Laying Claim to Our Future: The Resistance We Must Build
Revolutionary Worker #1206, July 6, 2003, posted at rwor.org
I am sitting in the grass under a tree near the water. I'm sipping a cold drink and listening to geese honking and beats spilling out of cars cruising past. A kid throws sticks at the water, another chases ducks in a circle. Languages from across the globe mingle in the air and kids from the projects ride bikes past yuppies with strollers. Summer is upon us. The streets and stoops have come alive with people clinging to the shade. The city has thawed out, spirits are high and I am feeling all of it.
I have that summer fantastic, invincible feeling and I'm tripping on what we've been through the last year--all the struggle and the learning and growing. I am tripping off the walk-outs, how impressive the youth were and how determined. No one knew the stand they would take and then there they were, thumbing their noses at the cops, racing through the streets, taking the mic and shouting out their defiance and dreams. I recall the struggle that stretched around the globe--an actual world community that moved together and transformed us all. I think of Bush and Rumsfeld stripped of allies and any pretense of justification in the eyes of millions and millions--exposed as naked aggressors.
But then I think about what is coming down right now--not only over the sea, but here at home. The detentions of Arabs, South Asians, other Muslims. The phony trials. The deportations of thousands. The denials of permits and police attacks on protests--and the ugly threats against activists and artists who stand up. The grinning arrogance of Bush and the unyielding sneer of Ashcroft. The climate, the culture of xenophobia, fear, snitching, and submissiveness being inculcated all around us.
And more than that--I think of where this all is heading. These changing laws and attitudes are only the beginning. Where will it lead? How far will it go? I know people have been resisting, but still I am scared. We need more . It is urgent.
We need a Resistance.
We need a Resistance that does not allow Ashcroft to pose like the arbiter of justice and administrator of safety. That does not allow his program to posture like emergency measures, extreme but necessary, temporary, or for the greater good. A Resistance that educates and exposes to people the dangers of what has already been bolted down around us and the nightmare of where this will go if it is unopposed.
We need a Resistance that gives people this context, so that when they are forced to decide where they stand, when they are asked to turn people in or sit silent as students are torn from their schools, or protesters are clubbed and jailed, or artists are attacked and banned--they feel an urgent and moral obligation to say "No!" They know that the only way to live with dignity or humanity is to refuse to go along.
We need a Resistance that is organized --with organization that concretely and quickly backs up those who stand up; that leaves no one twisting in the wind; that amplifies every bold action, using it to challenge the whole program and inspiring many more people who increasingly know they are not alone. We need organization that enables people to talk things over and break out of isolation, that knits scattered people into a unified power that can magnify strengths and abilities, and move together with common purpose. And we need organization sturdy enough to thwart all attempts to break it up and crush our resistance.
We need a Resistance where everyone, but especially those born in this country, sees it as their responsibility to put themselves on the line to stop the Special Registrations, round-ups, and detentions of Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians.
We need a Resistance that includes beautiful and magical soulfood--music and poems and art that emboldens us and ridicules the powerful--that stretches our minds, gets us questioning, teaches us to dream beyond the horrors of today and challenges us to fight for these dreams, to do the impossible...art that celebrates the people, filled with a joy so deep and rich, a joy that the oppressors are incapable of. And we need a Resistance that cherishes and defends these artists--and spurs them on.
We need a Resistance that builds upon the spirit of the librarians who are shredding their records so Ashcroft can't get his hands on what books people are reading. Where people understand that it is not "if you have nothing to hide, why worry?" But instead are clear that nothing but horrors have ever come from this government's political spying, profiling and databasing.
We need a Resistance that says yes, everyone has something to fear--not from their neighbors, but from this government and the men who run it. A Resistance that fights the climate of snitching and complicity with a climate of defiance and solidarity. A Resistance that creates a situation where the posters in the subways calling on people to snitch don't stay up, where recruiters from the FBI and police don't dare come to the schools, where the threats and the "jokes" against Arabs or other demonized people are called out--on the spot.
We need a Resistance with the youth in the forefront, inspiring and breaking ground for others with their change-the-world spirit. That builds on the outrage in the legal community at Patriot Act I and II, and the more than 50 cities that have rejected these laws as a violation of fundamental rights. That includes the religious voices who have refused to go along with injustice. That doesn't accept dividing the "radicals" from the "mainstream," but instead sees the strength in uniting those who believe in the values upon which this country was founded and those who find injustice rooted in these very principles.
We need a Resistance that takes on every new outrage and goes toe-to-toe. That catches the Big Brother crowd in a dynamic where their attempts at repression backfire and call forth fierce resistance. Where the more they lash out against this, the more they incriminate themselves and lose legitimacy, which just fans the fires of resistance higher.
We need a Resistance that aims to defeat this whole repressive program--but through doing so prepares itself to withstand and continue to build resistance in even more repressive times. A resistance that is in their face...and behind their backs. That creates a sea of people who would be ready to defend or take in those the government goes after, and develops the concrete ways for people to "swim" in this sea.
We need a Resistance filled with dreamers and schemers. People wrestling with ideas of how to forge a society without reason to fear or be hated by the people of the world. Where there is a flowering of art and music that is not attacked for feeding the people liberating dreams and ideas--but danced to and played on the airwaves. Where different peoples are respected and different cultures celebrated. Where divergent views are promoted and people are trusted and led to evaluate and learn from them all. Where through all this we reach a day when people will hardly be able to imagine how things ever could have been this way.
I look up from my notebook to the sun glinting off the water.
Yeah, but can we do this? They sure are going strong.
Then I ask myself: "Who says they get the future?" Seriously, why should they get our planet? Do they think it will be easy for them to roll up the planet? Yes, we have a lot of work and struggle to do. But think about what's it like to be them !
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online