Nattering nabobs of negativism*
The trash from the Women’s Marches had barely been swept away (which did not take long at all) when the nattering nabobs of negativism began their nay-saying:
Self-styled Deep-Thinker-In-Chief and Head Mansplainer David Brooks chided demonstrators for engaging in identity politics:
Did Brooks see the photo of Donald Trump surrounded by a phalanx of white men as he signed the gag rule, cutting funding to international aid projects that mention abortion? Link here, with, above it, a photoshopped spoof by French feminists showing Hillary, surrounded by women, signing a somewhat different order:
(Another photo, real this time, shows Trump struggling to uncap a pen prior to signing the order:
But I digress.)
It is likely that Brooks did see the gag-order white-guy photo, since it appeared above the fold on page 1 of his very own newspaper. But apparently, if it’s about white men, it’s not identity politics, simply business as usual. The expression ‘identity politics’ emerged decades ago, favored by those whose grasp on illegitimate power was beginning to slip, its use now redoubled as that grasp slips further (yes, yes, I know, Trump is in the White House, but the arc of the moral universe is long, etc.), to suggest that there is something wrong with people who are not white men expecting equal rights and decent treatment. Apparently, for some, women’s rights, rights for people of color, rights for LGBTQ people, rights for persons with disabilities, rights for immigrants and rights for persons of all religions and no religion still do not equal human rights.
Equality feels like oppression when you’re used to privilege. [Anonymous]
Brooks also rebuked the marchers for slogans laced with obscenities (actually, one obscenity in particular). He said not one word about how pussy has become so … widespread.
“…[T]hese marches can never be an effective opposition to Trump,” Brooks scolded further, tilting at some straw woman who must have, in his fevered imagination, suggested that the resistance to Trump should and would end with the Women’s Marches.
The Indivisible Guide, again
Has Brooks heard of the Indivisible movement, with its Guide drafted by former Congressional staffers, instructing the opposition in the use of Tea Party tactics for progressive ends and the formation of local, on-the-ground groups to get their messages across to legislators?
(Here, again, is the Indivisible Guide:
It went out in Alert #15, but as the foundation of the opposition to Trump now forming, it bears re-sending. Thank you, John! Those basing their actions on it are now being referred to as the Herbal Tea Party.)
In a final, stunning upending of logic and cause and effect that appeared to shift responsibility for Trump’s rise onto those who marched the day after his inauguration, Brooks wrote, “Marching is a seductive substitute for action in an antipolitical era, and leaves the field open for a rogue like Trump.” Donald Trump says that the Times is failing. Could he actually be right about this? Maybe in addition to proofreaders, The Times needs to hire people to read for logical inconsistencies.
Well anyhow, thank goodness Brooks clarified that he thinks Trump is a bad hombre.
Other members of the commentariat expressed doubts that the march would lead to further, effective activism. One wrote that amassing millions of people for a march means little these days, far less than it did in the civil rights era, since people can now be summoned quickly through social media and electronic communications undreamt of by the Southern Christian Leadership Council. (I am paraphrasing freely, as that link seems to have disappeared.)
The strategic use of protests and what they have achieved thus far
A mere three days after the big march, on Tuesday the 24th, the nasty narrative of the nattering nabobs was neatly knocked askew for the very first time, when Senators’ offices across the nation were besieged by citizens urging their representatives to resist Trump and, in particular, to vote against his cabinet nominees.
I can attest that Senators’ and Representatives’ phone lines have been so busy in recent hours, days and weeks that it has been well-nigh impossible to bust through. Now some representatives’ phone lines even have messages informing callers that they have reached a non-working number [thank you for telling me this, Rose!], and some officials have fled town hall meetings through side entrances:
or just plain not shown up:
when constituents flocked to those shindigs in numbers that overwhelmed expectations–and politicians.
The response to what Le Monde on 3 February called “‘l’absurde decret anti-immigration de Trump,” in the form of the airport protests that sprang up nationwide thanks to the aforedisparaged [neologism!] social media, exemplifies a situation in which demonstrations were the most effective, perhaps the only effective initial response. The Muslim ban airport snafus, taking place at a particular moment in particular public spaces, called for actual bodies, pronto, in specific locations. The protesters came through; next, federal judges issued decisions; and the following day, the White House began its backpedaling, which, as of this writing, is ongoing.
I repeat the sequence of actors, in case anyone missed the first mention:
3. the White House.
Protesters have been gathering regularly in front of the Manhattan office and Brooklyn home of Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. Is it sheer coincidence that in just a few weeks Senator Schumer has pivoted from talk of collaborating with Trump on infrastructure to declaring his opposition to eight of Trump’s cabinet appointees and speaking up on behalf of immigrants? In the course of his pro-immigrant remarks, he went so far as to confide to the live audience and television viewers that his full name is in fact Charles Ellis Schumer, after his Uncle Ellis, who was, in turn, named in honor of Ellis Island.
In fact, marches and demonstrations are being used very strategically in this nascent movement, in combination with other tactics, to:
- signal massive, intense, immediate opposition;
- draw attention to injustices at the moment and in the places where they are occurring;
- pressure decision-makers, gently but firmly guiding their votes and actions.
Naturally, protesters will outnumber strategists and organizers. That is in the nature of things. But hordes of demonstrators send the message that as the first wave of organizers starts to burn out and needs to be spelled, also in the nature of things, replacements will come forward from among the vast ranks of the marchers.
Michelle Alexander wrote in The New Jim Crow (the indispensable, well-argued work on the War on Drugs as nothing more and nothing less than the most recent form of control and subjugation of black people):
“As Martin Luther King Jr. explained back in 1965, when describing why it was far more important to engage in mass mobilizations than file lawsuits, ‘We’re trying to win the right to vote and we have to focus the attention of the world on that. We can’t do that making legal cases. We have to make the case in the court of public opinion.'”
Last week I began an activism journal. For my own records.
The following qualify for inclusion:
- phone calls and visits to Senators, Representatives and other officials;
- attendance at organizing sessions, rallies and marches;
- donations, over and above customary contributions, to causes threatened by the new administration;
- handwritten or typed letters to officials, on paper, sent by USPS, in stamped envelopes, also postcards that fit this description, minus the envelopes;
- ‘wildcat activism,’ such as writing or calling to express support for ordinary people who stand up and take the heat, for example:
-the principal of Theodore Roosevelt High School (Des Moines, Iowa) who responded to the Muslim ban by addressing his school (students there come from over 100 countries), telling them that they are welcome, loved and supported at the school and that they belong there that no matter where they come from;
-a school teacher who was suspended without pay for 20 days after withdrawing a college letter of recommendation she’d written, explaining to the recipient office that the subject of the letter had just been discovered drawing swastikas on the walls of the school;
Also under the wildcat rubric: purchasing 10-packs of the Constitution from the American Civil Liberties Union and giving them away.
I’m sure you can think of more.
Clicktivism does not count, both because there is too much to tally and because it has less of an impact, so not included are the numberless electronic petitions signed and form emails sent to representatives.
What else does not count: becoming so engrossed in watching the Women’s March speeches by Madonna, Angela Davis, America Ferrara, Ashley Judd and Gloria Steinem that you burn cranberry sauce on the stove, resulting in a pot that is completely charred and unusable, an apartment filled with sweet-smelling fumes and a beeping smoke detector.
(Angela Davis (in stentorian tones): Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out.
Would-be Activist (in a choking, coughing whisper): What is that delightfully sweet, smoky smell? )
I find myself mistaking obsessive news-tracking, unceasing shock and outrage, and grousing to my intimates for change-making. The activism journal gives me a clearer view of what I’m actually doing.
On that note, below are some guides to action. Hint: choose just one and stick with it.
1. https://www.indivisibleguide.com/ (Yes, again! Just to keep it in the list with the others.)
And here is an explanation of the Indivisible Guide by Rachel Maddow, followed by an interview with one of its authors:
- Black activists have launched a resistance manual on fighting back during the Trump era. Activists including DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie, Samuel Sinyangwe and Brittany Packnett have launched the Resistance Manual, an open-source platform which houses resources people can use to “resist the impact of a Trump presidency and to continue to make progress in our communities.”3. https://www.womensmarch.com – sign up for emails every ten days that give you a task to do. This will last for the first 100 days.
(Sorry to circulate this somewhat tardily.)
Thank you, Paul.
Thank you, Dave.
(Slightly dated, as it urges people to attend the 21 January marches, but still.)
Thank you, Michael Moore.
I don’t remember who sent this.
Thank you, Linda.
- This article contains many links to manuals on and guides to nonviolent resistance (including in graphic and children’s book form), plus the astounding scholar-backed tidbit that it takes the sustained involvement in nonviolent resistance of a mere 3.5% of a nation’s population to topple a repressive regime:https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/01/worried-american-democracy-study-activist-techniques
And finally, remember to laugh.
1. Scientist names moth after Trump. But never fear, Obama still has more animals named after him than any other President, including noted conservationist Teddy Roosevelt.
“[According to a paper in a zoology journal] [t]he name… was inspired by the centimeter-wide moth’s head, which is “[s]caled with light-yellow frons,” and has “scales on the vertex converging towards middle, often with darker tips.”
“The new species is named in honor of Donald J. Trump, to be installed as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017,” the paper notes later.
“The reason for this choice of name is to bring wider public attention to the need to continue protecting fragile habitats in the US that still contain many undescribed species. The specific epithet is selected because of the resemblance of the scales on the frons (head) of the moth to Mr. Trump’s hairstyle.”
- And see this link, which someone entitled:
“Look who is with us.” Hint: her first name is Eleanor.https://twitter.com/mmflint/status/823697305056460800
Thank you, Amy!
* (For those too young to remember the phrase, follow this link: