Susan “George” Schorn is active with TX21 Indivisible and Indivisible Austin. She leads workshops on protest safety and verbal self-defense, and is honing her skills as a prankster in the LOLt-right Marching Band aka “Clowns for Truth.”
How and when did you become an activist?
Born that way. As the youngest of five, you develop an early awareness of inequality, and you necessarily find strategies to make your voice heard. I also have a wicked temper and realized pretty early into adulthood that I needed to learn to control it, so I’ve spent a couple of decades training in the martial arts, which led me to the somatic approaches I use today when I teach protest safety.
What issues are you most passionate about?
I suppose the umbrella term would be “violence reduction.” Most of my activism prior to 2016 was in the realm of women’s self-defense and empowerment. But I got my start protesting during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Those issues are ultimately connected: The structural violence that causes so much suffering in our world has always made itself visible as violence against women, minorities, and children. What we’re seeing today is an amplification of that violence, on both the structural front, with more (and more vicious) policies promoting inequity, and on the physical front, with threats and force used in an effort to quash dissent.
Violence is ultimately how we enforce injustice. So that’s the evil I’ve always chosen to fight. And it’s going on everywhere I look right now.
Assuming you are not a paid protester, what is your day job?
I am a mild-mannered program coordinator in higher education. I work in disciplinary writing and instructor development, which means I spend a lot of time around really smart people who all have very different ways of communicating. My job provides an excellent window into the varied ways people think and talk about their values.
What advice do you have for people who want to get involved?
I’m hearing “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” a lot these days, and that’s even truer than most people realize. Just ask the ancient Athenians, who defeated an invading Persian army on the plain of Marathon in 490 B.C., only to discover, while still panting and bleeding on the battlefield, that the Persian *navy* was en route to attack the unguarded city of Athens. Herodotus describes the Athenians marching, “with all possible speed,” twenty-six miles or so over the mountains back to Athens. Loaded with campaign gear on their way out to Marathon, they jettisoned everything but their weapons on the return trip—provisions, extra clothing, bedrolls—in a frantic effort to reach their home before the enemy did.
The very first marathon, in other words, wasn’t run by rested, ready athletes, but by exhausted warriors, giving up every comfort they possessed, in defense of democracy. Democracy won: The Greeks made it to Athens first and the Persians, Herodotus tells us, “after resting awhile upon their oars, departed and sailed away to Asia.”
Having run a few marathons and done a fair amount of fighting, I’ve found it’s not so much your combat skills or your speed that counts. It’s your willingness to simply keep going, past the point where everyone else thinks you’re sure to give up. And that doesn’t actually require any special skills or heroics. Anyone can do it. Pace yourself, and just keep going.