Each day brings the challenge of meeting despair with determined action. That challenge is compounded by the myriad fronts that call out for redress: The uptick in hate-based violence. Voter suppression. Cabinet picks. Violent law enforcement. Climate change. Standing Rock.
I could work on that list for hours and I wouldn’t be satisfied. This list is long, immediate, and urgent. Everything on it is weighted with the threat of lost freedoms, loves and lives.
And then there are other perspectives: That this is not a bad turn. That things needed to change. That this election will answer prayers. Or it will jolt the docile into action. That love is all we need.
Underneath, humming rage. Rage driven by hundreds of years of targeting black and brown people with violations to their humanity both insidious and outright. By impending loss of freedoms as basic as with whom we make family. Rage at homelands destroyed by politics, greed and religion, by misguided colonialism and intervention, by non-intervention.
And the other rage driven by an existential fear, “I will lose my place in the world if you take your place in the world.” That fear drives what my friend, the philosopher Elizabeth Minnich, once named the violent impulse: Just make it go away.
The violent impulse is in all of us. It’s not limited to grown men surrounding a brown child on a sidewalk and chanting, “Go home!” It’s a whole gamut of ‘be-gones.’ Be-gone, black man. Be- gone, lesbian. Be-gone, immigrants. Be-gone, whole religions. Be-gone, conservatives. Be-gone, liberals. Be-gone, you-who-disagree-with-me.
The only be-gone I accept is be-gone, violence. I am convinced that violence begins with the tiniest thought that a person or group is unworthy of being considered whole. Violence seeps out of the mind into name-calling, stereotyping, then into action: harassment, repression, beatings and murder. I am also convinced that violence begets violence. Always. And I do not want to leave the young people in my life with a more violent world.
So, what to do? What to do as violence rears up in all corners?
It seems to me that each of us must do two things: First, resist. Take your place in an unrelenting deluge of “no.” No is a fierce and nonviolent response to injustice. Non-violent resistance manifests in phone calls, petitions, personal interactions and organized protests or protections. Each of us can find our place in resistance.
Second, look around at the opportunities in your life for non-violent insistence. Non-violent insistence is a deluge of “yes.” It is the making of things that bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.,Sure, it’s in making love, in all the ways that means. But, with apologies to the 60s, love is not all we need. Loving one another is decidedly not enough.
Look around at the opportunities to create against un-creation. Make art if you can. Make refuge, make solidarity, make organizations, or strengthen the ones you are already in. Make peace with people you can’t imagine making peace with.
While the arc of the moral universe may well bend toward justice, there are always forces that would bend it back, and faltering vigilance has great cost. For those who have long known this, the new work is very, very old, and the thought of doing it all again is exhausting.
Others are just learning now that progress is fragile, that injustice takes advantage of any weakness to rise. It’s a painful lesson.
There are moments to rest, but this is not one of them. Especially not if you’re new to the work. Welcome to the resistance. Find your place in the deluge of No. Choose a few ways to insist. Accept discomfort, understand you will do this while still grieving. Get going.
Here’s what I will do. I will read and listen carefully, parsing bias, propaganda and untruth with the sharpest mind I can muster. I’ll spend time every day in the mundane work of resistance: phone calls and letters. I will step into solidarity at every opportunity with those who stand to lose the most. I will speak up in the face of hate when I hear it in my day-to-day. I’ll make that a practice, and make a point to learn to do it well. I will work to strengthen the organizations in which I work, where the mission is already pointed toward justice. And I will write.
Writing is where I make myself accountable. At best, when I write I illuminate new ways of thinking that support or even inspire change. I’ve set myself to do that here. If you join me, I’ll be honored.
 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King used this phrase and ones like it many times in his public life, borrowing from abolitionists preachers like Theodore Parker. For a quick discussion of this rhetorical lineage, see NPR’s Melissa Block’s interview with History Professor and Director of the Stanford Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute, Clayborne Carson.