Eleanor Davis is a cartoonist and illustrator (check out her great website and portfolio) and also an A4E member who went to our Lobbying Day on February 8th. It was her first time going and she wrote us a recap — here’s how it went!
Before Donald Trump got elected in November, our nation seemed like a machine impossible to understand, navigating terrain so complex that I wouldn’t have any idea where or how to steer it even if I had tried. I had far-left sympathies but I supported and voted for moderate Democrats. I closed my eyes and I prayed.
After the election, everything suddenly became much more clear. For a long time as a country we had been listing in the direction of a terrible cliff; on November 8th we took a sharp turn towards it and stepped on the gas. Suddenly I decided that even if I didn’t know what I was doing, it was time to put my hands on the wheel and yank hard.
Previously, citizen lobbying had felt impossible to me; but after making a hundred phone calls and speaking up at rallies and commission meetings, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. I realized that just because people who disagree with me might tell me I am wrong or confused, it doesn’t actually mean I am wrong or confused. I realized I don’t think it’s wrong to irritate people or waste their time when they are actively trying to dismantle or deport everything I love about my country. I realized that whenever I wasn’t busy fighting for what I believed in, I was busy feeling very, very bad.
I am a big, butch lady with short-cropped hair and tattoos on my hands. I was in a group lobbying with Rick, Isaac, and Tony. Rick has long hair in a ponytail and a beard. Isaac looked stunning with dyed auburn hair, immaculate mascara and painted nails. Tony has a mohawk and also a lot of hand tattoos (we both went to art school). There were not a lot of people who looked like us at the Capitol.
The Capitol felt like a Busby Berkeley number mixed with the movie Brazil. There were a lot of people in suits. There was gorgeous soaring 19th century classical architecture and cramped brutalist hallways that smelled like old cigarette smoke. I liked it a lot.
Tim Denson gave us packets detailing the proposed legislation Athens For Everyone is for and against. One of the many things A4E was lobbying for on Wednesday was SB 119, the Civil Rights for All Georgians bill. Right now, Georgia is one of only three states that have no laws barring employers from discriminating on the basis of race or religion, and there are no state or federal nondiscrimination protections for queer people.
Tim had set up a meeting with our State Senator, Bill Cowsert. The Senator was jovial and kind. He didn’t have mascara on, or tattooed hands. We told the Senator that SB 119 would protect Georgia’s most vulnerable people, who have no legal recourse when they are victims of discrimination or hate crimes. The Senator laughed and opened his arms generously. “Well, maybe it’s just because I’m a straight white man, so I don’t see it!” he said, “But I haven’t noticed Georgia having many problems of this kind, have you?”
I am not good at lobbying yet, but I hope to get better at it. I don’t know if my Senator is well-meaning or a bad man, but he isn’t going to address issues he says he doesn’t see. I am happy to keep presenting these issues to my legislators, doggedly. I will get used to the Capitol with its suits, ties and soaring columns, and the Capitol will get used to me.
February 11, 2017