A couple of dozen young people marched back and forth through downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday evening shouting “Love Not Hate!” and “No Human Being Is Illegal!” and “Black Lives Matter!” and similar anti-Trump inspired slogans. They didn’t hand out flyers or interact with other people at all, though I cheered for them.
Meanwhile some people my age looked on and made scornful condescending comments to the effect that the election was over and these fools should get over it. And one drunk guy, restrained by his wife or girlfriend, announced that “Black lives aren’t worth s—!”
My response is different, if perhaps equally cynical. I’d like all the fools not marching and rallying to recognize that the dream of self-governance is over and to get over it. I’d like everyone to have gotten over it last month or last year or last decade.
I love that people march around shouting “Love Not Hate!” And the fact that anyone would object to that statement of preference ought to deeply disturb the most apathetic voter/consumer/spectator. In fact I’ve just helped set up a petition that reads:
“We will not stand by as hatred and violence are promoted by our president-elect. Racism and bigotry at home have been fueled by U.S. wars abroad, but also make more such wars easier. We commit to nonviolently resisting hateful attacks on our fellow human beings wherever they live.”
I also love and am practicing the new trend of wearing a safety pin to indicate that one is a safe and caring person to anyone who might be worried about any variety of bigotry.
But here’s where I get a bit cynical. Hillary Clinton told a room full of Goldman Sachs bankers that creating a no fly zone in Syria would require killing lots of Syrians. And she told the public she wanted to create that no fly zone. And if she had been declared the winner of the election, I can guarantee you that nobody would have been marching up and down my street yelling “Love Not Hate.”
So, I worry that even those who value kindness to others value it only for the 4% of humanity in the United States but not so much for the other 96%, or value it only as directed by the less hateful of the two big political parties.
I also worry that it’s even worse than that. I worry that, as cheerleaders for one political party over the other, people have lost touch with the idea of bringing demands from the public to the government. For seven years we had protests of the war on Afghanistan, for example. Then for eight years we didn’t, even as the U.S. forces there grew by over 300 percent before declining. Perhaps next year those protests will recommence, but probably only in the unlikely event that the Democratic Party raises the issue.
Where was the outrage over the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Or over the lack of single-payer healthcare? Or over the failure to restrain inequality or environmental destruction? Or over the threat of a nuclear war with Russia? Why the selective outrage on-command as directed by televised coverage of the model or template protest in New York City?
But, really, what choice do people have? If they want others to join in, if they want the local media to cover them, they have to go where the momentum is. And when the momentum is for love against hate, everybody should be cheering and joining.
But we should also be directing our energy toward strategic areas for systemic change.
Is it a problem that the winner of the popular vote can be denied the U.S. presidency? Then let’s compel our state legislatures to change the law to distribute electors in proportion to actual votes.
Is it a problem that a small cartel of major media corporations can choose to give someone like Donald Trump wall-to-wall free airtime, effectively handing him a nomination for president? Then let’s channel widespread (including Trump’s) disdain for the media into breaking up that cartel.
Is it a problem that the Democratic Party can slant the playing field of its primary to guarantee a win to a weak candidate? We should disempower and democratize parties, including by ending the corruption of privately financed elections, and by creating ranked-choice voting in the other 49 states as Maine’s voters just did there.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead for the moment, and the president-elect made at least 1,000 speeches condemning NAFTA. Let’s put an end to NAFTA, and not replace it with something worse.
It took President Obama two days after the election to put in his request for more billions for more war. Trump has already said he wants to end the arming of fighters in Syria. Let’s end that supplemental spending bill along with that policy. And let’s make clear that we won’t stand for another form of escalation in Syria or Iraq.
Is it too early to impeach Trump? Then let’s focus on blocking his horrendous cabinet nominations.
Much of recent Trump-driven hatred took the form of voter suppression. Let’s demand investigations and prosecutions.
And what about loving future generations? Let’s work to advance a wiser environmental policy at the local, state, and international levels, and to make clear to Congress and the president-elect that we will not stand for the destruction of the earth’s climate.
Let’s energize and strategize with everyone marching against the recent election. Let’s take these protests where their leaders think they need to go. Even if we’re just telling each other and the world that we’re not among those accepting hatred and violence, that’s all to the good.
But let’s not start to believe that activism is principally for displaying our identities. Let’s make sure we’re transforming major structures that impact millions and billions of those whom we need to love and not hate.