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Saturday, February 04, 2017


Battle-hardened and gaining strength

by Tom Sullivan

Greensboro sit-in lunch counter is now a museum.

Voters who sat out the Iraq War, extraordinary rendition, black sites, Abu Ghraib, and Bush II's Privatize Social Security 2005 Tour are finally in the streets and trying to wrap their brains around the whole activism thing. President Donald Trump's election, sexism and xenophobia brought home the need for engagement in a way military interventions in faraway lands and far-off retirement concerns did not. Plus, a lot of those in the streets today weren't old enough to vote a decade or more ago. For those with a lot more future in their futures, the stakes are higher.

In response to Trumpism, several Indivisible groups have already formed and merged here and are active. How many across the country will survive the inevitable shaking out no one knows. Setbacks are certain. But so is victory for those who refuse to lose.

At The Guardian, Erica Chenoweth argues that history shows that when campaigns of nonviolent resistance "prepare, train, and remain resilient, they often succeed regardless of whether the government uses violence against them." Studies show a mere "3.5% of a population engaged in sustained nonviolent resistance" are enough to topple even brutal dictatorships. Plus, those in resistance have never been better equipped to fight back:

Today, those seeking knowledge about the theory and practice of civil resistance can find a wealth of information at their fingertips. In virtually any language, one can find training manuals, strategy-building tools, facilitation guides and documentation about successes and mistakes of past nonviolent campaigns.

Material is available in many formats, including graphic novels, e-classes, films and documentaries, scholarly books, novels, websites, research monographs, research inventories, and children’s books. And of course, the world is full of experienced activists with wisdom to share.
Here is a bit of wisdom at Think Progress from an activist with over a decade in the streets, someone who knows how to fight and win (emphasis mine):
Yes, we’re witnessing extremism in Washington, D.C. But some of us have been facing it for a while now. The extremists took over state government in my home state of North Carolina four years ago. But we challenged them with the moral language of our deepest religious and constitutional traditions. We dug deep into our state’s history of fusion politics and committed to stand together. And we learned something about extremism.

The same folks who were attacking public schools in our state were attacking health care. And the same folks against health care were against the LGBTQ community. And they were against labor. And they were attacking immigrants and Muslims and poor people. And to top it all off, the extremists were crying “voter fraud” as justification for the worst voter suppression measures we’d seen since Jim Crow.

They didn’t have any more evidence than Trump has now. We fought them in court and won. But we had to realize something deeper about our movement: if they were cynical enough to get together on all of these issues, we had to be courageous enough to come out of our single-issue silos and fight together in the streets, in the legislature, in the courts and at the ballot box.

When we linked up and started fighting back with Moral Mondays, they fought us harder. We lost some battles, and we’ve spent some long nights in jail. But even as Trumpism rolled across the South this past November, we beat extremism in our governor’s race, in four Council of State races, and in the race for a state Supreme Court seat. The extremists controlled all three branches of government before the election, but they only have the legislature now. And a federal court has ordered a special election this year because they found the legislature districts were gerrymandered with racial intent.

America needs more than a strategy to win back some seats for Democrats in 2018. We need a long term plan for a moral movement that links up and fights together for a moral agenda. Trump’s extremism is bad, but I’m convinced that it’s the last gasp of an order that knows it’s passing away. The question isn’t whether these lies and attacks can last. They cannot. The question is, “Who will stand together to offer a real alternative to the disaster of these policies?”

One week from today, thousands will take to the streets of Raleigh, North Carolina with Rev. William Barber for the 11th time. It is not only a show of force by a community calling for justice from a system that institutionalized inequality. It is an act of defiance against governance by leaders who wish people different themselves would just go away.

After a 2014 visit to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro (where you will find the famous lunch counter preserved), I wrote:

One place you hear it is in their rhetoric about voter fraud. It is a very personal affront to them that the power of their votes might be diminished by the Other. Every time someone ineligible casts a fraudulent ballot, they insist, it "steals your vote." Your vote. They have convinced themselves that there are thousands and thousands of invisible felons stealing their votes every election. Passing more restrictive voting laws is a matter of justice and voting integrity, of course. What other motivation could there be for railroading eligible poor, minority, and college-age voters?

The Others they suspect of this heinous activity are people who do not believe as they do nor vote as they do. Voter fraud itself is a code word, the way Lee Atwater used "forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff." It's "much more abstract," as Atwater said. The issue is not really whether the invisible "those people" are voting illegally or not. It is that they are voting at all. Sharing in governance, sharing power, is a privilege for deserving, Real Americans, not for the unwashed Irresponsibles. That Others do so legally is just as much an affront. Right now they're targeting the invisible Others. Restricting voting to Real Americans comes later, I guess.
With Trump in the White House and Republicans in control of all three branches of government, later is now. The country as a whole faces what North Carolina faced in 2013 when Republicans gained full control of the governor's mansion and the legislature for the first time in 100 years. They rolled into Raleigh just as they have today in Washington. D.C. But in North Carolina, the resistance is already fully formed, battle-hardened, gaining strength, and winning.

Come see how it's done at the 11th Annual Moral March on Raleigh & HKonJ People’s Assembly next Saturday.