A few weeks ago, I was out dancing with my friend Susan and her friend Lucy that I had never met. I have a sloppy habit these days of assuming, when I am out among friends, that we are all on the same page regarding Trump. I was about to be reminded of the limits of this assumption.
Lucy said, “I voted for Hillary, but now I figure we should give Trump a chance. As long as he doesn’t take away my Medicare and Social Security, he’s OK with me. I don’t care what he does about the environment and all that other stuff.”
People won’t be moved to resistance when they have a very tight little understanding of who they are and what’s important. “If he’s not messing with my benefits, the hell with everybody else.” In Lucy’s case, her circle of importance was drawn so small that she would end up with no planet to live on.
About thirty years ago, at a period when I had no political or social action commitments, my ex-wife – mother of my son – got involved in the “sanctuary movement”, the effort to provide safe-haven to Latino people fleeing political oppression in Central American countries like Guatemala. My response was not sympathetic. While I never said this to her, my stance was, “Sandy, Sandy, Sandy – why? We have problems enough right here at home. We have a child to raise. We have jobs to work. This is not our problem.”
A few months later, for some reason I cannot remember – just that I desperately needed this – I started reading a book about the “disappeared” in Guatemala, including very graphic pictures of the brutalized bodies of young men who had turned up dead. Somewhere about halfway through that book I began to weep. My hardened heart was melting. “They” were becoming “we”.
Not much later, I was involved in a church social justice team and had a Guatemalan refugee family living with me. They were an amazingly strong, sweet, beautiful family from whom I learned a tremendous lot. Six months later – with a lot of help from the church group – Margarito was working in a factory, Maria was cleaning houses, and Adolpho and Regina were in school. They took an apartment with his brother and family – and I missed them. The situation did not arise in my life to move towards resistance for them or for Guatemalan refugees as a group, but I think I would have been ready.
We can be moved to resistance out of self-interest and anger or out of hatred for Trump. Or we can be moved by love. We can storm the airports after Trump writes the Muslim ban because we love the people whose lives are being disrupted. We can take people into our homes when ICE is trying to sweep them up because they feel more like we than they. When we rally in front of the Federal Building every Tuesday with our “NO BAN, NO WALL” and “WE ARE ALL IMMIGRANTS” signs, we can do it out of anger or out of love.
When we do our resistance, we can do it for ourselves or for our children and grandchildren. This may be especially true for environmental issues – what kind of planet are we leaving them? But it’s really true of all our resistance activities. Do we want our children and grandchildren to live in/grow up in a country where people are oppressed for their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender? Our work will have one kind of spin if we do it out of our personal values – great. But if, in addition to that values piece, we do it out of love for the oppressed, even better. And if we add on to that our love for our children and grandchildren – our desire for them to inherit a good world – then our resistance will be fully infused with love.