Okay, people. I spent a good part of my weekend reading up on authoritarian governments in the 20th and 21st century, and got a little ways into studying their corresponding resistance movements. One thing I feel pretty sure about now is that we DON’T need unity. Not even on the left. Not even among people working to resist oppression. In the most well-studied resistance efforts (WWII), despite the dominant image of the French maquis as “the resistance,” most work occurred outside of organizations, on a huge spectrum of scale and intensity. Yes, some people did take to the mountains with guns. Yes, some people did organize networks and pathways of escape. Resistance also has the form of non-cooperation, printing pamphlets, teaching forbidden subjects, making art, yes, sabotage, and hundreds of other methods.
Corollary: if we don’t need unity, then there’s little benefit to spending time critiquing anybody’s efforts, except where they are actively doing harm.
What is most important in my view is that we all work as hard as we can to keep as many of us as possible alive and thriving. That means getting ourselves together, picking targets for our efforts, connecting with people who can help, and planning and doing the work together.
Corollary: if everyone is working on something, no one has to do everything.
I’m not saying anybody needs to “grieve faster” or “get over it” or anything like that, but the surest way to push through helplessness is to connect with helpers and start fighting back. Find the things you care most about, find the people working on them, get your sleeves rolled up, and check your impulse to be a hero or savior. The first step to helping anybody is L-E-A-R-N-I-N-G what is already going on and who the people are.
A word of caution: for some people, resistance means basic survival, and that challenge was already the focus before this election. In particular, many undocumented immigrants, people with disabilities, and trans women of color (overlapping sets) have been living this life for a long time, and the increase in vigilante and state attacks will hit (have hit) them soonest and hardest. I say this not to chastise or shame anyone who is new to activism, but as a reminder to all of us that the shifts in policy and practice we are seeing now are /not new/, and instead are an extension of what has already been going on in many communities, only now with more firepower.
I took the photo above on the 4th of July, 2015. Non-malicious celebrants had started a fire on the hiking trail I was on. Whether a barbecue ember or firecracker, I don’t know, but the result was the same – the rich ecosystem of ferns and redwoods and moss and bugs and birds and all number of other living beings was under threat from the combination of ripe conditions and a fiery catalyst. That fire stopped, but not by itself, and not without doing damage. We can stop this fire, too, and I urge you to do your part to reduce the damage. We are talking about real people, real minds, real hearts.