People often ask how our chapter of Indivisible started here in Sumner County. The story begins on November 9, 2016 at the Hendersonville Publix of all places. The day after the election was difficult, but like most people I got up, went to work, and made it through the day. That evening I went to the grocery store for the typical last minute items: milk and bread. It was late with just a few people in the store and only one checkout open.
I approached the register and overheard the cashier speaking with two ladies at the front of the line. It was obvious that English was a second language for them and the cashier was finding it difficult to communicate with them as they attempted to pay for their groceries. While the ladies finished gathering their bags the cashier turned and said hello to the next person in line, but was still visibly frustrated due to the language barrier of her previous customers. As the ladies moved out of earshot the cashier turned again to the next customer and whispered with glee, “All I gotta say is, ‘Build That Wall!'”
This blatant demonstration of xenophobia dumfounded me. Having grown up in the south, I am well aware of the constant presence of these attitudes, but I have rarely encountered them so openly displayed in public. One of my fears during the 2016 campaign was coming true. The violent, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic language put on display by Donald Trump during the campaign was now making it acceptable to openly show these darker human impulses; to make those unfamiliar to us or different from us into an “other,” a “them,” a “thing.”
“All I gotta say is, ‘Build That Wall!'”
Driving home that evening I felt angry, felt afraid, felt isolated. Those thoughts and feelings festered for several weeks until I had the good fortune to break my leg. At the time I certainly would not have called it luck, but among other restrictions my injury prevented me from driving. This led to countless long Uber rides to and from work. Having long, sometimes incredibly deep conversations with each of these drivers gave me a bit of hope that maybe our community was not the haven of hatred that I experienced that night at the grocery store. We did not always agree, but we were always able to have civil discussions and usually found more common ground than disagreement. After a few weeks of this a funny thing happened: several of the drivers noticed my Bernie Sanders sticker and whispered to me, conspiratorially, “You like Bernie, too? I thought I was the only one around here.”
Over the course of the next few months I heard more and more of these whispers; people who felt just as angry, and scared, and isolated as me. Around the same time articles and news stories began appearing talking about this new grassroots organization called “Indivisible” that had been organizing people to show up at town hall meetings around the country. It seemed I was very much not alone. Reading the Indivisible Guide, I learned about the backstory of Leah Greenberg, Ezra Levin and other former congressional staffers who got together in their apartments and, using the tactics of the Tea Party as inspiration, cobbled together a typo-laden Google Doc and hastily sent it out to a few friends and family.
According to Leah, by the next morning they knew something amazing was happening. The Google Doc crashed repeatedly over the course of the next few days and their inboxes were flooded with questions and comments – many pointing out the various typos within the Guide. Two days after the Guide was posted to Ezra Levin’s Twitter account it had gone certifiably viral. Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, shared it. On December 16, 2016 the New Yorker published a featured article about it. Suddenly groups around the country began to form, but not due to the urging of any of the authors. People simply found the Guide, read it, and decided to put it into action. Many of the groups returning from the Women’s March in Washington, DC formed Indivisible Groups during the long bus trip home.
By the next morning they knew something amazing was happening
By February 14, 2016 a movement had begun. On that day I started a Facebook Group, followed shortly by a Facebook Page as I was not really sure which was which or how any of this worked. I registered with the Indivisible Guide webpage and waited. People slowly started liking the page and joining the group. By March when we had our first meeting about 10 people showed up. We got to know each other, and the time was mainly used to vent all of the pent up negativity of the previous months. We had several meetings after that and made plans for actions and coordination with other nearby groups in Nashville and Gallatin. We held protests as congress attempted to repeal the ACA. We made countless phone calls. We organized and held vigil in the wake of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. We began to make ourselves heard at the local level, and that grassroots power has become a roar across the country.
Today there are over 6000 Indivisible Groups in the US. There are at least two groups in every congressional district. Throughout the course of 2017 the focus of our group and others like us has been to #resist, but now as we look to 2018 we are becoming more. We are focused on supporting our local people of color and LGBTQ citizens, on increasing voter engagement and turnout, on helping our towns and counties continue to grow into beautiful, diverse, inclusive communities. We will stand together, and we hope others will stand with us, because in the end this is not the story of me, or the story of you, or them. This is the story of us.