Monday, September 2, 2013

Political Potential by Dean Lofton

Dean Lofton’s (pictured) Aug. 25, 2013 post

The call for a Citizens’ Filibuster to testify against appalling legislation moved me out of a decade of political apathy. My work as a women’s political group founder and feminist journalist in South Carolina left me burned out on political action, and since arriving in Austin six years ago I’ve been hesitant to put down roots in another politically repressive state. I’m an independent voter and not a member of any of the organizations who did an amazing job mobilizing the masses to testify and protest.

I spent about 35 hours over three days observing the Texas legislature’s first special session. I was still there in the early morning hours when Cecile Richards stood in the packed-to-capacity capitol dome and read Senator Wendy Davis’ text relaying that SB5 had been defeated. And as I sang “The Eyes of Texas” for the first time in my life with over 1,000 of my new best friends, I knew I was a Texan and I was home.

I also knew the citizens made a difference just by showing up. While it seemed like a short-lived victory, the community building, organizing and inspiration will last far beyond this one issue or bill. It sounds cheesy, but it restored my faith in humanity to see people show up, speak up and rise up. I loved the visible expressions of resolve and commitment on citizen’s faces as they settled into their seats in the galleries with books, knitting, laptops and phones and filled the hallways waiting in line. The group dynamics were a mix of rage at having to address this issue again, and joy at seeing the increasing numbers of protesters grow throughout each day.

There was an intense sense of immediate emotional connection with the massive crowd of mostly strangers – each with their own stories and reasons this moment was their call to action. I’ve tried to describe the silent acknowledgment as our eyes met in the galleries and hallways, but words don’t seem big enough to hold it. The photos, videos and press coverage come close to conveying it, but there’s something more. There was a sense of awe and hope for the future and wondering – if we can do this… imagine what else we can do. The hours of silence in the galleries and the roaring voices of the people were full of the potential for real change.

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