Author Archives: Leigh Hopkins

About Leigh Hopkins

Writer, educator, polyglot, feminist.

Step 18 + Ukulele Challenge + #SmockingGun

Today’s post in 3 points:

Ukulele Challenge: On Thursday I posted a new ukulele tune: “Mueller, please hurry up.” People tell me it’s “adorable” and that definitely wasn’t the plan, but whatever – maybe the collective vibe worked, because:

Mueller Investigation: From the Washington Post: “Russians interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and transition,” along with this fun graphic. (credit: WashingtonPost) Sh*t’s going DOWN.

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Step 18 in Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy is “Display of Flags and Symbolic Colors.” Some more examples that we’re not just making this sh*T up:

Since November 17, 125,000 protestors have taken to the streets of Paris wearing the yellow vests required to be carried in every vehicle by French law as a protest to rising diesel costs. Although the movement hasn’t been without violence – windows smashed, cars burned, and shops looted – the movement’s core aim “to highlight the economic frustration and political distrust of poorer working families, still has widespread support.” On Friday, the French retail federation told Reuters that retailers have lost about $1.1 billion since the protests first began on November 17, and that the restaurant trade had declined by between 20% and 50%.

As I covered two weeks ago, sustained, silent, nonviolent protest of just a small group of committed members can make lasting change. Kindergarten teacher Sam Goldman is at the helm of Philadelphia’s “Resist Fascism Philly,” and last weekend I’d planned to pull on a red handmaid cloak and do some caroling until the event was cancelled to protest in another location. Pink pussy hats and red handmaid cloaks make a statement wherever they appear. When I’m wearing my kitty hat in my Philly neighborhood, I get smiles and nods, but on the boardwalk in a conservative county New Jersey? Stares. Silence.

That’s the power of Step 18.

Stay the course.

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3.5% Project



Step 17 + Mock Elections / DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN

The ALL CAPS front page of the April 9, 2016 edition of Boston Globe read “DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN,” and was dated April 9, 2017. The front page was an imagined the dystopian world under Donald Trump, and it included articles like “Market sinks as trade war looms,” a new libel law targeting “scum in the press,” and an address by Trump to the nation, saying illegals would be deported “so fast your head will spin.”

In a scathing editorial, the Globe called the mock-up “an exercise in taking a man at his word.”

“Donald J Trump’s vision for the future of our nation is as deeply disturbing as it is profoundly un-American,” it read.

And here we are.

Step 17: “Mock Elections,” from the blueprint to start a revolution, is a nonviolent tool that allows people’s voices to be heard before the real damage is done. One week before Election Day in 2016, the American Statistical Association released the results of a mock presidential election comprised of the votes of high school and college students from 19 states. A whopping Ninety-seven percent of participants favored Clinton – with 49.3% of the popular vote versus 43.3% for Trump.

We know the bad news.

The good news is that many of those underage voters will have turned 18 by 2020, and they’re pissed.

What to do? Pay attention next time you see news about mock elections. Don’t underestimate their power when you see their reappearance in early 2020 – let them be a warning. Make that sh*t go viral.

Step 17: Mock Elections

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What’s On My Nightstand: November 2018


When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, by Asha Bandele and Patrisse Cullors

Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland

The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide, by Gayle Brandeis

The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of our Era, by Akhil Reed Amar


The Last to See Me, by M. Dressler

Short Fiction

“The Deer-Vehicle Collision Survivors Support Group,” by Porochista Khakpour (Guernica)

“The Proxy Marriage,” by Maile Malloy (The New Yorker)

“The Sex Lives of African Girls,” by Taiye Selasi, (Granta)

Young Adult Fiction

The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas

Music Together Teacher Training Manual

“Hello, Everybody!” Music Together: Family Favorites


“Perhaps the World Ends Here,” by Joy Harjo

Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman

The Love Poems of Rumi, edited by Deepak Chopra


Carnegie Science, Fall 2018

The Paris Review, Issue 225

Ploughshares Fall 2018

Essay / Interview / OpEd

Toward a More Radical Selfie, by India Ennenga (The Paris Review)

The Guardian view on Donald Trump’s credibility: America’s compromised leader (The Guardian)

Meet the New Freshmen in Congress: More Democrats, Diversity and Women, by Catie Edmonson and Jasmine C. Lee

Magazine / Newspaper

Lesbian Connection: free to lesbians worldwide, but the suggested donation is $7/issue (more if you can, less if you can’t)

The New Yorker

The Week

Vanity Fair


beach shells

Betron earbuds

blue light blocking glasses, Pixel

The Master Key pitch pipe

ukulele cheat sheet






Step 16 + Picketers rush White House gates moments after President Trump lies to press on camera

This morning, as President Trump lied on camera about his business activities in Russia, a crowd of picketers rushed the White House gates.

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No, not really. But why the f– aren’t we?!

Have you watched this?

On Jan. 10, 1917, twelve women silently gathered in Lafayette Square, directly across the street from the White House’s north lawn, and sparked a protest that would later contribute to granting women the right to vote. They were known as the “silent sentinels,” the first picket line to ever take place at the White House.

During that year, more than 1,000 women from across the country joined the picket line outside the White House. Between June and November, 218 protesters from 26 states were arrested and charged with “obstructing sidewalk traffic.”

On June 4, 1919, women were granted the right to vote.

That’s 510 days from picket line to amendment.

There are 704 days until November 3, 2020.

The end.



3.5% Project



19 degrees

Thanksgiving Eve, east to west. 19 degrees. The season of bracing winds and empty seats. Grief understands life in the sparest terms: before and after. Years like this, spent looking through a window into the past, at the sky, for signs. Sunsets like this one, or the first star, and then she’s there, ahead, maybe a year or a month or a day’s walk if you keep moving. Hope.

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Step 15: Group lobbying + “In these shoes?”

This week I’m doing my best not to spiral into hopelessness at the news about the wildfires in California, where 1600+ people are still missing. Or yesterday’s shootings. Or the DOW. Or the emails. If you want to know what you can do about all of these issues, this is your post.

When I look back on my time on Capitol Hill, the first thing I remember is the shoes. Very high, very pointy shoes. (It was the implicit dress code – unless you were a dude.) Up and down the marble halls of Russell, Dirkson and Hart, grab a quick panini and a shot of espresso before hustling over to Longworth and Rayburn. After a day of fifteen 30-minute pitch meetings, by the time I got to Union Station, my feet were on fire.

I worked for a social policy “think tank,” where we thought about things like prisoner reentry, literacy and education reform, how to improve the effectiveness of nurse/family partnerships, and youth development. Nonprofits are prevented from lobbying, but the approach isn’t so different: feel passionately about a cause, research or develop a theory of change, meet with a member of Congress to explain why you’re so committed to the issue, and reinforce the position you’d like that elected official to take.

You hear politicians complain about special interest groups, and that’s because the big ones often misuse their power. A recent study found that when it comes to climate change, major polluters spend 10 times as much on climate lobbying as green groups. But there are just as many smaller political action committees that have made a major impact by joining together to support a common cause. In the midterm elections, anti-gun groups outspent the NRA.

Learn more about the groups supporting the causes that matter to you, and throw them a few bucks. Small donors raised $1.6 billion dollars for the last election cycle, and now Congress looks like this:


Sure, composting and saying no to plastic straws and stocking your rock-ringed firepit with with a bucket of water and a shovel make a difference, but when lobbyists act more like advocates, this practice can be one of the most effective practices for convincing politicians to vote for the issues that ensure lasting change.

3.5% Project



Step 14: Mock Awards / Psychological Profiles of the World’s Dictators

Margaret Atwood famously said: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Herein lies the power of Step 14 from the blueprint to take down a dictator: mock awards.

As is the case of the psychological profile of many dictators, Trump’s narcissism, while dangerous, is also a point of weakness. The US Government has been conducting psychological profiles of the world’s dictators for 75 years or more, and Trump has been a point of interest for psychologists since before he was elected to the office of President.

Baby in the crib

Getty/AP (Salon)

In 1943, the CIA’s World War II-era predecessor, commissioned Henry A. Murray of the Harvard Psychological Clinic to evaluate Hitler’s personality based on remote observations. In an unsparing 240-page assessment, Murray and his colleagues concluded that Adolph Hitler was an “insecure, impotent, masochistic, and suicidal neurotic narcissist.”

Nikita Khrushchev: “Immoderately sensitive to slights.”

Fidel Castro: “So highly neurotic and unstable a personality as to be quite vulnerable to certain kinds of psychological pressure. The outstanding neurotic elements in his personality are his hunger for power and his need for the recognition and adulation of the masses…”

Joseph Stalin: narcissism and paranoia

Kim Jong-il: a North Korean psychologist who had “advanced psychological research training and intimate and established knowledge of Kim Jong-il (and wished to remain anonymous,  for obvious reasons) believed that the dictator possessed all of the “the big six” personality disorders:

  • Paranoid
  • Antisocial
  • Narcissistic
  • Sadistic
  • Schizoid
  • Schizotypal

Saddam Hussein: paranoid, antisocial, narcissistic, and sadistic. Like Hitler, the Hussein study revealed probable schizophrenic symptoms as well. (source: “The Scientific American”)

And Trump?

For psychologists, it is almost impossible to talk about Donald Trump without using the word narcissism. Asked to sum up Trump’s personality for an article in Vanity Fair, Howard Gardner, a psychologist at Harvard, responded, “Remarkably narcissistic.” George Simon, a clinical psychologist who conducts seminars on manipulative behavior, says Trump is “so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example” of narcissism. “Otherwise I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.” – The Atlantic, June 2016 Issue

Truly “vulnerable,” or more “neurotic” narcissistic types have relatively fragile egos and are both anxious and hypersensitive when it comes to their social image. They tend to be constantly comparing themselves to others and “have something to prove” about themselves. It’s hard for them to experience joy in someone else’s success, especially if they think it makes them look bad or inferior by comparison ( Dr. George Simon).

Which is why Gene Sharp’s research shows that mock awards are ranked #14 on the list of effective nonviolent actions. When dictators are shown to be vulnerable, the resulting effect is a continued weakening of power in the eyes of those who continue to keep them in power. (Yes you, GOP.)

Trump is infamous for mocking his opponents, so “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” put together a list of bogus titles that Trump has given himself over the last few years. “The least racist person you have ever interviewed” is, of course, among them.

Your Turn

I polled friends to see what awards they’d give Trump – find their comments on Instagram, and feel free to add your own.

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