Thursday, February 23, 2017

Knitting as Activism

As you may recall, since the Trump election, I've been knitting little signs with resistance messages and tying them to trees in public areas. It's a small act, but I had been hoping that lots of other people would do the same, and based on what I've seen on social media, it does seem that others around the country have independently had the same idea. Certainly, the Pussy Hat Project was a great success, and the other day, activists hung a "REFUGEES WELCOME" sign on the Statue of Liberty.  There's someone in Charlottesville who is placing pink, heart-shaped resistance signs in the middle of vine wreaths and hanging them around town. Bravo to that person and his/her creativity, and to anyone else who decorates the landscape with anti-Trump messages, even in a small way.

It just so happens that the winery owned by the Trump family is only a fifteen-minute drive from my house. I drove out there one weekend on a recognizance mission. At the main entrance, the Trump Winery sign sits on blocks of stone - not really conducive to a yarn bomb. It was nice to see a little knot of protesters gathered at the end of the drive. So the main entrance was a no-go, but the service entrance had real possibilities. It's located on a more heavily-traveled road than the main entrance. There's a driveway with a wide apron and plenty of room to safely park a car out of the way. There's a Trump Winery sign by the side of the road, affixed to wooden posts - ideal for attaching a knitted banner. The sign is close to the road, and further up the driveway is a heavy gate and security card reader. Therefore, the service entrance had all three required elements for this type of adventure: a place to park, a way to affix the banner without damaging the sign, no need to trespass.

It wasn't even my original intention to hang the yarn bomb on the actual Trump Winery sign. I would have been happy with a likely tree or fence or telephone pole in the general vicinity, but the sign, once I saw it, was irresistible and I hurried home and began work on a new yarn bomb, larger than the ones I'd done before.

Almost finished knitting


Other than Jon and Seamus, I didn't tell anyone about my plan. It would have been so humiliating if I chickened out. Hanging the sign in broad daylight was crucial, so that I could get a good picture since I anticipated it would be removed by winery staff almost immediately. I admit, I was really nervous. I thought getting arrested was unlikely since I was taking care not to commit an actual crime. More likely would be to get told off or possibly detained by an overzealous vigilante security guard. I couldn't come up with a good plan for such a situation and just had to trust my luck. (I also concentrated on the image of my mother - a true rebel in her own right, and who died twenty years ago - watching over me.)

With the finished banner, I drove to the winery late enough for good light, but early enough that I probably wouldn't meet anyone. I tied my banner to the sign post with long strings of yarn and took some pictures. As I was walking back to my car, I noticed a guy in a pickup truck watching me. He had come from the winery (that electric gate is completely silent, yikes). Instinct took over and I smiled and waved as if this were the most normal thing in the world. I got into my car and politely waited for him to pull out ahead of me. Then I drove home, feeling triumphant.

I lightly felted the banner for a tighter look.
Unfortunately, the felting process distorted the skinnier letters. That T is tragic.


I posted one of my pictures on Instagram and Facebook, with the caption, "NO ONE WANTS YOUR BAN, NO ONE WANTS YOUR WALL, NO ONE WANTS YOUR WINE." Most people liked it, and it got shared a lot, but some people were really angry. I couldn't possibly track down all the angry comments, even if I wanted to, but on my own facebook page, someone lectured me that "yarn bombs hurt innocent people." Someone else said my sign made her sick and accused me of being a "sneak thief." A friend told me she saw a comment that wondered what my parents thought of me. There was a kerfuffle about immigrants - Trump Winery hires foreign workers, therefore my sign was hurting them. Oh sure, Trumpers, support immigration when it's convenient, but look at your man's agenda. Most commonly, resisters hear, "Get over it; Trump won; Stop being a sore loser." No. This isn't about losing an election. This is about thousands of Americans, saying in every way they can, that bigotry, cruelty, religious intolerance, racism, and hate are un-American.

Of course I realized that Trump supporters wouldn't like the sign, but the intensity of the anger was surprising. I also realized that if a clumsy knitted sign upset people this much, then Trump supporters are feeling really insecure and that the resistance is working. Let's keep it up. Trump may be in the White House, but we will not let his agenda overrun our great country.

12 comments:

  1. I've seen your photo posted and reposted all over my social media feeds! While there have been some negative comments, I've seen far more supportive. And I passed along the comment on one of those threads someone made about your font being so spot on, particularly the T. So there - that T was in fact, not tragic.

    Well done. I love yarn bombing. I think last year's yarn bombing of the Lee Statue, along with the surrounding White Flags (my friend Aaron's project) should be permanent.

    I think the resistance is working too. Keep it up.

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    1. The font matching was a total coincidence, but I'm glad it happened. I just googled "free knitted alphabet patterns" and chose the biggest letters I could find to make this.

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  2. Thanks for doing this. You are bold, and I appreciate that. Yesterday a planned appointment with my US Representative's staffer turned into a mini-demonstration outside the Rep's office, because the staffer didn't show up, despite having an appointment with our tiny group. We stood by the side of the road. Some held signs. I was unprepared to demonstrate (no sign) and just waved. We got several honks of support and also some angry obscenities shouted at us. I just kept wondering if the 15 of us would get arrested.

    Some Republican supporters are indeed feeling insecure (and one of them is our elected US Rep, who won't show up to talk to the public!). I have set myself the project of having a structured discussion over dinner with people I know who are Trump supporters. I've only been able to do it twice so far. The second time was very unpleasant for me. My dinner companion was angry and defensive, which, I thought as she berated all things liberal, was odd for someone whose side won the election, big league.

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    1. I'm fed up with congresspeople who refuse to listen to constituents, or who are saying that anyone who disagrees with them has been paid to do so, or has been bussed in from out of town? Where are all these mysterious liberals that live in every other district except one's own? A town hall has been arranged for my congressman, Tom Garrett - a puffed up Trump puppet if there ever was one - but he is unlikely to show.

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  3. This is great! Nice picture, I'm sure it will continue to be widely shared on social media. I recently read that the resistance is using Tea Party techniques, but have added the power of social media. Certainly the movement t is very organic and bottom up - we don't need no stinkin' Kock Brothers funded AstroTurf groups to tell us what to do.

    I'd love to follow you on IG - what's your name there?

    Anita

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    1. P.S. I regularly go to Buffalo for cancer treatment at Roswell Park. I'm from Rochester and still have family there, and we stay there when I have Roswell appointments. I wish I had the time to do more exploring of the city, but clinic day is long and we are always eager to make our escape. I want to go to the neighborhood with the Cheerios factory someday, though, and sniff the air!

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    2. My instagram name is aileenbartels. The instagram button on this page ought to take you straight to it.

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  4. I love your work but think I might be sad that you are such a sneak thief -- if I only knew what that meant! People on social media should be thrilled that others are knitting as activism. It could be shitting as activism. Big steaming piles for the big asshole in office.

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  5. I applaud your activism and craftiness! I saw your picture on Facebook, but didn't know YOU were the artist!

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