In American life, there are many instances where people defer responsibility for some task or action to some unspecified other person. There was an old, idiomatic expression that I used to hear as a small child: “Let George do it.” I wondered who this “George” was. Finally, I asked my Mom, and she laughingly explained that “George” was simply a convenient label for someone who had to do something, usually a task requiring considerable diligent work. Most people, she said, would try to avoid doing that work if at all possible. “Let George do it” was their phrase.
As an adolescent, I became part of the anti-war, the feminist, and the environmental movements with which my parents were involved. I noticed that many members of these groups came up with excuses for why they “couldn’t” do such-and-such work, and that work eventually was transferred to my Mom, who was an exceptionally-organized, high-speed typist, and who could communicate with the best. Much of the groups’ work involved contacting political, religious, and scientific leaders; organizing conferences or seminars; preparing campaign materials; and otherwise moving the groups’ programs forward.
Mom would express her frustration with the hypocrisy of the members who claimed to be in favor of women’s rights, or against the war in Vietnam, or in favor of the environment, but who deferred responsibility for taking action to advance the groups’ agendas. One day, when she was particularly exhausted from an all-night session of typing out campaign materials; mimeographing them; and mailing them out, she said “You know, ‘George’ can’t do any more work. ‘George’s’ back is broken, because everybody has been piling on more and more work on it. They claim they’re involved in the movement, but the only people doing any ‘moving’ around here are us.”
Part of that was fatigue, but it was, on a much deeper level, profoundly true. On Saturdays and Sundays, I would be part of a petition-carrying group of youngsters getting signatures on anti-war petitions, or handing out notices of protest rallies or teach-ins or sit-ins. After the initial burst of enthusiasm, I noticed that my fellow advocates fell off the wagon pretty quickly.
I also saw, especially in politics, that we were looking for a “knight in shining armor” to come save us: racism, an unjust war, environmental destruction, treating women as second-class citizens or worse, these were the awful “dragons” from which we had to be rescued. President John F. Kennedy; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Robert Kennedy; Sen. Eugene McCarthy; Rev. Jesse Jackson; Sen. George McGovern; Sen. John Edwards; were just some of the “knights” we hoped would lead us to salvation.
Modernly, we see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and others “donning their armor” with the goal of saving us from the Mad Emperor, Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, the quixotic assumption that a knight in shining armor will liberate us from the blandishments of this would-be dictator to his base, and, by extension, to the rest of us is simply unfounded.
We are responsible for (1) critical thinking, (2) determining the threats we face from Trump, and (3) organizing or participating in a group to fight those threats. In essence, each of us is the “knight in shining armor” who must save us from Trumpocracy and its related political illness, GOP-itis. Without our commitment to doing the things that need to be done — -contacting your Senators and Congresspeople, advocating for/against positions on social media, talking to family and friends about what’s in need of change and urging them to support that momentum for change — -all our complaining does is to make us sound like old grouches.
“Let George do it” is not the mantra for today. We all have to polish off our old armor, put it on, get on our horses, and gallop towards the battle. It is our determined effort to work together as a group that will prove to be our salvation. 2020 and the elections are around the corner and will be here before we know it. It’s time to sharpen our swords and take action.