MUSINGS FROM THE LAUNDROMAT | See you in the streets!

I’d like to write about something pleasant this month. The promise of a new year. The sunshine I am enjoying as I spend my winter in Panama. The love of family and friends. But all I can think about is what is looming in just a few days. The figurative elephant in the room.  And it feels irresponsible not to at least touch on it.

When we are traveling on our boat in the summers, there are days when we do a long stretch with a certain island as our destination. We eventually see it in the distance, but it is still miles away. Slowly, slowly, it gets bigger, closer and although it seems as though it will never happen, eventually we get there, tie up and touch land. 

Similarly, I find myself looking at the calendar every day and cringing as I see the date climbing toward the 20th. I saw a cartoon recently that showed a calendar with the month of January stopping on Jan. 19 with the remaining days showing the 19th as well. A sort of Groundhog Day fantasy.

I realize that we are a deeply divided country. And that the popular vote did not go to the person who will be sworn in to lead our country in just a few days. But an astonishing number of people did vote for a man who, in my opinion, has no business being in that office.

If you have been paying attention to the pre-game warm up you can see what is about to happen. The direction in which this man is planning to take our country is unacceptable and does not represent all the people. In fact it represents less than half of us. And I do believe that as time goes on people who supported him will wake up and realize that they have been had. The rich will get richer. Jobs will continue to be sent overseas. Racism and misogyny will be legitimized.

Last summer I sat on a friend’s back porch with my Queen Anne book club. We discussed the election and with very few exceptions, not one person believed that this would be the result. Because, really, it’s unbelievable.

But believe it. Because it has happened. We need a period of mourning over the loss of one of the classiest First Families in a very long time. Possibly in, at least, my lifetime. But then, the hand wringing must stop. And we must defend what we hold dear and remember that these people in Washington work for us. For us! We vote for them. And we pay them to support and take care of and represent us.

What would you do if someone you hired did not do the job you hired them to do? You would fire them, right? Of course you would. It’s relatively easy when the person is right there and the situation is in your control. But the folks in Washington have deep dark secrets and back room deals. Despite the fact that we vote for them and pay their salaries, we are not privy to those back room deals. The politicians are entirely unaccountable to us, the people who put them there. We can only respond to what they do. Or say they are going to do.

And respond we must. This is where our power comes in. We must attend protests. Organize them. Prioritize them. Get loud. Don’t use the weather or a dinner party as an excuse. Being too tired or feeling despondent does not give you a pass. Convince the younger generation to do the same. 

Remember, all of the advances that have occurred in the last 100+ years from women’s rights to civil rights have happened because the people got loud. Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers endured ridicule and jail time to gain the right to vote for women. Women! Imagine as a woman not being allowed to vote! Because of your gender. Impossible. But it was the law back then.

Civil rights were non-existent. In the 1950s, nine scared, brave, high school kids were the first to enter a newly de-segregated school in Little Rock, Ark. Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus. African Americans sat at “whites only” lunch counters tolerating physical and verbal assaults to make their point.

Earlier, in the late 1800s through early 1900s, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones fought for workers rights and child labor laws. In her 60s, Mother Jones was considered “the most dangerous woman in America.” She organized a 92-mile march from Philadelphia to the home of Theodore Roosevelt in New York to protest the lack of enforcement of child labor laws. She never backed down.  

“I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword,” she said. “I will tell the truth wherever I please.”

We owe it to these people, these brave pioneers of what is right, of all that we take for granted and hold dear, to prevent ourselves from backsliding. Whatever it takes. Find someone from history to inspire you. Your grandmother. Mother Jones. Or blaze your own trail. But do not go to sleep and wait four years for this chapter to pass. Because it will not pass unless we let it.

See you in the streets!

IRENE PANKE HOPKINS ( is a freelance writer and essayist. To comment on this column, go to