Readers Write On:
Deep Questioning and Seeds of Resistance
November 28, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
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As protests continue in the streets and on campuses across the country, there is intense and deep questioning among broad numbers of people, and seeds of resistance in many different ways. We're beginning to hear from our readers on what they're learning about this, including what effect the statement "In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America" is having. This week we're posting several of these reader letters—and we want to hear much more.
Taking the Statement “We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America”... Everywhere I Go
From a reader:
I attended a work meeting of different service providers earlier today that I couldn’t stay for, but just stopped by to say what I said. We are all from government, university, nonprofit, or social service agencies that serve an immigrant and refugee community made up mostly of public housing. At this meeting, after everyone had gone around the table introducing themselves and talking about the agency they’re with and what they do, it was my turn last.
I don’t remember all of what I said, but I said something very close to this: “I just want to acknowledge that with the elections the whole context in which we do our work has fundamentally changed. I was just watching the news, and Trump’s adviser on immigration and possible head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kris Kobach, was just on there. He was asked where the three million immigrants that Trump vowed to deport immediately were going to come from. And Kobach was saying in this calm, reasonable sounding tone that they would be the 'criminals'—not only criminals who’ve been convicted, but any immigrant who has been arrested.
“Kobach has said previously that all these gang members and drug dealers were held back from getting deported because the Democrats said they didn’t have the capacity to put them through the legal process. But now, he says, they’re going to deport the immigrants who get arrested or repeatedly arrested, no trial, no conviction. This will be anyone they say it is. They arrest people for nothing all the time.
“This isn’t the rule of law. This is a fascist roundup. This can’t be allowed to stand. This is not just a job to me. I care about this community, and I know you all do too, about these children and these families. And I’m just putting myself out there. I’m not speaking for [my institution] when I say this, but I’m putting myself out there as someone who will not go along with this—because it’s wrong.
“I hope these meetings are a place that we can speak frankly about all of this, because the sooner we all confront the full reality of what this means for our community and the whole country, the better off everybody will be. That’s all I wanted to say.”
People were really listening, with serious expressions but also with nods of support as I was talking. Afterwards, people clapped and then the person leading the meeting smiled politely and segued into lunch saying, “On that note, let’s break bread together.” I had to go, unfortunately, but was able to talk briefly with a few people who came up to thank me and say they wanted to talk more later. I don’t know who all was in the room, so chose not to distribute the statement “In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America” to everyone, but I will follow up by getting it to the people I know.
One of the people I work most closely with is an immigrant from an African country herself, who has been in the U.S. for some time now. She said that she was so glad I said what I said. She’s very worried and feels that this situation is serious. She said, “When I was in my country, in a similar situation when they were coming for people, some of the Christians hid the Muslims in their homes and we gave them our Christian names so that they wouldn’t get taken."
In hindsight, I wish I would’ve brought in more from the statement in terms of the collaboration point, because these are people who, if this goes where it looks like it’s going, will be asked to not just stand aside, but aid in crimes against the people—but I can still do that.
And we need to let people know: the important thing is to get the statement and other materials out to people and encourage them to go to revcom.us and get into BA to really learn more about this... that people don’t have to try to explain it all themselves, just point people to it.
We went to the open mic vigil last night where the framework was around talking to people about how the elections personally affected them. Was mainly middle strata white people. At first I wasn’t sure if it would be good, but it became really interesting and powerful and I learned a lot. People right now are trying to process and reckon with what’s happening, in terms of a fascist transition that’s taken place.
People were reading the statement on the spot. There is some complexity in this, desire for people to come together and not hate each other, talking about more love. In the beginning people were talking a lot about how they were feeling, fears of the atmosphere that’s being whipped up. People were reading the statement while others spoke. Some things that were said:
—“My son went to school crying because he is afraid his dad who is Polynesian is going to be deported.”
—Woman who was victim of domestic violence says that she is terrified that there are no longer going to be laws to protect her.
Then I read just the headline of the statement, and it changed the tone from people just going on about what they felt personally. It was the first thing said that drew some applause.
One woman said, “I often wondered if I lived in Nazi Germany what would I do; well, now I have to make that decision.”
Another woman said, “I want all my LGBTQ friends to know that THEY WILL NOT HAVE TO GO BACK IN THE CLOSET.”
Another person talked about wearing safety pins (reminded me of the World Can’t Wait “Declare It Now” campaign), wearing them as a sign that you are a “safe place” for people who are being threatened. “It’s a pledge that I am with you and I will protect you.”
One young man asked what “Don’t Collaborate” in the statement meant.
A woman: “I don’t want laws to be overturned that take away my right to choice.”
Another young man said, “We can’t wait four years, the planet can’t wait four years.” He is a science major and proceeded to lay out the science behind why the planet can’t wait four years if nothing is done on climate change.
Some people, after reading the statement, were referencing parts of it back to us, the part about Trump being treated as legitimate and this is American fascism.
Went to a meeting of Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites, about 800 people there, which is very unusual. New faces, not regular movement people and broad masses of people. A number of white Jewish people.
I got out all the materials and posters that I had—which every time I go out, never seems to be enough (even when I plan to bring a lot!). I went with someone who had disagreed with me about voting and was blaming people who didn’t vote and third parties as being responsible but has changed as a result of the objective situation and via engaging the statement.
She talked about her Muslim friends being angry and terrified, and there are reports on social media of people feeling suicidal. She told a Trump supporter that they need to have a little compassion, and he threatened to beat her in the teeth with a baseball bat until her face bled.
When we pulled up to the church, there was a large line of people outside and waiting to get in, and she started crying because she was so moved that so many people care.
Other people in the meeting also were crying. There is an optimism and surprise in the amount of white people who are rejecting this. At the same time, people are trying to grapple with the current polarization and what it means, including some very dangerous ideas being put out about the need to find “common ground” with Trump supporters...
Notes from Thanksgiving
From a reader:
Walking in to the restaurant where our family has gathered for many years, I said to my partner, well, if any of the people here decide not to talk to me for a few years, so be it, I’m gonna say what needs to be said. I didn’t expect that, but just thought I had to establish that—fascist regimes (and revolutions) do divide families. I had practiced and prepared to read “In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America” out loud. So, after everyone ordered I said I had something everyone needed to hear and read it loudly. People at other tables stopped talking to listen too, which I think had an impact on our party.
The first person to respond, after some silence, was a millennial who had taken time off from his job to canvass for Hillary Clinton in a swing state. He said, “Well, that pretty much sums up the situation.” It did occur to me that this was addressing the situation but not necessarily what the implications were in terms of what we should do. But he meant it. Another student, older and influenced by the movement, said that during the campaign he dismissed Trump as just another ruling class politician who was pandering to white racism to get votes, but what shook him up was his appointees. People were aware of them and their backgrounds, although not Bannon’s whole “résumé.”
I don’t think we fell into “recriminations or explanations for Trump’s rise that are within the confines of the current political system and cast the blame on anything else but on that system.” But there was sober reflection over the state of white people in particular. The millennial was somewhat taken aback at the level of alienation among people. And he cited a recent article in the New York Times about how Black people in Milwaukee saw nothing to vote for in Clinton. That could, obviously, go into how to make the Democrats something they are not and will never be and in doing so become what you now oppose. But it did pose what kind of world do we need.
Here’s something interesting: As print copies of Revolution got passed down the table, I noticed several people paying particular interest to the ad for the Constitution for The New Socialist Republic in North America on the back cover. That wasn’t the only thing in the print edition folks were stopping to look it, but it was a bit of a pattern.
I asked, what are we going to do? One person told a story of a couple of emboldened poor white people who came into the social service agency where they work as an administrator. They were loudly complaining about how come people of color get to be at the front of the line all the time. She told them if they didn’t stop talking like that they weren’t welcome, and eventually kicked them out. A student talked about a friend of hers who has taken off her hijab in fear of being attacked. And this was in a big, cosmopolitan city in a bright “blue” state.
People were kicking around the effectiveness of the safety pin thing, but it seemed too weak. A few people at the meal were Jewish, and everyone was very encouraged by protests of Jewish groups against Steve Bannon. A couple of people who had been involved in them pointed out this is going to really sharpen up conflicts within the Jewish community. The essential reactionary nature of supporting everything Israel does will really be out there. They felt Jews have a special role to play.
Someone said that if the government tries to register all the Muslims (they might have said “when”), we should all go down there and say, “take us first.” That seemed like the right spirit, but then people were thinking, uh, they might just say “fine.” Someone said we should do something like what they did in Denmark with the yellow stars. Someone else asked one of the '60s generation people at the dinner, “How do we do something like what your generation did with burning draft cards?” And people were kicking around how can we bring to life the slogan circulating on the Internet now: “First they came for the Muslims AND WE SAID NOT THIS TIME MOTHERFUCKERS!”
I know most of these people. They are very disturbed and upset about Trump. But I think it was critical that the statement “In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America” was read out loud with the right defiant spirit. That helped bring out the best and strongest in everyone.
Finding Out What People Are Thinking—and Getting Them the Statement and THE NEW COMMUNISM
From a Reader:
A friend from another country, enlightened, educated, wanted to talk after the election. There was a real sense of horror and being terror stricken. He is a thoughtful and radical person, and he wanted to hear what I had to say. He wanted to make sense of why and how this could have happened here. He has lived in this country for some time. He asked, who is supporting Trump? He has a family member who supported Trump on the basis of supposed benefits to immigrants because of his hard work. My friend asked how this could be reversed, what power do people have to do that. He could only envision the existing institutions, like the Congress, blocking Trump’s initiatives through the channels of power. He wondered if there would be eddies of opposition within the two political parties that would make it difficult to make this a stampede. He was very happy to get a text from my wife and to hear that she was at a demo, and if there is something big, to let him know.
A relative had gotten the “In the Name of Humanity...” statement and liked it and agreed with it. She agreed that the election of Trump is fascism, and drawing the analogies with Hitler. About 10-15 years ago, she had gotten out of some backward thinking. In recent years, she has been coming to things like coming to Revolution Books and donating. She sees this as fascism, and she is tracing out worst-case scenarios: they could round people up, suspend civil liberties. I asked, what should people do? She thought people have to be in the streets and that she had signed up to go to the Million Women March that’s going to be in DC in January.
Someone from a writing program at a nearby university: Her defining political moment and identity is the Black Lives Matter movement. In her thinking, the Trump attacks bled into general attacks of police assaults and, in the university system, the evisceration of education. She sees Trump is intensifying this. She said there are a lot of immigrants on campus, and mentioned some campus-wide organization where people are trying to respond. She has gotten Bob Avakian’s book THE NEW COMMUNISM. I asked her if she had read it. She said yes, and she takes it seriously. What I said was that there is a party taking responsibility for leading, and BA is leading the party.
A white lower middle class person who works with people from the middle class Trump base and lives in semi-rural area: Her husband has been laid off for a while. She liked some of Trump’s ideas around jobs leaving the country but not the racism, so she was a Bernie supporter and then voted for Hillary. We had been talking back and forth, and she read and liked the statement. She would not have understood that this is fascism without having read the statement. Some others in the family are more progressive and this is also an influence on her. She works at a job with lots of very backward stuff and lots of Trump supporters. She does not like the racist shit at work and will not respond to that when she’s invited to be part of it (but I don’t think she really shuts it down or is in their face either). She treats everyone as she would want to, and the immigrant people she works with like her and treat her as part of their family. She’s pulled in different directions and could be in a totally wrong place—but she’s willing to listen, and she took the statement and liked it and showed it around to her family.
People really don’t understand why jobs leave, and why Trump is not going to undo globalization. There is a need to speak very broadly to an audience who can be pulled one way or the other. Also to the dividing line for many around racism and chauvinism.
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