I am heartened to see so much action taking place across the state, as well as across the nation, in response to what strikes me as an unhinged Trump administration.
From undoing orders designed to protect some of our nation’s most vulnerable students to stacking all cabinet positions with friends of industry — a move the administration called with straight faces a draining of the swamp — they have appeared committed to a sadistic commitment to punching down. This has been done with the grim tenacity of the antagonist of a slasher film, and the damage has been carried out not only against ideological enemies but everyone. Retirement investors, families, innovation-driven businesses working toward growth.
So seeing continued action designed to take on the administration and its systems of congressional support is encouraging, particularly here in Maine, where Sen. Susan Collins suddenly finds herself under a great deal of pressure for her actions as a senator in the Trump age.
Now that this action is increasing — and people newly awakened and agitated by this administration are joining existing resistance movements — it is important to see how authoritarian-oriented administrations have dealt with these popular affronts historically.
Feeling threatened by the potential efficacy of resistance communities and leaders, intelligence communities have historically infiltrated and disrupted our movements, such as the FBI’s COINTELPRO during the 1950s and ’60s. Particularly threatened by great Illinois Black Panther leader Fred Hampton’s charisma and willingness to find solidarity with resistance-minded organizations, the FBI shot him. He also may have been drugged.
This is not an alternative fact.
The president has already indicated to law enforcement — in public settings — that he will gleefully destroy the reputations of those who resist. We are all being surveilled, no doubt, but if you are making noise, you are a target. Take appropriate heed.
There will always be tensions between us, even when we see eye to eye on most things, and this is healthy and important. But also, find solidarity whenever possible. Embrace intersectionality. Be humble and ready to realize your assumptions aren’t always correct. Bring people in who are, perhaps more quietly than we ourselves are used to being, uneasy but unsure of how to engage. We know that solidarity, which is not to be read as getting along without engaging in self-critique, is effective because it is what they have, in a relatively not-too-distant past, made their mission to disrupt, destroy, murder.
And remember that our actions, if focused entirely upon resistance, will be limited if we do not begin to seriously engage in what an alternative future may look like? We will resist, absolutely, but what will we build? On what are we inviting those on the fence — those as yet inactivated — to work?
Fear is a successful mobilizer when it appears all other options are off the table. And I know it is frustrating and draining to engage so deeply with such frequency, but for many the concepts we believe to be self-evident are new and require patient, empathic explanation. For our dissent to not originate in elitist exclusion, it should incorporate the experiences and overlapping perspective and values of those our intensity sometimes silences and pushes away.
We must be clear about the alternative we wish to create, to which we will invite new members of our growing movement to help define, articulate, and make possible. This is not a battle over ideology; it is a collective defense of democracy, openness, humanity and decency.
Stay safe, smart and hopeful, you beautiful people. We’ve got this.
Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was a teenager. He’s an owner-partner of a Portland-based content production company and lives with his family, dogs and garden in Cornish.