Here I am in occupied DC. The White House looks like a Green Zone. There was a time when you could walk up to it. Caravans of police cars and black SUVs zoom by with sirens blaring and everyone else forced aside. Do people look outraged? No, they grin and admire. We need more democratic perspectives. Here are six.
1. Get active around policy not personality. And try to nudge newly active or re-activated people in that direction. To take one example of thousands, we should be cheering more loudly for the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. And we should have raised a lot more hell than we did over the idea of locking her up to begin with — and Obama’s pronouncing her guilty before his subordinates tried her — and over all the other whistleblowers still in cages or facing persecution. More support for not bombing Syria in 2013, and more condemnation for arming proxies instead. More — hell, any — support for Trump deescalating hostility with Russia, and more opposition to his proposals to “kill their families” and “steal their oil.”
2. Recognize that the crisis is not new. It’s just ever more urgent, with environmental or nuclear apocalypse threatening. Obama increased military spending, dropped more bombs on Iraq than Bush did, still occupies Afghanistan, is now helping to destroy Mosul, and radically expanded presidential war powers for his successors. Each president does a lot more harm than good. Each should be protested and resisted and impeached and removed — but for good reasons, of which there are always plenty, not for bad ones.
3. Promote a positive vision. We can move toward a better future in which reduced or eliminated military spending makes possible what we don’t now even try to dream of.
4. Go local and global. Build power in towns, cities, states, and through alliances across borders. The latter is crucial for avoiding war and protecting the planet.
5. Take on Washington too, but recognize what we are up against. The activism that may have saved Chelsea Manning, delayed the bombing of Syria, prevented as of yet a war on Iran, and led to Trump campaigning on the idea that attacking Iraq and Libya was stupid, could do more if it knew its own strength. But the wars have now gone secret, outsourced, privatized, and taken to the skies rather than the ground. The lies have become slicker too, though that may be about to change. We have to up our game. A nuclear war is not one that can be criticized after it starts on the grounds that it costs too much money or hurts someone sympathetic or because the people nuked are not showing gratitude. We are also up against a permanent government sending troops to Russia’s border, facilitating a coup in Ukraine, sabotaging peace in Syria, and making recent accusations against Russia that have in some cases proven false and in no case yet been proven true.
6. Resort to the most powerful tool: nonviolence. You cannot expect violence to work on children, even presidential children. It does not educate or control. Children need attention, positive when they do right and negative when they do wrong. The CIA, “Homeland-” “Security,” and “Democrats” are effectively telling Trump that he can only be loved or respected if he joins in spitting in the face of a nuclear armed government. The people who found the one candidate who could lose to Trump are finding the one way to oppose his agenda that will fall apart under scrutiny if it doesn’t kill us all first. Let’s have no more partisanship. No more cults of or against personalities.
We need principles. Policies. Peace.