Author Archives: Leigh Hopkins

About Leigh Hopkins

Writer, educator, polyglot, feminist.

Method 33. Fraternization: “Stay connected” or steer clear?

One of the hard questions many of us have been asking ourselves: “Should I stay friends with Trump supporters?” My gut says save yourself the heartache, but nonviolent action theory says YES – and so does Stephen King.

King has also called Trump a “nut job” and wrote that the president’s access to the nuclear codes “worse than any horror story I ever wrote.” So there’s that.

I asked friends on Facebook to tell me about a conversation they had with a 45-loving family member or friend that went WELL, and here’s what I got:

  • It would be an imaginary tale.
  • I think all of my in-laws voted for him. It’s put a strain on our relationship
  • Oh I’ve unfriended both friends and family members over this floridfacedfatfuck
  • My brother 🙄. We don’t talk about it. My mom is just anti-democrat but falls short of Trump-loving. I will way that she is appalled, surprised, and receptive when I show her news not available on Fox
  • I WOULD have a conversation, but have to spit whenever that name is mentioned. It always seems to go back to what Obama did or didn’t do.
  • every time i’ve tried it’s just turned into a never ending tire fire.
  • When can I stop laughing? They’re all gone.

I’m fessing up. I’m writing about the importance of building bridges, but I fully admit that I screen all of my contacts on social media for any whiff of Trump. I know that my uncle has called Trump “the best president of my lifetime,” and I admit that I don’t mind so much that I haven’t seen him since the election. It’s not like these conversations are out of my comfort zone – I’m a liberal lesbian Democrat and I managed to work with the Bush administration – but this is something different.

So here’s a gut check: the research shows that keeping the communication lines open is vital component of successful nonviolent resistance. Gene Sharp’s research showed that an effective alternative to boycotting soldiers and police is to:

  1. befriend them and convince them that hostility is not part of the resistance;
  2. convince them that the objects of the regime are immoral and unjust;
  3. to convince the opposition to resist or refuse to carry out orders;
  4. to convince the opposition to provide information to the resistance about the oppressor’s plans.

In 1915, Gandhi demonstrated that “befriending one’s enemy” worked to change opinions about the untouchables in India. In the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, revolutionaries made deliberate efforts to befriend Russian soldiers, and “something like a bond of sympathy” arose, leading soldiers to align with Hungarians.

In March 2011, Syrian activist Islam al-Dabbas, known locally as “The Flower Guy,” led his fellow protesters in bringing water and flowers to the army and security forces that were trying to end demonstrations. He’s now serving 15 years in prison. “We wanted to send a message: these protests are peaceful,” said his brother Mohamed. “My father and brother did nothing more than peacefully ask for justice and freedom.”

Can a democracy survive the kind of polarization we’re experiencing? I’ll be writing about that in future posts. In the meantime, if you’ve managed to keep a friendly relationship with Trump-supporting family and friends, hit me up in the comments.

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Method 32: Taunting Officials

Today I’m bogging (sic) from the annual Association of Writers and Publishers conference in Portland, Oregon, and because I’m sleep-deprived and over caffeinated, this will be a short post.

I’ve got plenty to say about the Mueller report – and maybe even a new ukulele song. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve got to say about Method 32. It works, but it’s an angry, divisive energy that has been utilized by the GOP in Chief since he began campaigning. He used it at a rally last night when he called Representative Adam Schiff “little pencil-neck.” And it’s working.

Stop by Twitter today to see what’s trending, and it might make you feel better. #YouMightThinkItsOK … but it’s not.

Back next week. Feel free to check out #AWP19. It’s a scene!

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What’s on my Nightstand: March 2019

Nonfiction

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, by Pam Houston

The Way of Chuang Tzu, by Thomas Merton

Era of Ignition, by Amber Tamblyn

From Dictatorship to Democracy, Gene Sharp 

The Methods of Nonviolent Action, by Gene Sharp

Occasional Magic – The Moth (True Stories About Defying the Impossible)

Fiction

The Queen of the Night, by Alexander Chee

Before She Was Harriet, by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Short Fiction

‘The Office of Missing Persons’ by Akil Kumaraswamy (Lit Hub)

‘The Frog King,’ by Garth Greenwell (The New Yorker)

‘Motherland,’ by Min Jin Lee (The Missouri Review)

Poetry

Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems: 1927 – 1979

Enough Music, by Dorianne Laux

Goodbye to Tolerance, by Denise Levertov

Essay / Interview / OpEd (Selected)

The Phenom: ‘Change Is Closer Than We Think.’ Inside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Unlikely Rise,’ by Charlotte Alter

8 Short Kids’ Films Every Mini-Feminist Should See, by Emma Davey

Thesomorphia, by Melissa Febos

The Thread: Down Girl (The Rumpus) by Marissa Korbel

Against Catharsis: Writing is Not Therapy, by T Kira Madden

Voices of Addiction: All the Ways to Save Your Life,(The Rumpus) by David M. Olsen

Patti Smith discusses activism in the age of Trump: ‘I’m not going down with the ship, that’s for certain’ by Randall Roberts

AACK! Cathy Guisewite made a wildly successful comic strip by and for women. But to her critics, she’s just another example of compromised feminism by Rachel Syme

Magazine / Newspaper

Lesbian Connection: free to lesbians worldwide, but the suggested donation is $7/issue (more if you can, less if you can’t), January/February 2019 issue

The New Yorker

The Week

TIME

SIERRA Magazine

Random

booda butter – naked lip balm

El Sueño Americano (The American Dream) – exhibition card, Tom Kiefer

abalone shell, palo santo wood, dried rose buds

Chill Pill – Aura Cacia Essential Oil Blend

necklace (shells, leather suede), Little Green Apple Jewelry

beach stones

Mexican tile (coaster)

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Method 31: “Haunting” Officials

Sometimes I wonder what it will feel like to read these posts in 5 or 10 years. Honestly, I started the this project because I needed to do something with the daily barrage of overwhelmingly bad news. In a short time, it’s becoming a record of how much we’re all managing on a daily basis.

I am doing this because we are NOT helpless.

These methods work.

Method 31: “Haunting” Officials was used in India 1928 during the Bardoli Satyagraha, a peasant-led campaign of civil disobedience. In response to the government’s unresponsiveness to widespread famine, farmers, peasants, and other volunteers “haunted” government officials. They camped out in the roads in front of their homes in silence. When the activists were arrested, they were immediately replaced by others. Eventually, authorities tired of the process. Members of the governments of Bombay and across India were furious about the treatment of the protesting farmers and resigned from their offices in open support of the farmers.

Yesterday in New Zealand, citizens gathered in silent protest outside Gun City, a gun store that sells the military-style semi automatic reportedly used by the man responsible for the massacre in Christchurch. Prime Minister Jacinda Adams’ response to the massacre puts other leaders to shame:

“She fought from the start like a real politician, scorning the killer, attacking racism and slapping back at Turkish president Erdogan’s revolting election propaganda – which used the murderer’s own video – then hitting out at US president Trump. And insisting that New Zealand’s gun laws would change forever.”– Robert Fisk, Independent

Got a tent? Pitch it here.

I’ll bring snacks.

Mueller, please hurry up.

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Method 30: Rude Gestures

Wasn’t Method 29 a breath of fresh air? Today’s must-watch video of Anderson Cooper is not that. The piece below aired last week, but in today’s news cycle, it’s already old news. That’s the danger of the time we’re in. Paul Manafort is up for sentencing today, 45 is already tweeting about campaign contributions and the wall, and in the meantime in North Korea:

Satellite images appear to show the North is rebuilding a facility that had been previously used to test long-range missile engines. Analysis of the images suggests the work on the facility, which had been dormant since August, began right around the time Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met up for their second summit, which ended last week without an agreement. 

– via CNN, March 6, 2019

Watch Anderson Cooper’s response to 45 calling Kim Jong-un, the leader of the world’s most repressive dictatorship, “my friend,” “an interesting guy” and a “real leader.” North Korea – the country where failing to keep the presidential portrait dust-free is a punishable offense.

This offers some context for Professor Gene Sharp’s warning that Method 30 should be used only rarely in situations of political or international conflict. What would happen if North Koreans mooned Kim Jong-un’s palace, like Trump’s protestors did in Chicago? By law, three generations of a protestor’s family could be sent to labour camps.

In September 2017, The Telegraph provided a concise list of “brutal and inhumane laws North Koreans are forced to live under.” I’ve provided a condensed version, below:

Three generations rule

In North Korea, if one person is convicted of a serious crime and sent to a prison camp, their immediate family can also be sent with them. Then the next two generations born in the camps can also remain there. The 1972 edict says that up to three generations must be punished to wipe out the ‘seed’ of class enemies.

Access to non-state-controlled media

Listening to unauthorized foreign broadcasts, watching foreign TV shows and possessing dissident publications are considered “crimes against the state.” Those caught face execution or being sent to labour camps.

Freedom of movement

It is a criminal offense for North Koreans to leave the country without government permission. That doesn’t stop thousands making highly treacherous journeys in attempts to escape every year. Even those who successfully make it out of the North can still be pursued by government agents and there are reports of defector’s families being punished in their absence.

Practising Christianity

Although the North Korean constitution officially allows freedom of religion, the state has a hostile approach to religions, particularly to those it sees as western faiths such as Christianity. Those discovered practicing Christianity face arrest and being sent to a labour camp. (I wonder how the half of pastors who approve of Trump feel about the endorsement of Kim Jong-un?)

Economic rights

Private enterprise of any kind is officially banned in North Korea. Those caught face arbitrary punishment even though the black market remains one of the only ways for people to get the food, medicine and other necessities the government often fails to provide. 


Mueller, please hurry up.

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Method 29: Symbolic Reclamations

Today’s method is a hopeful one! Sometimes it’s called “Planting in Protest.” When public land has been seized or neglected, protestors plant trees, seeds, or plants in places where the existing or future policies are a threat to the environmental health of that area.

In Africa, eleven countries are building a “Great Green Wall” from east to west coast to reverse desertification.

After Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement, a New Zealand group called Trump Forest began accepting pledges to plant trees, because every tree helps to reduce carbon from the atmosphere. To date, Trump Forest has planted over 500,000 trees and has collected pledges from more than 100 countries. Author Margaret Atwood is a supporter.

Neighbors in British Colombia, Canada formed an organization called PIPE UP to restore the local ecosystem after the construction of a pipeline.

An NGO in Costa Rica called “Community Carbon Trees” is working with rural community members to reforest portions of the rainforest with indigenous trees. “Our goal is to get as many hands on desk as we can, because we really do have a solution to the problem.

Across North America and parts of Europe, people are fed up with their complaints about neglected roads going unanswered. To get the attention of local municipalities, they fill street potholes with potting soil and flowers. Here’s are a few shots from Portland, Oregon – because Portlanders.

A Great Green Wall?

Spring’s just around the corner…

Method 28: Symbolic Sounds

NOTE: Today’s post comes with a challenge, so feel free to skip to the hashtag at the end.

Way back in July 2018, Trump returned to the White House after a summit with Putin during which he refused to denounce any Russian interference in the 2016 election. Former Clinton advisor Adam Parkhomenko took to Twitter in protest.

In less than 30 minutes, a crowdfund campaign covered the costs for a mariachi band to play outside the White House during a night when Trump was already jet lagged. The concert went on to become part of a multi-day protest called Occupy Lafayette Park:

Is it me, or do the mariachi days of July seem cheerfully naive in light of this week’s reports that migrant children are being handcuffed and transferred to adult detention centers on their 18th birthdays? While “weaponizing” mariachi bands, opera singers and bagpipers may seem harmless, the use of oral or mechanical sounds has been used throughout history to convey a message during oppressive regimes.

In May 1917, the French army had already staged mutinies against the government, but when some units were forced to return to the trenches, the soldiers began “baaing” in protest, to signify that they were lambs to the slaughter. “The officers were helpless to prevent it.” (Source: The Methods of Nonviolent Action, Part Two, Gene Sharp.)

In 1968, in protest of forcible occupation, Czechoslovakian bishops called on churches to ring funeral bells. Soon, the city filled with the sound of sirens, car horns and train whistles. Soviet troops were so unnerved that they drew their pistols, terrified that an attack was about to begin.

#InternationalMargaritaDay

Today, on what is apparently #InternationalMargaritaDay, imagine what would happen if we used that hashtag to enlist the resistance to blare our car horns in time to “Impeach the President” on the hour, every hour for the next week? Or month? Or until 2020?

As my beloved Lidia Yuknavitch says, “we are nothing without each other.”

Impeach the President” is a single by funk band The Honey Drippers, released on Alaga Records in 1973 and re-released to iTunes by Tuff City Records in 2017, after being sampled many times. The protest song advocates the impeachment of then president Richard Nixon.

“Impeach the President”

Ladies and gentlemen
We have the Honey Drippers in the house tonight
They just got back from Washington, DC
I think they got somethin’ they want to say

[Verse 1]
Some people say that he’s guilty (that he’s guilty)
Some people say I don’t know (I don’t know)
Some people say, give him a chance (give him a chance)
Aw, some people say, wait till he’s convicted (till he’s convicted)

[Chorus]
Impeach the President
Impeach the President
Impeach the President
Impeach the President

[Interlude]
Impeach the President
(Aw nah, we can’t do that, man—nah, nah)

Impeach the President (Shut up, fool!)
Impeach the President
Impeach the President
Impeach the President
Impeach the President

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