Molly Jong-Fast has done us all a favor by identifying what made the speech by Michigan State Senator Mallory McMarrow so powerful. Unfortunately the title - "Democrats Need to Stand Up for Themselves" - didn't do her piece justice because her analysis went much deeper than it implies.
McMorrow proved that rebuttal can be done effectively—and she succeeded because her rebuke rested on a personal narrative.Here's the advice Jong-Fast got from McMarrow:
Whatever your personal story is, tell it. Don’t lead with a long policy paper. People vote for people that they trust, and you have to build that trust first, and you don’t do that with a policy paper. You do that with a story about who you are and who they are and what you have in common.
I'm going to drop the speech in here so that you can listen to it again to see how McMorrow did that.
In writing this piece, Jong-Fast took her own advice and told the story about why McMorrow's words resonated with her personally.
Senator Lana Theis accused me by name of grooming and sexualizing children in an attempt to marginalize me for standing up against her marginalizing the LGBTQ community...in a fundraising email, for herself.— Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) April 19, 2022
Hate wins when people like me stand by and let it happen. I won't. pic.twitter.com/jL5GU42bTv
I learned it myself in 1997, in the Lily unit of Hazelden Rehab, in Center City, Minnesota. I was a 19-year-old drug addict trying to kick cocaine and alcohol and everything else. I showed up at Hazelden wearing heavy, dark eye makeup, my bag filled with controlled substances, convinced that no one had ever felt the way I felt. The next four weeks in Minnesota taught me the power of narrative, because the stories I heard from the other people there saved my life. Again and again, people told me their stories, and again and again, I related to their loss, their hardship, their loneliness...It was these stories that convinced me that I could get sober too. And I did. I’m not sure I could have without the power of the first-person narrative.
The first time I remember thinking about the power of stories was back in the 1970's when I read a couple of novels by the Catholic priest, Andrew Greeley. I was just beginning to think through some of the questions I had about religion and the stories he told resonated with me at an incredibly deep, powerful level. When criticized for his writing, Greeley responded by saying that there is a reason why, in the New Testament Gospels, Jesus rarely engaged in discussions about theology with the Pharisees. Instead, he told them parables.
In 2008, when I became fascinated by Barack Obama's presidential campaign, I began reading about Marshall Ganz, who had been hired to develop "Camp Obama." Ganz, who teaches community organizing at Harvard, learned his craft by being involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and then with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in California. He writes and lectures on the topic of why stories matter.
Paul Tillich taught us that the work of justice requires power, and for power to become justice requires love. All three are intimately related. We cannot turn our love into justice without engaging power. Justice is not achieved without struggle. It’s not achieved without mobilizing power. Organizing is about mobilizing power.
The difference in how individuals respond to urgency or anxiety (detected by the brain’s surveillance system) depends on the brain’s dispositional system, the second system in the brain, which runs from enthusiasm to depression, from hope to despair. When anxiety hits and you’re down in despair, then fear hits. You withdraw or strike out, neither of which helps to deal with the problem. But if you’re up in hope or enthusiasm, you’re more likely to ask questions and learn what you need to learn to deal with the unexpected.
But you can't just go around telling people to be hopeful. We do that by telling stories.
A story communicates fear, hope, and anxiety, and because we can feel it, we get the moral not just as a concept, but as a teaching of our hearts.
The truth is that Black, LGBTQ, and other marginalized people have been fighting alone for too long. That’s how we got here.— Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) April 26, 2022
Honestly, I’m sorry I’m late. To all the other people like me, it’s our turn. We’re late, but we’re not too late.
Let’s go. 💪 #HateWontWin https://t.co/UavMjwVoJL
Personally, I'd like to thank her for reminding me of the power of story and for sending out a dose of hope to those of us who've been feeling tired, frustrated, and discouraged. If you need a little more, here's a story that might be just what the doctor ordered.