Abandon plans for a democratic agenda. Abandon hope for democracy at all. The leadership of this country has shed any pretense of discourse about how best to govern. Our leaders will seize, gut, silence, and reign. They will topple any established checks on their force, and they will dispense with explaining themselves. They will have no need to defend the twisted truths they spun as they advanced through a weakened democratic system into the control tower. Why explain? Why defend? They now execute reality.
Facts fall limp. Outrage pings off the fortifications rising around them. It confuses and pains the educated white liberal (myself included) to realize that our leaders care so little about human life, about democratic values, about us. We go through the stages of grief. We first try to reject and deny. Eventually anger comes, then bargaining.
To bargain, however, we need a seat at the table. It sickens us to realize that, like so many marginalized people, we have been barred. Or perhaps not barred, no. Instead we sit at the table where we have always sat, writing up our resolutions and voting on our plans. We look up to find that we are only us. The leaders and institutions we thought answered to us have absconded with the funds, the phones, the keys, the map.
Did we blink? Did we fall asleep?
Maybe we believed that a 240-year-old tale of resistance is adequate protection against tyranny.
Today we face an accumulation of power in the hands of an increasingly inaccessible and impermeable pack of wealthy white men. In a futile and maladaptive attempt to protect ourselves from evil, we resort to what Rebecca Solnit calls “despair, defeatism, cynicism[,] amnesia and assumptions.” Our minds struggle to digest the fact that we now live in a nation whose leaders are striding joyously towards the destruction of all we love.
No more blinking.
No more falling asleep.
The pace of this tough education needs to accelerate.
It helps to remember that we’ve been here before. Neighbors on this planet now and neighbors across generations have lived and struggled (and, yes, died) through events very much like these.
The ones who survive have done so neither by putting their heads down nor by repeating familiar yet ineffective habits. Instead they pushed against these awful corruptions of law, policy, policing, and justice. They did what we must do: Resist.
This is not the time for building goodwill across parties. This is not the time for designing our visions of just society. This is Germany in 1933. We must get in the way of any and every attempt at legislation that weakens our democratic structures. We must stand up against power-grabbing. We must reject every false goodwill gesture and every pretense of coalition on the part of our leaders. How many times have we let them prove us fools? We cannot afford to believe or even attend to their words.
Let’s listen instead to the brothers and sisters who have fought these fights before. As Daniel Jose Camacho writes, “This is a time to tap into the radical and progressive strands of our tradition and vigorously oppose any justification or cooperation with fascism.”
We must stop them.
As this absurdity teeters toward despotism, we have to dispense with the comforting yet dangerous notion that this is “Not My President” and “Not Our Government.” THIS IS OUR GOVERNMENT. No one else is responsible for what’s happening here and for what will surely happen over the next four years. We must protect the most vulnerable and mitigate the damage. It is up to us to speak out, show up, gather force, hobble their machinery, and slow the advance of tyrants. We are not in the position to build towards a peaceful and just future. We are, however, in a prime position to save our republic.
We didn’t ask for it. We don’t want it. But this government belongs to us, and the job of protecting ourselves from it belongs to us too.
Image: Bread and Puppet Theater