneness, we are scattered. In that diaspora of the light all is darkness and our individual flames quickly flicker out. I know that darkness well. I remember losing my rights, losing my life, alone in the dark with no comfort, making the decision to surrender. It is in that isolation that even the strongest among us fail. For me, it was failing health and the loss of my civil rights. For you, God only knows what it was or might be.
For me, I have come to the desert and found the sun. I am surrounded on all sides by men and women who share my values, who love me, who accept me as I am, who lean on me as I lean on them. I have found the new guard of Liberals, of Democrats, of organizers, who have taught me to believe in the great unity of us all. They have given me back my voice. They have taught me to hold power again. They have lead me to believe that together, through respect, empowerment, and inclusion, we can rise above the very greatest of adversity.
The task at hand, however, is unfathomably big, and we are so few. I can count us. I can name the names, can remember the faces. I've held and touched them all to the last. We are but one tiny cluster of light, clinging together, burning for all we are against the darkness.
There are moments when all we are is not enough. There are moments the heart breaks and the light loses and we are overcome. There are times we lose. It is devastating beyond all words. There simply is not calculation that can happen when you are outspent, outgunned, outmanned, when you have fought your heart out and left everything there is to leave in the field, and you lose on the smallest of margins. You write the narrative and you spin it as best you can, but your heart hurts. Your body aches. Your mind accepts the defeat.
In February, a friend and field team member, Scott (@ssaari) mentioned UniteBlue to me when it was little more than a hashtag getting its meager self off the ground. The mission spoke to me. I work amazingly difficult turf. Central Phoenix is extremely blue, but it lacks unity. It is not outvoted due to population or voter registration, it simply contains a litany of monolithic organizations who do not work together, who are not united, who write off the potential at hand in favor of battles elsewhere. I'd talked at great length to any who would listen about the problems facing me in this small microcosm and the Left writ large in Arizona, about our need to knit together and empower these base districts, and here was this organization out of absolutely nowhere vowing to help do what needed to be done.
So I struck out on a hashtag and in 140 characters at a time I spoke to my kindred as I had spoken to my kindred. There would be no licking of wounds from battles lost, only the glory of the battles won. We would not mourn our losses of yesteryear, we would plot our victories of tomorrow. We would not dwell and dread, we would dream and dare. We would organize for unity, we would fight for for love. It was as though I was being reunited with long lost family. We were no longer one tiny cluster of light. We were all the stars in the heavens.
I fell into role - the voice, the organizer, the tip of the spear. I am not content to stand in the back and command forward, I need to lead the charge. My words, my message, my outreach, my every last counted character poured out of the only thing I have to give, and the most beautiful thing happened. Bleeding heart that I am, dozens - no, hundreds - clamored around me to be my armor. One after another came forward, from all corners of the world. @LA_Crystal, @rebecca810, @lurkingsmirking, @cribboss, @Tracyealy1, @bannerite, @gopiggies, @chihuamexica, @SDzzz, @areyou0, @RedAnneBoleyn, @txgdb, @CAFalk, @iwanttolearn, @ziletrezo, @TarotDarrow, @EdieVP, @DanteB4u, @pizzmoe, @tamarindlemur, @atylerrose1, @GOPiggies, @marlasue01, @DaleF3, and on the list goes with God only knows how many I am forgetting, these people became more than names on a screen. They became my arms, my legs, my hands, my feet, my voice, my heart, my soul.
In the dark moments that come with life as an organizer in a battleground, with just one click I was no longer alone. At long last, I had a place I could lay my weapons down. Weary and beaten, bloodied but unbowed, here was my home. Here, in this community, even when I had lost everything, these men and women would embrace me as brother and uplift me as hero just for having fought. Here, here, this was a base, this was a home I could not lose, this was won turf.
The #TurnRedStatesBlue campaign picked Arizona for one of its first states, and my friend @qrinker told me I needed to apply for the State Coordinator position with UniteBlue for Arizona. I asked a handful of questions locally, and a handful of Zach Green, and I went for it. I had an opportunity to gain access to a national platform headed by individuals who could bring to bear significant, real technical know-how of the type and class that had enabled us to deploy resources in 2012 more efficiently than anything I'd ever seen. I had to go for it, so I did. I laid out in lavender who I was, what I did, what I was doing, the sense of community I'd found, and my deep commitment to the fight for Arizona. The response was swift and simple - they wanted me.
I did not know the Greens in those days, but I did know 140Elect. I'm a product of the field. If it touches voters, I know what it is. While I may not have been any great tweeter during the run of the 2012 campaign, I knew 140Elect the same way we knew Nate Sliver. I knew 140Elect's involvement on the right, in the Republican primaries, with the Roemer campaign, even with the Tea Party. I knew Twitter was the one piece of technology where the Right was outperforming us. And here was this enterprise, having made money and been profitable on that side of the aisle, holding out its hand and offering me all I would need to seize this platform away from the Right, and for nothing more than a few keystrokes.
There was a time in my life I'd've looked at these Johnny-come-latelies to the Left and questioned their motives. I can understand the questioning of motive and money. Once upon a time, that would have been me, too. Then organizing Arizona happened. I remember one day sitting in my field office three older folks arrived and asked if this was "the Democrat office". I told them yes, this was the Democratic field office for central Phoenix, and I asked what I could help them with. They asked me how to change parties. They talked about how far right the Republican Party had gone, how it had left them. We found common ground. We talked of a better future. We laughed. They told me how much better they felt being Democrats. These three old folk I'd never met, who came in my office so let down, walked out so uplifted. In a sense, it is a thing we who are born of the Liberal cloth should envy in the convert. The convert knows the freedom of shaking off the yoke.
Even so, not all is ever easy in the course of human endeavor. The brighter the light, the deeper the dark it can hide. I burned so bright in those days I could ignore the darkest of dark. I could engage anyone - I was building a movement. That was not new to me. In the field, I was forever training volunteers to talk to every target type imaginable. You can only do that if you can do it yourself. You simply cannot afford to be closed off to any. For the best of the best of us, you even sharpen your claws against hardened enemies. I know this rapid building outreach well. Its benefit is that it is rapid and conquers ground quickly. Its downfall, much as a bright light hides a dark hole, is that a fast build covers shoddy ground.
I'm going to save you the telling of that story, and tell a different one at my own expense. I hate the term victim, because I am not one. I am a survivor. I was sexually abused from the ages of 11 to 14, I was raped 19, and again at 22 which left me with HIV. This was not an earned fate. The men involved wrought real, irreversible damage on my psyche, the type that needs naught but suggestion to bring it back to the fore, and it will never be gone. But being in the public square, organizing in the public square, means exposing yourself and connecting with everyone and anyone, as they are and as they come. Sometimes you only learn too late what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
In those dark moments, when the world closed in and all my demons came out to play, even and especially then this new-found family rallied around me. In public, in private, they held me up. They were the wall against which my back was pressed, and they pushed back in ways I could scarce fathom let alone accept. Bewildering as it is to finally have a network of love and support, nothing compares to tapping into that network and drinking in its strength. Swarmed on all sides and beset as I was by my every last demon, so too was I surrounded by the men and women who had offered up their love as my armor. In my weakest of moments and darkest of hours, they were there for me. Because of them, I could nether fall nor fail. Through them, I was stronger. With them, I was bulletproof. I found nothing in me that was never there before, but in the great unity of us all I found a will to fight I had not thought possible. Bound up as we were and are, we are stronger together.
There is a bizarre bifurcation that happens in the mind of an organizer between the project and the build. It is never solely one nor the other. We create our worlds and build our bases in a manner that they can never be wholly destroyed. If that which is above us falls, we reach upward into the open sky. If the world in which we grow is burned, we build a new one. We are moved of a belief that we never lose, because we never give up. Though I fall away, others shall rise to replace me. We are convinced and convicted that our cause is righteous, our motives pure, and we cannot be defeated. All of this is the build. The project is merely the banner under which we labor. This is the secret of what makes an organizer indestructible. We need no banner. We are building the world.
Now, comes a time for each of us when that world is attacked. Invariably, blaze as we might to drive the darkness out, it is still there. It will go no more quietly than we will. In its lack of light and direction it rages against us in its ill-fated endeavor to wage a war it can never win. Its adherents, naught more than a raft of swivel-eyed loons, drunk as they are on destruction and scraps of data, spin all manner of yarn and cloth to cover us. There is talk of targets and potential targets, blather of nearness and nodes, of bots and handlers. But it cannot move against us. Darkness cannot invade light. We are nothing less than a force in the world, the line along which the scatter plots, the invisible hand that renders the carefully read data so meaningless. Whatever law is found that runs afoul of the world we are building shall be destroyed and rewritten. The best the data mongers can do is to describe the world we are building, or to feed us the data we need to build it. Those poor benighted oracles who become enthralled by the forces of destruction, or worse become delusional and paranoid within themselves, must be discarded. The best are oft the most susceptible, and sadly must be burnt to ashes and swept away.
I respond to such madness as we always respond. I shall raise me up an army, I shall march upon my enemy, and I shall not be defeated. In the community grown from the UniteBlue project, I have found my world; I have raised my army. All I am and all I have are the men and women who have proved themselves the winds on which I fly. These are they who answered the call to #RiseAbove. These are they who when I pleaded for unity heeded the call. They are my confidants, my advisors, my missionaries, my proselytizers. These are the rising of the sun. These are not my followers. These are they who drive me forward. Together, we are more than the sum of our parts. Together, we are more than the dreamers of dreams. Together, we are the builders of the world.
Together, we are #UniteBlue.