Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Feb. 9, 10 or 11
So a 10-point call for nonviolent resistance must begin with “Take heart!” – fight the temptation to feel hopeless and helpless.
After all, freedom for slaves, women’s right to vote, workers’ rights, voting rights protected for African Americans oppressed by “Jim Crow” laws, treating AIDS patients as neighbors needing treatment, realizing breakthroughs in clean air and water, and in bringing climate change to a global stage happened because of grassroots actions. And it didn’t take 51 percent of voting-eligible citizens.
“Historical studies suggest that it takes 3.5 percent of a population engaged in sustained nonviolent resistance to topple brutal dictatorships,” says Erica Chenoweth, author of “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.”
“If that can be true in Chile under General Pinochet and Serbia under Milosevic, a few million Americans could prevent their elected government from adopting inhumane, unfair, destructive or oppressive policies,” she adds. “The Women’s March on Washington and its affiliated marches – which may have been the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history – show a population eager and willing to show up to defend their rights.”
“Huh,” you may think. “How?”
Back to the 10 points.
It’s been strongly suggested by several optimistic folks in articles and on social media that rekindling the embers of American activism might be achieved with a few approaches, starting with eliminating the hopelessness/helplessness chatter (and the feelings will diminish). The others:
2. The situation stems not from one individual, but a regime, including Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and a right-wing bloc on the U.S. Supreme Court.
3. Respond to (or anticipate) actions more than Twitter, appearances or emotional flaws in leadership.
4. Don’t get sucked in to irrational arguments with online trolls or our friends and neighbors who voted for the Electoral College victor. Instead, listen (like to those who oppose “Obamacare” without realizing their health insurance from the Affordable Care Act IS Obamacare – or the Tea Party protestors carrying signs such as “Keep government out of my Medicare”).
5. Support the First Amendment protecting free speech, the right to assemble, the right to worship (or not) however one wants, the right to push for a redress of grievances, and for freedom of the press – and neither accept nor pass along “fake news” or “alternative facts.”
6. Support the expansive culture and open civilization that permits expression through the arts.
7. Recognize and appreciate science, thought and the curiosity that fuels seeking.
8. Have faith, whether an institutional religion that speaks to you, a general “be good to each other philosophy,” or the approach advocated by author Kent Keith in his wonderful book “Anyway - The Paradoxical Commandments: Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World.”
9. Take care of yourself, your family and your community.
10. Be civil but avoid extending the respect of actually naming the Leader (like the late, great Beatle George Harrison referred to the man who murdered bandmate John Lennon as “He who shall not be named”).
Resistance won’t be easy, of course. There will be stumbling blocks and losses.
However, as Chenoweth says, “Long-term change never comes with submission, resignation or despair about the inevitability and intractability of the status quo.”
Or, in the words of Frederick Douglass – the great African-American journalist, abolitionist, reformer and orator (who died in 1895, despite the implication uttered in a recent administration meeting in the Roosevelt Room about Black History Month): “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
So make a demand.
And make a smile.
[PICTURED: Photo from theforward.com]