The Starbucks fellow handed me my drink and told me to have a good day. I’d spent the day in Macon with my publisher, Mercer University Press. Starbucks in these parts are harder to find that three-legged cows. I needed a drink for the drive back to Tifton.
Thank you, I said, placing the drink in the cupholder.
Can I ask you something before you drive off? The Starbucks fellow was literally hanging out the window because I had started to drive off.
What does your pin say?
I didn’t have to look at what pin he was talking about. I knew: HILLARY.
I thought so, he replied, with a big grin. Do you have any more? Can I have it?
I wish I did, I replied. I ordered it.
After I drove off I’d wished I’d given him the pin. He needs it more than I do. I turned on the radio in time to hear a black pastor urging all blacks to get out and vote and get Hillary Clinton elected president.
Bliss. Sometimes, it amounts to nothing more than a Starbucks and an unexpected conversation.
On the surface of things, Georgia appears to be die-hard Trump devotees. There are Trump signs all over this neck of the woods. People wear arm bands touting Trump. I want to ask if those, too, are made in China. I am sure they are.
At church supper on Wednesday night, a man I didn’t know mentioned that he’d had a quickening in his spirit to put together a patriotic slide show into a video format. He needed to get it out this week. He explained it’s a slide show about America being great and God blessing us. One of the pictures he has a vision for is of Trump with a little dog nipping at his heels. Superimposed over the dog’s face would be Hillary’s face. He laughed as he told me this.
My son said later that he was glad we were late to Wednesday night supper because he knew I probably couldn’t take a whole hour of that kind of talk at a church.
It was not lost on me that the person telling that story was doing so inside the Fellowship Hall of a Methodist Church. Hillary has been a lifelong Methodist. She lives a quiet faith. Trump mocks people of faith. He has no faith of his own, but that hasn’t stopped white Christian men from rooting for him like he was Nick Sabin or Jesus himself.
I don’t understand it. I really don’t. Apart from misogyny, I really don’t understand it. But when I recall the men I know who listen to the hate talk of Rush Limbaugh, who classifies strong women like Hillary Clinton as “Femi-Nazis”, then I get it.
The very first book I wrote was BENCHED: The Memoirs of Judge Rufe McCombs. Mercer published that book, too. McCombs was Georgia’s first elected woman judge.
McCombs had been one of the first women to attend law school at the University of Georgia, where she was barred from attending class when the law professor lectured on rape.
Let that sink in.
A woman studying to be a lawyer was BARRED from attending the class on rape law.
It was deemed inappropriate for her.
Only men had the right to talk about the impact of rape law.
This was not all that long ago, y’all.
McCombs earned that law degree and went off to Washington, D.C. to practice law. When she came home, there wasn’t a job in all of Georgia for her.
She could not get a job as an attorney simply because of her anatomy.
So she did a little work from home, had a baby, raised that girl and when her daughter was 12, McCombs went in earnest search of a career. She was 52. There wasn’t a law firm in town that would hire her.
Not only was she a woman. She was officially an “older woman.” And bless her heart, Rufe McCombs had a lot of things going for her but looks wasn’t one of them. She was not what would commonly be referred to as an attractive woman. Rufe was keenly aware that she could not fall back on her looks. The one attribute that she had going for her was her sheer brilliance, only she lived in a time and place where men didn’t want their women to be smart. They preferred them to just be home.
The more men in the town turned her away, the more determined Rufe became that she would succeed. If someone wouldn’t give her a chance at lawyering, she would create her own opportunities. Rufe started the town’s Legal Aid Society, serving the city’s disenfranchised, which in Georgia meant primarily poor women and black men. The other attorneys in town, the ones who wouldn’t hire Rufe, were more than happy to send her the clients they didn’t want to serve.
Little did they realize how Rufe’s willingness to humble herself and treat all people with respect would serve her in the end. When Rufe decided to run for Municipal Court Judge a few years later, she went up against three white men, popular white men.
She beat them all out for the job.
Her win was considered an upset by everyone but those voting for her.
Rufe told me years later that it was the women of the garden club who elected her. Women who were fighting back against the status quo of the day. Women who saw in Rufe the courage they wished they had. Women who were sticking it to the men who had marginalized them for far too many years. Women who went into the voting booth and quietly and silently took a stand against their husbands.
Of course, it wasn’t only the garden club women.
It was the black men, too.
The very ones who Rufe had helped through her work at Legal Aid.
Black men fighting those who had cheated them out of wages earned – the way Trump often cheats his contractors. Black men fighting against furniture companies that charged them double the interest rates that they charged white men. Black men who were constantly being pulled over for offenses that would have been ignored if they’d been white men.
Rufe served the black community and when it came time to vote, the black community served her. They elected her time and time again for the rest of her life. They respected her because she had been the first lawyer to show them respect.
I’ve been thinking about Rufe and her victory in that race a lot this past week as I’ve traveled throughout Florida and Georgia. Both are swing states. It is generally expected that Georgia will vote for Trump.
I am not so sure.
There are secret gatherings happening all over this state.
I attended one this week.
A group of women, intelligent, articulate, passionate women invited me – a complete stranger – to join them for lunch. When I arrived at the eatery, two women I didn’t know pointed at my button and said how much they liked it.
Strangers, we bonded over a Hillary button and an ideology that stands in stark contrast to that of Donald Trump Doctrine of Disrespect.
I went to a similar meeting last week. And while in Florida, I joined another group of women, all Hillary fans. And I hear daily from men who are voting for her, too. They tell me how they are afraid to put up a yard sign for fear of retaliation. They speak of how they don’t dare mention Hillary’s name on Facebook because of the way their friends and family members deride and bully them.
“Christian people I have respected all my life, people I have looked up to, think nothing of calling me a fucking liberal if I say anything at all about Hillary,” one woman confided. “These are the same people who a few years ago banned Harry Potter from their homes because they said J.K. Rowling was writing about demon spirits.”
“I used to think these people were better Christians than me,” said one man. “I have come to realize that I really do have a better grasp on the Bible than I thought I did. I have lost respect for so many people I used to look up to because of the way they talk about Hillary.”
There is an underground current in Florida. In Georgia. In Alabama.
Sometimes it feels like I am being invited in to witness something very big and important. These women, these men do not speak up at church when they hear the off-color joke about Hillary. They sit by quietly when family members denounce Hillary in the most hateful of ways. They have formed secret Facebook groups where they can weigh in with other Hillary fans without their Trump-supporting neighbors and friends knowing what they are up to.
They encourage one another. They find solace in their community of like-minded voters. They feel like they are in the fight of their lives. They feel like the futures of their children and grandchildren comes down to this one election. They band together to talk about how they are praying for and pulling for Hillary.
All the while, they never let on to the family or neighbors how they really intend to vote.
But one thing is clear – they cannot wait until this election is over and Hillary Clinton is their president.
That one thought keeps their heart in good cheer and a kindly smile upon their faces.
They are the Underground Lunch Brigade.
They will speak loud and clear enough that the whole world will hear when they cast their ballot for Madam President.
I feel like I am witnessing first-hand how people can conspire together for the good of their country and each other.
It’s really a sight to behold, the unity among these voters who dare to defy the self-righteous zealots of racism and hate.
Be of good courage, y’all, election day is coming and the Underground Lunch Brigade and black preachers in rural Georgia at it again.
Hillary. You go, girlfriend.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY (Mercer University Press).