Following the 2016 election, I posted a series of essays called “In Troubled Times.” I wrote about despair, fear, anger, powerlessness, and determination. Then the initial fervor faded. Exhaustion set in for me as well as for so many others. Emotional exhaustion. Spiritual exhaustion. But the constant, increasingly vitriolic litany of hate and fear, as well as the assaults on democratic norms and civil liberties not only continued, it escalated.
What is to be done in the face of such viciousness, such disregard for human rights and dignity? Such an assault upon clean and air water, endangered species, and the climate of planet we depend on for our lives? How do we preserve what we value, so that in resisting we do not become the enemy?
I don’t know what the most effective strategy of resistance is. Social media abounds in calls to action. I do know that there are many possible paths forward and that not every one way is right for every person. Not everyone can organize a protest march (think of five million protesters in front of the White House; think of a national strike that brings the nation’s businesses to a halt). I find myself remembering activist times in my own past.
I came of age during the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam war resistance (and, later, the women’s rights movement of the 1970s). I wore my hair long, donned love beads, and marched in a gazillion rallies. Those memories frequently rise to my mind now. In particular, I remember how frustrated I got about ending the Viet Nam war. In 1967, I joined the crowd of 100,000 protesters in San Francisco. I wrote letters, painted posters, and so forth. And for a time, it seemed nothing we did made any difference. My friends still got drafted and not all of them made it home, and those that did were wounded in ways I couldn’t understand. Others ended up as Canadians. I gave up hope that the senseless carnage would ever end.
But it did. And in retrospect, all that marching and chanting and singing and letter-writing turned out to be important. The enduring lesson for me is that I must do what I feel called to do at the moment, over and over again, different things at different times, never attempt to second-guess history, and especially never give in to despair. Enough tiny pebbles rolling down a slope create a landslide. Continue reading