Tag Archives: resistance

Hooray For The Resistance!

Immediately following the 2016 election, voters across the country organized into units of what they called “the Resistance.” It wasn’t entirely clear just how the members of those groups planned to resist. It still isn’t.

Obviously, most are making efforts to register voters, to encourage turnout, and to spread information about the damage being done by this administration. Naysayers–some of whom post comments to this blog–criticize these efforts as inadequate, although it isn’t always clear what other steps they are proposing.

I have friends who have traveled to the border to assist the humanitarian organizations working there, and I applaud them, but most of us have job and family obligations that prevent us from joining g those efforts. Consequently, there are significant numbers of frustrated citizens who would like to do more to resist this racist and destructive administration, but aren’t sure what actions are available and effective.

Folks in Nashville, Tennessee, have now provided us with one example.

In a Nashville suburb, an ICE agent’a attempt to take a man into custody on Monday morning proved unsuccessful when the man’s neighbors formed a human chain.

 An agent for the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to Nashville’s WVTF Channel 5 (a CBS affiliate), attempted to detain the man in Hermitage, Tennessee, which is about ten miles from Downtown Nashville.

The man had entered his van with his son when the agent blocked them in, and neighbors responded by bringing them water and wet rags. After the neighbors formed a human chain, the man and his son were able to escape and enter their home — which the ICE agent was not authorized to enter.

 The agent had an administrative warrant, which allows an ICE agent to detain someone but not to remove them from a home or vehicle by force. Unable to detain the man, the ICE agent left.

 The incident was broadcast online by the man’s neighbors on Facebook Live.

Time has additional information about the incident.

After a four-hour attempted arrest — during which time the undocumented man and his young son barricaded themselves inside a van parked in front of their home — ICE agents left, and neighbors and activists on the scene created a human chain to allow the family to get indoors.

“At that point it was being extra cautious and letting the family know, look, we got your back, we’re between you and the unknown, and here’s a safe pathway back to your front door,” Tristan Call, a volunteer at Movements Including X(MIX), a collective of young activists who organize for social causes, tells TIME. Call was a part of the human chain.

By the time the attempted arrest was over, dozens of people had showed up to support the undocumented man, including two city councilmen from Nashville. The volunteers showed up as part of a network called ICE Rapid Response to protect undocumented immigrants, just one example of communities throughout the country who have responded to increasing threats of ICE arrests.

Evidently, neighbors who witnessed the attempted arrest sounded the alarm, reaching out to local activist groups, who then informed their networks.

Civil disobedience has a long history in the United States, mostly–albeit not always–for the good.

Episodes like this one–in which neighbors and good people gather to frustrate illegitimate efforts undertaken by their government–give me hope.

The Republicans in the House and Senate who are in thrall to the GOP’s white nationalist base may have been neutered, but the resistance of ordinary Americans, like this episode in (Red) Tennessee, give hope and encouragement to those of us who believe in a very different America than the one to which Trump and his base appeal.

 

Is West Virginia An Omen?

When media reported that the West Virginia teachers strike had ended in victory for that state’s teachers and other public employees, a newsletter to which I subscribe (link unavailable) described the potential fallout:

 As striking West Virginia teachers win their demand for a 5% increase for themselves and all of the state’s public employees, teachers in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Arizona are poised to follow suit, amid reports that “a backlash is brewing against the Republican tax-cutting frenzy.” The Payday Report’s Mike Elk reports that “West Virginia Governor Justice vowed to veto any bills that would fund charter schools, strip teachers of their seniority, or reduce or remove the deduction of union dues from their paychecks even if those dues are applied to political work.”

It was especially noteworthy that the bargaining effort was mounted despite the fact that it occurred without official union backing.  The union representing teachers in West Virginia–as elsewhere– has been hamstrung by state law; it was too weakened to attempt an action like this. As a column in the Guardian noted, “The teachers walked out on their own, fed up with a status quo that was leaving them nearly destitute.” It was an illegal wildcat strike.

Is this a turning point? A breaking point? With the rightwing Neil Gorsuch poised to cast the deciding vote in the Janus v AFSCME, the US supreme court is on the verge of dealing a devastating blow to public sectors unions. If it’s not a deathblow – unions in labor-friendly states will find ways to retain power, while those elsewhere will wither – it’s something not far off.

In West Virginia, there is hope. The first Gilded Age gave rise to labor militancy; oppressed workers across the country proudly organized unions to strike back against the oligarchs who were torturing them day and night. The eight-hour day, vacation days, and all the other labor protections we take for granted were born out of union advocacy.

Another column dubbed the strike an example of “real resistance.”

The victorious strike by teachers in West Virginia did not only result in a long overdue pay raise. With the exuberance of a nine-day teach-in, the teachers and their supporters have taught the nation a compelling lesson on the historical role of a true resistance.

The author then indulged in a series of “what if” questions: what if everyone who detested the NRA joined a nationwide strike for more stringent gun laws? What if all teachers, students and other school workers refused to come to work in buildings powered by fossil fuels?

This kind of resistance does not allow onlookers to look away, especially in an age of social media. It brings the story to those who have refused to read it. It forces everyone to take part in the national discussion, and engage in the still small possibility of justice.

Nationwide strikes of this sort remain highly unlikely, although West Virginia has arguably given impetus to more localized efforts.

On balance, we can draw a couple of important lessons from events in West Virginia: (1) You can only beat working people down for so long before they refuse to remain acquiescent; and (2) There are more of them than there are of the plutocrats and their bought-and-paid-for legislators.

 

Poor People’s Campaign

Dr. William Barber is the impressive and impassioned clergyman who began the “Moral Monday” movement in North Carolina–a movement that has since spread to other states. I regretted missing his speech when he came to Indiana recently, and was interested to see this article about the lessons of Martin Luther King day in The Nation.

After quoting King’s admonition that we either go up together or go down together, Barber summed up America’s current situation:

King did not live to see another 24 hours of that pivotal year in American history, but 50 years later we face a similar collective crisis as we begin 2018. Extremists who’ve hijacked the Republican Party worked in concert with a charlatan to deconstruct the federal government, but a resistance made itself public in 2017, making clear that we are still the majority in this nation. Congress and many of our state legislatures refuse to represent the will of the majority. In the face of this basic subversion of democracy, we do well to remember that “either we go up together, or we go down together.” King’s assessment is more crucial than ever: Nothing would be more tragic than to turn back now.

Fifty years after Dr. King and many others launched a Poor People’s Campaign to demand a Marshall Plan for America’s poor, inequality in our nation has reached extremes we have not seen since the Gilded Age. As the Dow climbs and the wealthiest Americans get a massive tax break, 15 million more Americans are poor today than in 1968. In the same time period, the rate of extreme poverty has nearly doubled. Because of the systemic racism of voter suppression, which has been implemented in 23 of the nation’s poorest states since 2010, our political system is held captive by extremists who deny workers health care and a living wage, undermine the equal-protection clause of the constitution, attack public education, and encourage poor white people to blame people of color and immigrants for their problems. All the while, more and more of our collective resources are dedicated to a war without end.

Barber writes that a Presidency as flawed and unpopular as Trump’s will not last long, but he acknowledges the immense amount of harm being done in the meantime–especially in the nation’s courts, where lifetime appointments are being made at a pace far exceeding that of preceding administrations.

Barber details the numerous voter suppression tactics of a GOP that “cheats when it can’t win in a fair fight.” And he has nothing but scorn for the white Evangelicals who have traded integrity for power:

So-called “white evangelicals” and their Christian nationalism have become the apologists and enablers of political extremism. Their voices are so loud when joining the course of those who hate gay people, women, and brown and black-skinned immigrants, but so quiet on issues of poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation, and the war economy. This is a form of modern heresy and theological malpractice, taught all over the country.

He also has a lot to say about the recent tax “reform” bill, the efforts to further erode America’s already inadequate social welfare network, and about the importance of building multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalitions. But his most important message is one that should resonate with all of us: this is no time to quit. It’s no time to stop resisting.

I have dedicated myself to a new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival that is going deep into Southern communities and reclaiming the moral narrative that was bought by the religious right in the 20th century.

In 2018, we are determined to see the South rise again—not in the redemption that white supremacists have long awaited with Confederate flags, but in the future that George White, the last African-American representative to Congress during Reconstruction, foresaw when he said, “This may be the Negro’s farewell to Congress, but Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again.”…

And when we change the South, we will shift the power balance in this nation.

In Alabama, African-American turnout defeated Roy Moore. If anyone can move the South, it’s William Barber, with his eloquence, his passion, his organizing genius –and his repeated insistence that we should never give up.

 

 

 

Declaration Of Independence– From Trump

Anyone who follows the news even superficially recognizes that America is at a watershed of sorts.

Intellectually honest people know that we frequently haven’t lived up to the ideals of our founding–“liberty and justice for all” has been and remains tantalizingly elusive. I would argue, however, that so long as we at least aspire to the values of liberty and equality, so long as we recognize when we fall short, and try to address those failures, the country is moving in the right direction.

We fought a Civil War over the idea of equal human worth. As we are seeing, that war–and the debate over that idea–isn’t over. The Americans who voted for Donald Trump, who endorsed his attacks on immigrants, who “overlooked” his encouragement of the so-called “alt-right,” applauded his vitriol against Muslims and elevated him to an office for which he was manifestly unfit, did so because those sentiments resonated with them. They are the philosophical heirs of the slavery apologists and the thugs who beat and killed civil rights workers.

The good news is that the rest of us aren’t going along with this effort to define “American” as White Christian.

The most gratifying response to the election has been the enormous groundswell of civic engagement by people who had not previously been politically active. Marches and protests haven’t been confined to the big, blue cities like New York or San Francisco; businesses and churches and nonprofit organizations have spoken out forcefully against the re-emergence of the KKK and Nazis, and in opposition to Trump’s heartless decision to rescind protections for the Dreamers. New organizations have been formed–in Indiana, Women4Change, created in November after the election, has some 14,000 members. “Resistance” chapters dot the national landscape.

I recently came across another of those new efforts, Declaration 17.

Declaration 17 is an open alliance of private individuals who have joined in opposition, challenge and resistance to the policies and practices of President Trump.

Our goal is to rekindle public commitment to the founding documents that first articulated America’s core values.

If you share our faith in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the core American values we hold to be self-evident, please add your name and stand with us in opposition.

I don’t know how robust this particular effort is, but I really like the fact that it is emphasizing what makes us American–and what makes us American is not the color of our skin, not the God we worship (or don’t), not the geography of our birth. What makes an American is allegiance to the values of those founding documents.

Those of us who understand America in that way are engaged in a struggle against people who want to change the very essence of our system, who want to define Americans by their identity rather than by their willingness to embrace this country’s principles and values. They are a loud and destructive minority, but they are a minority.

As the description of Declaration 17 puts it,

We want the people to have hope—not despair. We want the people to remember that throughout our history, when America’s values have been threatened from without or within, we have prevailed in upholding those core values—and we will prevail again.