Resistance Portfolio: Practical Steps to Escape Normalization

We each need two types of list these days. One is the sort recommended by experts on nascent authoritarianism: a daily list of acts that are not normal but which the authoritarian is trying to normalize. This kind of list keeps us alert, prevents us from being lulled, tricked, or distracted into accepting incremental steps toward the unacceptable.Here is an example from Amy Siskind.

The other list we need is one that helps us keep track of resistance measures, especially organized and lawful ones. When millions of people are engaged in a political fight, concerted efforts come from many quarters. Nobody can participate in every one. Some efforts do not merit serious participation. People have to decide which efforts engage them, where they can participate meaningfully. They also need to remember what else is being done, to keep track of successes and failures, and to look for synergies. People’s lists of resistance efforts will vary, according to their particular interests and capabilities.

Here’s my own current list of resistance efforts.

  1. Promote efforts to educate and advise Presidential electors of the nonpartisan constitutional grounds that warrant a refusal to select Donald Trump unless he liquidates his current assets and places them into a true blind trust.(Further discussion here, here, and here.)
  2. Donate time and money to organizations with experience, expertise, commitment to safeguarding civil rights and/or combating misogyny, patriarchy, and white supremacy. (The ones I have chosen are discussed here.)
  3. Boycott retailers carrying Donald J. Trump and/or Ivanka Trump brand merchandise. Work to extend boycott to media that accept advertising from Trump companies. (Detailed information re targeted retailers, alternatives available here. See also my posts on concept and implementation)
  4. Watch for and publicize, via social media, inaccurate coverage of vote recounts and audits (example). Where possible, provide accurate information especially with links to primary sources (example). 
  5. Support the Women’s March on Washington.
  6. Work on practical programs to assist progressive young lawyers to run for office or to head campaign of a young progressive running for office.

This list helps me balance

  • short, medium, and long term resistance measures
  • measures more and less likely to accomplish their ends
  • resistance measures that require varying degrees and kinds of effort
  • measures in need of my particular skills and measures that will profit from anybody’s involvement

Thus my list functions like a financial investment portfolio. When aiming toward a financial goal it makes sense to to choose different kinds of investment and saving vehicles to optimize one’s chance of meeting the goal. If one investment fails, for example, the success of others can offset the setback. Same thing for my Resistance Portfolio. Like a financial portfolio, it will need revisiting and rebalancing over time if it is to (roughly) optimize my efforts to defeat Donald Trump, his appointees, the Republican politicians and others who have brought us Trump; and my work to preserve civil right, ensure a pluralist society, and to advance the liberation and equality of women.

Continually updated version of my own Resistance Portfolio.

I strongly encourage others to devise, maintain, and share their own Resistance Portfolios.

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Resistance Portfolio: Practical Steps to Escape Normalization

Going to Church for Gwen Ifill

Tonight I went to church. This is not a sentence that comes naturally from me, as I am a non-observant, non-believing Jew. I’m not a proselytizing atheist, but I’m a committed one. But tonight I went to church and found meaning there. The church was Metropolitan A.M.E, which was celebrating the life of one of its members, Gwen Ifill. Gwen Ifill was a star of American print and television journalism. I was moved to go to her church tonight in honor of her cousin, Sherrilyn Ifill a star in the legal world, now President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. This is a great organization with an illustrious history and record of fighting for civil liberties and justice. I do not know Sherrilyn, but from following her on Twitter, I knew she was gutted by the death of her cousin Gwen. I did not know Gwen Ifill personally but she was one of those glass ceiling breakers who informed my  consciousness growing up.

The celebration of Gwen’s life tonight was bustling, many people attending, various friends, family, and colleagues of hers telling stories of their experiences with her. There were some well-known people in the pews and among the speakers but most of the other attendees were not people I recognized. The crowd included men and women, whites and blacks and browns. But the largest subgroup definitely was African-American American women, Gwen’s friends, colleagues, mentees and, perhaps, some like me, who just turned out to honor Gwen Ifill or somebody in her family.

I’m a white woman, and I count African-American women among my friends, my students, my colleagues, my fellow political activists. But I rarely attend an event where there are significantly more African-American women present than any other demographic group. As I sat in Gwen Ifill’s church, listening to African-American women commemorate her, in companionship with African-American women also listening to her, I felt and grateful for the opportunity to share in the occasion. I was also found myself glad to be on the periphery, definitely welcomed but certainly not central at all to the event. I was gladdened by this because I finally had an opportunity to enact my gratefulness to my African-American sisters who fight the good fight. I share the fight with them, but I know that too often too many African-American women do not feel that their stature within the struggle is recognized or valued sufficiently by white women. At church tonight, I could live my recognition and respect for Gwen Ifill, Sherrilyn Ifill, and the eloquent, gracious African-American women also there.

As we buckle down to resist, oppose, and contend with Trump and the Republican Congress, we are going to be in a fight for justice, for civil society, for equality, and for one another, especially those of us who people like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions would happily oppress and subordinate. To have a chance of winning will require that we grow the bonds between us and that will require constant mutual respect and, where earned, admiration. We will have to express those sentiments. We will have to be kind to one another. That is what will sustain us when we are tired, afraid, anxious. Having bonds will make it clear who we will celebrate with when celebration is won.

Tonight, the congregation at Metropolitan A.M.E. opened their doors. Members ushered me in, made me welcome. Gwen Ifill and her life gave me an opportunity to show respect and admiration. Sherrilyn Ifill’s legal leadership and willingness to make known her personal grief moved me to attend an event I probably would not have otherwise. Friends, family, and colleagues of Gwen’s allowed me to sit among them and hear their fond remembrances. Tonight, I went to church and being there let me feel and show things I could not have precisely felt or shown any other place.

Going to Church for Gwen Ifill

Actions To Be Taken

In the face of Donald Trump’s election and the Republican majority in Congress, we can exercise agency. We can resist the Trump era and the incoming Trump GOP regime. We can fight for the rule of law. Concrete actions that can be taken immediately:

  • Stop subscribing to or watching cable news. No cable news outlet delivers the sort of information we actually need. There are individual television journalists, such as Joy Reid and, sometimes, Brian Stelter, who are worth some attention. Follow them on Twitter and you can get what you need.
  • Subscribe to superior, although not perfect sources of information, and keep up with their coverage. These include the Washington Post, the Guardian, ProPublica, The New Yorker, Mother Jones, the London Review of Books. The New York Times has been a remarkably unreliable conveyor of information for years now. I am deliberately leaving them off this list. Paul Krugman, a NYT columnist worth reading, can be followed on Twitter.
  • Consistently contribute money and/or time to organizations with experience in and demonstrated success and commitment to civil liberties, rule of law, anti-racism, and anti-religious-discrimination. These include NARAL, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, Anti-Defamation League, and CAIR. Consistency matters in this effort: even if you can only contribute a few dollars per month sign up to make monthly donations. This develops the habit of supporting these causes and, even more critically, makes it easier for them to plan their activities, based on steady inflow of dollars. Likewise, sign up to work in a field office or on a project on a regular basis, building that into your weekly, monthly, or daily schedule.
  • Wear the safety pin, and more generally, aid or get aid for vulnerable people. If you see something, say something. Report acts of violence and hatred to police, to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  • Boycott all retailers that sell Donald or Ivanka Trump brand items. Follow the boycott on twitter at #GrabYourWallet. More generally, use your spending power to empower manufacturers, retailers, and brands who stand against oppression and subordination.
  • A longshot petition worth signing requests the electors of the Electoral College to vote for Hillary Clinton regardless of their state’s rules binding them to vote for Donald Trump.
  • Join and volunteer to help the Women’s March on Washington. The most up to date information is currently available on Facebook, a forum I generally recommend against, but needs must.
  • Support lawyers specifically fighting for rule of law. Organizations geared to this purpose include Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Alliance for Justice Action Campaign.
Actions To Be Taken

Wearing a Safety Pin

Today I decided to wear a safety pin, visible to all, every day. I will hand out safety pins to trusted friends, students, and colleagues for them to wear. The safety pin signals to all that I will not tolerate bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, racism. If I see it directed toward any individual, I will aid. If I cannot aid, I will summon aid.

Wearing a safety pin is not the only resistance I am taking in the face of the Trump era. Before today I have begun to help organize the Women’s March on Washington, I have donated to extra-governmental organizations with experience and focus on protecting civil liberties and subordinated groups, I have been publicizing  the boycott retailers selling Trump brands.

But today is different. Today is the day that the President-Elect of the United States of America announced that when he takes office his Chief Strategist will be a man who is a publicly avowed white nationalist, an active advocate of misogyny and anti-Semitism, a promoter of the “alt-right” world view. In other words, today the Republican President-Elect elevated and institutionalized modern-day American Nazism.

Today is the day that I realized that people need to put on safety pins before they are forced to wear other, sinister badges. People need to put on safety pins because people of color, women of conscience, brown and black people, Jews and Muslims, LGBT folks are now overtly under threat from the highest executive office in the United States. Already, alt-right violence targeting us is ratcheting up. We need to know who is prepared to stand against this violence, who is ready to act in its face. Wearing a safety pin is a simple visible way to communicate your readiness, your resistance.

Others are wearing safety pins for similar reasons. On Twitter you can check the hashtags #SafetyPin and #SafetyPinNation.

Wearing a Safety Pin

Doing #GrabYourWallet

#GrabYourWallet is the hashtag Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) introduced on Twitter after the emergence of an Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump discussing, in vulgar, mocking terms, his propensity toward sexual assaulting women. Many people, but women in particular, suddenly found that a simple thing like shopping for a blouse or pair of shoes could become a horrible experience, because the Trump name was suddenly in one’s face. For many women, that it was Ivanka Trump’s name just made it worse. She was a top campaign surrogate for Donald Trump, and as of this writing, the only woman on his transition team, a fellow woman who was using her voice to put in office a misogynistic self-avowed sexual predator. And she was promoting her brand at the same time.

Boycotting has a long history as a form of social protest, particularly resonant for Americans because of the great boycotts of racially segregated transportation organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, Shannon Coulter realized that the target of boycotts must be the retailers who sell Trump brands. Retailers need to see that carrying items with the Trump name harms their own brands and hits their own bottom lines. Equally important, women and men resisting the Trump era and administration need to realize their own agency, even in the face of an oppressive regime. The marketplace is somewhere we can immediately exercise our agency, choosing to shop at stores that respect us and our values and refusing to give our dollars to those that don’t. Every time we make choices to give business to stores that do not carry Trump brand merchandise or to withhold business from those that do, we are demonstrating our agency, flexing our autonomy, refusing the Trump era in a tangible way.

To participate, consult this public Google doc, with updated information on retailers carrying Trump brands and also suggested alternatives. Of course many alternative shopping venues are local small businesses or sellers on Etsy; the alternatives list cannot be comprehensive. But discovering Trump-brand-free stores, online and off, is part of doing #GrabYourWallet. Develop the habit of boycotting and you develop your own agency and autonomy, in a time when people committed to justice, equality, and civility are going to need those character traits more than ever.

Doing #GrabYourWallet

Salt March

 

As we dig into the long, uncertain effort to defend our basic values, each other’s liberty and well-being, and our constitutional democracy, it helps to reflect on others confronted who made such efforts in their times and places. No person is perfect, but some women and men have forged tactics that ultimately helped roll back oppression. M.K. Gandhi is the example I’m considering today.

Gandhi and others started the fight for Indian independence decades before it came to pass. In 1930, India’s Congress Party issued the Purna Swaraj, India’s Declaration of Independence. In contrast to the events that followed the American Declaration of Independence, Gandhi wanted to fulfill the demands of India’s declaration nonviolently. Toward that end he organized the Salt March to Dandi.

Gandhi chose to mobilize people through an economic and political statement that people could understand across regional, class, ethnic, and other boundaries. He attacked the British monopoly and taxation of salt. Salt was  not scarce in India. Occurring throughout low-lying coastal zones of India, salt was readily accessible, but the British government forced everybody pay money for a mineral which they could easily collect themselves for free. Gandhi Leads the Salt March, 1930. Historic World Events. Detroit: Gale, 2012. World History in Context. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

It was illegal for Indians to make salt; indeed the sale or production of salt by anyone but the British government was a criminal offense punishable by law. Gandhi, at age 61, led a procession of marchers, who walked over 200 miles, to the coast, where Gandhi made salt from seawater.

The salt campaign, kicked off with Gandhi’s 25-day trek, continued for another two months. The British ignored Gandhi’s breach of the law at first, but, when he informed the Viceroy of his intention to raid the nearby Dharsana Salt Works, he and all the Congress leaders were arrested. Gandhi was imprisoned for eight months under the terms of a law dating back to 1827, which did not require a trial or sentencing. He was released on January 26, 1931. Gandhi Leads the Salt March, 1930. Historic World Events. Detroit: Gale, 2012. World History in Context. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.

Indian Independence was not achieved for another seventeen years, in 1947. But the Salt March galvanized people across the country, powered the textile boycott that undermined British rule in India.

What does this have to do with progressivism now, particularly progressivism in America today, just after the election of Donald Trump and a right wing Republican majority in Congress?  We must salt march. We must use economic mass mobilization to activate progressives everywhere. Some such efforts are already in place as people have organized to boycott retailers who sell Ivanka Trump brand merchandise as well as purveyors of Donald J. Trump brand items. Shannon Coulter (@shannoncoulter) sparked this movement on Twitter under the banner of #GrabYourWallet. Today, one retailer, Shoes.com, announced its decision to drop the Ivanka Trump line.

That’s one small point for our now small salt march.  More significantly, across social media, we are showing how to salt march, how to change our shopping habits, re-envisioning our economic relationships with retailers who benefit from doing business with the Trumps, and sharing information with one another. We are thereby beginning a larger salt march of our own.

 

 

Salt March