The activists’ progress was often slow. The group launched a campaign against Kroger and Walmart in 2014; one ad ran in national newspapers and on billboards in Kroger’s home city of Cincinnati showing a girl holding an ice-cream cone in a Kroger store next to a man with a rifle, pointing out that only the girl was violating the store’s policy. They gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions. But both stores were unwilling to change. “I went and met with their executives in 2015,” says Watts. “And it was very clear that they would not consider changing their policy. But we just kept the pressure on. And then after the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, we began conversations again with Walmart executives and gave them counsel on policies that would make their store safer.” After Walmart announced its new policy—including, beyond the new open-carry policy, a plan to stop selling ammunition—the group pivoted to pressure Kroger, which made its announcement the next day.
This is how work gets done. I get that it’s not as Capra-film inspiring as someone rising on the Senate floor and saying I HAVE HEREBY CHANGED MY MIND and then we all applaud and cry and the law is changed and no one dies anymore, but this is how the work gets done. In living rooms. In grocery stores. Day after grinding day.
It’s slow and it’s miserable and you lose more often than you win and you risk looking just RIDICULOUS, but if you don’t care how much of a ridiculous miserable loser you are, if you’re not afraid of how long it’ll take, if you see the passage of time not as proof that you’ve lost but as a record of how long you stayed standing, you will change the goddamn ridiculous miserable motherfucking loser WORLD.
What has happened with Moms Demand and Everytown is what happens when you just stop believing that despair is the only option, when you stop expecting the avalanche and start chucking rocks. It’s so EASY to tune out the horrors of the world. It’s so EASY, most of the time, to convince yourself to do nothing because there’s nothing you can do.
But then comes the hour between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. When you can’t sleep, and you realize that none of us get out of this alive, that none of us are in this for peace, that “there was nothing I could do” isn’t an answer but an excuse and not a good one, that you are literally presented with a hundred thousand things a day that are chances and if you pass them by you are doing something, and that something isn’t good. When that hour comes, you’ve got to answer for what you’ve done with every minute, and let’s be honest, most of us can’t.
You can face that and dig even deeper into your despair or you can pick up an axe and get to work. Or you can send out that horrible tweet again about how Sandy Hook was the end. I’m not telling you how to live your life, but these women are making it harder to lie to yourself that nothing will change and that’s really quite something, now isn’t it.