By Peter Bergel
The election is over and Trump won. In a country with a sane election system, he would not have, but we have the Electoral College, so he did. In Joe Hill’s immortal words, “Don’t mourn; organize!”
Hidden in those words is one of the silver linings that surrounds Trump’s cloud. Look around. People are organizing as they have not done since 2003, when the Iraq invasion was imminent, and maybe even not since the 1960s anti-war efforts. People are coming together to protect each other from racist attacks, support the water protectors at Standing Rock, counter hate speech with love, sustain the environmental gains we have struggled for, continue efforts to halt climate change, and more.
In addition, protests have sprung up spontaneously all over the country, some of them involving people not old enough to vote. While complaining about the election results will not change anything, such protests offer a path to building a movement that can make serious change. Stress planning, humor, newsworthy positions, and connections to basic societal values so your campaign will resonate with mainstream Americans.
Others are demonstrating outside the banks that fund the Dakota Access Pipeline. When I did that with a local group recently, one of the banks immediately locked its doors and its customers could not get in!
In my home town of Salem, Ore. a city councilor posted flagrantly racist materials on his Facebook page. The spontaneous uproar that ensued was immediate and intense, leading to his resignation.
There is encouraging news on the foreign relations front as well. Trump’s website reported shortly after the election that Trump and Vladimir Putin “discussed a range of issues including the threats and challenges facing the United States and Russia, strategic economic issues and the historical U.S.-Russia relationship that dates back over 200 years.” Rather than pursuing the tense relations that have steadily worsened in recent months giving rise to fears of nuclear war, “President-elect Trump noted to President Putin that he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia.” Putin’s militarism in Ukraine, his administration’s recent repression and his reported assassinations of dissidents, are no doubt reprehensible, but finding common ground where we can is an inoculant against nuclear aggression.
The Struggle of Our Lives
All that said, we all know that we are about to face the struggle of our lives if we are to avert disasters for the environment, human rights, good government, equity, healthcare, workers’ rights, human decency, politics and a host of other controversial issues. We need to acknowledge that Trump’s candidacy and victory did not cause any of these crises. All were there before. We fear that his administration will make them worse — because his candidacy already has; it is our job to see that he does not succeed.
We stand at a crossroads from which things can get a whole lot worse, but they can also get a lot better. Let us choose the latter course!
Each of us will be drawn to the issues and tactics that resonate for us. Please don’t try to convince others that your cause is “the most important.” They are all important. Instead, thank each person who is working on any of them – even those you never thought about or thought were important. Come to appreciate how intimately interconnected they all are. They are varying forms of resistance to domination, and efforts to replace it with cooperation. Replacing domination with cooperation has a short name – “nonviolence.”
No one is saying this is going to be easy. It’s not. It’s going to be one of the hardest things our country has ever attempted, if not the hardest. However, the stakes have never been higher either. The reward of success will be happier, more secure, more fulfilled, healthier people living together more peacefully and gracefully. The price of failure could well be the extinction of our species from this planet, taking many other life forms with us.
100 Days of Peace and Justice
So here’s a specific suggestion, recently offered by a friend: as Donald Trump follows his inauguration on January 20 with 100 days of revealing to us what his administration’s agenda is going to be, let us begin 100 Days of Peace and Justice during which we reveal what our agenda is going to be. Never in the history of the world has there been a leader who was able to govern without the cooperation – or at least the acquiescence – of the governed. Let us make it clear that we will only accept governance that meets our needs and aspirations. Under the umbrella of 100 Days of Peace and Justice we can speak with a unified voice on all the issues we care about by demonstrating what we want and resisting what we do not want. Initiate projects that fire your enthusiasm and refuse cooperation with those that do not represent you. No overall coordination is required. Just Do It.
A Few Examples
Initially protests will come to mind. Protest if you wish, but I believe we must go beyond protesting to demonstrating what we want and how to refuse what we do not want. For example:
In closing, a word about nonviolence — it is crucial to ultimate success in this endeavor for a number of reasons:
We won’t know how much power we can wield until we try. Now is not the time to err on the side of timidity.
Peter Bergel is a lifelong peace, justice, environmental, and indigenous rights activist and organizer.
Posted with permission from PeaceVoice