“You can’t fight City Hall.”
Well…turns out City Hall is a minor obstacle these days. Trump and his autocratic buds loom far larger. If you can’t fight City Hall you surely are foolish to try Trump.
Indeed, we routinely tell ourselves some version of the Reinhold Niebuhr axiomatic Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
We cannot possibly affect serenity these days without occupying a state of deep denial. This is an emergency on all fronts:
• Trump groped many women, a dozen of them came forward to describe it, and yet he keeps his job while the other power players topple.
• Trump praises foreign dictators — Putin, Erdogan, Duterte — and insults the leader of Europe’s strongest, prosperous, generous, peaceful democracy — Merkel.
• Trump is doing everything possible to put industry in charge of dismantling environmental regulations.
• Trump is appointing Supreme Court “Justices” who are shifting the decisions toward jingoism, xenophobia, and unconstitutional, anti-democratic nationalistic insularity.
• Trump is targeting Muslims, Mexicans, and others with his racist tweets, presidential orders, and auto-cannibalistic appointments.
• Trump and Kim Jong Un are doing the most demonic death dance ever, like little sociopaths who simply do not care about the annihilation of millions.
• Trump’s encouragement to the most brutal police has created a new level of racial fear felt first and familiarly in the African American communities but now in a toxic spreading reciprocity.
• Trump lies pretty much every time he discusses and denies the Russian roles in getting him elected and is now squirming to avoid the law as embodied in Mueller’s investigation.
And this is only the short list. We are losing public lands, gaining the ridicule and revulsion of citizens from around the world, and watching the shreds and loose threads of a social safety net for our most vulnerable blowing in this gale of bad policy.
What can we do?
Well, what did women do to finally get the vote? What did blacks do to finally end segregation? What did migrant workers do to form a union? What did Native Americans do to finally reaffirm long-abrogated treaty rights? What did British Gold Coast Africans do to end colonial rule? What did Filipinas and Filipinos do to depose Ferdinand Marcos? What did Serbs do to knock Slobodan Milosevic out of office? What did Tunisians do to overthrow dictator Ben Ali?
In all these cases and many more, people finally decided to take that latent power that is always there — nonviolent people power — organize it, recruit mass numbers to their movement, and use it strategically to earn victory. Yes, they worked at it. Yes, they sacrificed. And they won, with far far far fewer costs than if they would have either shrunk from engagement or engaged in violence.
Our power is in our hands if we take it off the table — and if we don’t, the greedy elite will take it all again. Our power, our choice.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is a scholar of civil resistance and PeaceVoice Director.