By George Goehl
We should be skeptical of the motivation and messengers behind calls for civility.
We hear people say that what is happening to migrants in the United States right now is un-American. I wish that were true. Sadly, American history is full of periods where children of color were routinely taken from their parents. Resistance and organizing, on the other hand, are truly American. In fact, many of our nation’s best moments have been when we heeded the call to stand down hatred and racism.
The Trump Administration has been off the rails since day one. But Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy of arresting and detaining families seeking asylum in the US is a new kind of off the rails. History tells us in crises like these, if we do not stand up together in mass and say — no, yell: ‘this has to stop!’ — it will undoubtedly be a long and ugly haul to get back on track.
It’s easy to call for civility when you are doling out inhumane policy under the cloak of the law. I doubt the power structures that sought to enforce segregation, bust unions, or restrict voting rights would call the actions on the part of the movements that countered them “civil”.
From the genocide of Native Americans to Slavery to Japanese internment camps, there is a well-documented history of forced separation, detention, and enslavement of people of color in the United States. Wreaking irreparable harm to indigenous, African-American, Asian-American, Latinx children is, sadly, a through-line in the American story.
But that does not have to be the America we are building. The future of “American” is up to us.
The America many of us want to build is one where all people have what we need to reach our highest human potential. An America that takes care of who is here now, has addressed sins of the past, and is welcoming of those to come. This would be an America that more fully lives up to the ideals of a beacon of democracy and land of opportunity.
The ‘Be Nice’ rule
As we create the tension needed to strive toward these ideals, there will be calls for civility. Merriam Webster dictionary describes “civil” as “ adequate in courtesy and politeness”. One of my organizing mentors, Shel Trap, said the “be nice rule” was really the “be nice to those in power rule.” It tells us to go through the formal channels to have your concerns addressed. Stand in line to file your complaint, submit your grievance in writing, wait patiently for the conclusions of the committee created to study the problem. Channels that were designed to wear down dissent and enforce subordination.
It’s easy to call for civility when you are doling out inhumane policy under the cloak of the law. I doubt the power structures that sought to enforce segregation, bust unions, or restrict voting rights would call the actions on the part of the movements that countered them “civil”. Count me among the thankful that these movements resisted such calls. This history of resistance continued last Saturday as 780 Families Belong Together marches and rallies were organized, and dozens more that led to protestors being arrested. Clearly millions of Americans find the President’s zero tolerance policy to be anything but civil and are responding accordingly.
The news of the day can be demoralizing and sap energy and hope from each of us: the Supreme Court upholding the Muslim Ban, the killing of Antwon Rose by a police officer, family separation at the border, Justice Kennedy’s retirement. Each another punch in the gut.
Before his execution, the labor organizer and songster Joe Hill famously said, “don’t mourn, but organize”. I think it’s ok to mourn. It’s human and we will fall apart without acknowledging the pain and disappointment we are experiencing. Some of us may need to rest and sit one out. At the same time others can say put me in coach, I’m ready to march. To risk arrest. To organize to elect candidates who want to create a country where when egregious events happen we can truly say “this is un-American”. And it will actually be true.
(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.)
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )
- Michelle Wolf Refuses To Apologize For Her Jokes. Here’s Why That Matters: 4-Minute Video
‘Make Them Pariahs’: How Public Shaming Of Trump Aides Became A Resistance Tactic
By Sam Wolfson
The Guardian (7/1/18)
The day after Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia, Maxine Waters, the representative for the California 43rd who has become a leader of the anti-Trump resistance within Congress, addressed a rally in Los Angeles. Up until that point, national Democratic leaders had mostly urged respectful protest in response to the Trump administration.
“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up,” she said to cheers from the crowd. “And if you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
“We have a Republican party that has surrendered to the Russians, encourages white supremacists and Nazis, separates families, and locks up children in cages, and we’re supposed to treat these people as respected members of society? We have no choice but to turn them all into pariahs, now and forever into the future.”
In the days that followed, other leading Democrats, among them Nancy Pelosi and David Axelrod, distanced themselves from the comments and called for civility. Trump personally attacked Waters, calling her an “extraordinarily low IQ person”. But Waters gave voice, and perhaps legitimacy, to what has a prominent form of activism since Trump took office: accosting members of his team in public places.
Over the weekend, Steve Bannon was called “a piece of trash” by a heckler at a bookstore; a bartender gave Stephen Miller the middle finger, apparently causing Miller to throw away $80 of sushi he’d just bought in disgust; and Mitch McConnell was chased out of a restaurant in Kentucky by protesters, who followed him to this car yelling “turtle head” and “we know where you live”.
These follow similar encounters for other members of Trump’s top team. The homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, was confronted by protesters chanting “shame” while she ate at a Mexican restaurant. Last week, Scott Pruitt was accosted by Kristin Mink while he was eating lunch. Mink, a teacher, held her two-year-old child as she asked him to resign “before your scandals push you out”. Days later, Pruitt did resign, and although he was probably asked to do so by Trump, in his letter he cited “the unrelenting attacks on me” as his reason for leaving.
After each case, the merits of such an approach have been debated – many have called for civility or argued that protesters leave themselves open to attack if they pursue Trump-like techniques. …
“The Resistance Handbook: 45 Ways To Fight Trump”
It’s time to fight back.
A majority of Americans have been shocked, dismayed, and disgusted—for good reason—by Trump’s actions since he took office. But we aren’t taking it lying down. Across the United States, the Resistance is growing, as many thousands of patriotic Americans lead the charge against the corrupt and traitorous Trump regime—and the Republican Party that is enabling him.
This book is for all Americans who consider themselves part of the Resistance—people like us who wake up every day and think, “What more can I do to stop Trump?” The book offers 45 ways to stop the 45th president of the United States in his tracks, including ways to:
- Protect our culture from the degrading effects of Trump’s presidency, which rewarded bullying, sexism, racism, and xenophobia.
- Protect our communities from Trump’s personal attacks, which he and his Republican friends target at women, people of color, youth, immigrants, Jewish people, Muslims, and others.
- Fight for our values and the issues that define us—in the face of a four-year assault on racial justice, income equality, the environment, women’s rights, education, and worker’s rights.
- Build the infrastructure this movement needs (and sorely lacks), including the capacity to register and get out the vote for the 97 million Americans who didn’t cast a ballot in 2016; to find, train and promote tomorrow’s leaders; and to develop the media organizations that will report the facts and promote our values and candidates.
Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, and Michael Huttner, founder of ProgressNow, have built two of the nation’s largest advocacy organizations. Now, in The Resistance Handbook: 45 Ways to Fight Trump, they offer a much-needed guide to fighting Trump and building a better, more just, and more equitable America.