As I’m gearing up for a patriotic movie night with neighbors (Jaws, Lincoln, Independence Day, Hidden Figures), I thought it might help to share some ways to celebrate the best of who we are. Sending love and solidarity to all of you – with all of us pitching in, clearer skies are ahead.
The images of the Trump Baby balloon flying over London all week have made me downright jolly. Sky News even released a promo video that feels like the trailer of a horror movie.
The citizens of Brighton made great use of Method 37 during Trump’s first visit to the UK in 2017. The melody the of 1961 classic, “Hey Baby!” is a popular football chant, but in the new anti-Trump rally cry, protestors sang:
“Hey Donald Trump (oooh, ah!)
I wanna know why you’re such a c*nt!”
Singing has a long history as an effective method of nonviolent action. Protestors have burst into song to interrupt unwanted speeches or to spread ideas during marches or public events. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has written about the use of singing during the Buddhist struggles in South Vietnam in 1963:
Political satirical songs are easy to learn by heart and can be circulated very quickly. They were widely used during the struggle against Ngo Dinh Diem [who was ousted as head of the government in 1963]. There were hundreds of them. The most famous was “nghe ve, nghe ve, nghe ve, Nhu Diem”, a song dealing with the corruption of that regime.
The Specials’ song Free Nelson Mandela was released in 1984 as part of the bloodless revolution that ended apartheid in South Africa in 1990. Listen and imagine the rallying, unifying effect of such a buoyant sound. To read more examples of Method 37, see my Instagram post about an event that occured during Nazi-occupied Poland eight months before D-Day.
In the midst of my Trump Baby glee, this anniversary is a grim reminder that democracy is not something we can take for granted.
“What the hell is it going to take, Democrats?!”
That’s what NY Times columnist Charles M. Blow is asking. Yesterday morning, after two years of silence, Robert Mueller made a very brief public appearance in which he declined to clear Trump of any involvement in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
“And as set forth in the report after that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. We did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime.”– Robert Mueller, May 29, 2019
That Trump wasn’t indicted was not a matter of the evidence, but of Department of Justice policy, which prohibits prosecuting a president. Trump is tweeting out his innocence and the administration taking advantage of every loophole it can find. Meanwhile, as I’ve been fearing for two years, the GOP cronies are coming out of the woodwork. Two weeks ago, Alabama passed a near-total abortion ban, and as of yesterday, Louisiana’s headed in the same direction.
Today’s method calls for some Nina Simone…and I mean every word of it.
The name of this tune is Mississippi goddam
And I mean every word of it
Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi goddam
“Mississippi Goddam! — The Song that made Nina Simone into a Revolutionary,” by Chika Dunga, Medium
“How do you entertain a bored pharaoh?
“You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish.”
It’s the world’s first recorded joke, found on a papyrus scroll from 2600 BCE. Carol Andrews, formerly of the Egyptian antiquities department of the British Museum, notes that the ancient Egyptians were amused by “nudity, drunkenness, slapstick and political satire.”
Satire has a long history of keeping up public morale. When pranks, skits and jokes tap into political unrest, verbal dissent becomes a powerful act of protest.
It’s 5:00 on a Friday, so I’ll keep things light. From the SNL archives, the US Presidents from Gerald Ford to Donald Trump – and a special bonus tweet from 2013 at the end.
On April 9, Sudanese photographer Lana Haroun captured 22-year-old engineering student Alaa Salah as she stood on top of a car above a sea of protestors and raised her arm in the air, finger pointed toward the sky. She cried, “I was raised to love our home.”
She has been called “The Sudanese Statue of Liberty,” the revolutionary in the white toub.
Two days after this photo was taken, Omar al-Bashir’s thirty-year military dictatorship came to an end.
If you pay attention to anything in this post, pay attention to this timeline:
- On February 14, Trump threatened to declare the second State of Emergency of his presidency after he failed to secure congressional approval for border wall funding.
- Hours later, Trump signed a $1.375 billion dollar “compromise spending bill” that was far short of his request, but that will continue to reinforce border security.
- On February 22, President Omar al-Bashir declared a one-year State of Emergency across Sudan 9 years after the international criminal court charged him with three counts of genocide in Darfur. Pay special attention to the crimes.
- Hours later, the editor-in-chief of El Tayyar daily newspaper was arrested after he gave an interview with Sky News Arabia TV, stating that President Al Bashir’s decision to impose a national State of Emergency did not resolve the current political crisis.
- Over the next seven weeks, Journalist Osman Mirghani’s arrest received widespread condemnation from Sudan and around the world. An ongoing vigil was held in front of the National Press and Publications Council in Khartoum.
- On April 11, after 6 weeks of sustained nonviolent action by the people of Sudan, the Sudanese military removed Omar al-Bashir from power.
Happening RIGHT NOW:
At this very moment, the streets are filled with a new group of protesters from Darfur. One of the mantras heard on the streets: “We are all Sudanese.” Listen to the sound of citizens mooing like cows as al-Bashir and his entire government are transported to prison.
If you need something more to feel hopeful about, THIS is happening in the world, too:
- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has declared a “climate emergency”
- Ecuador’s Waorani indigenous tribe won their first victory against oil companies.
- The Army of Nepal Cleaned Up Mount Everest by Collecting Two Tons of Trash and Debris
- All 180,000 Honeybees Living On Top of Notre Dame Cathedral Have Survived the Fire
We are not hopeless.
We are kind.
We are strong.
We are all Sudanese.
And we are legion.
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:
- befriend them and convince them that hostility is not part of the resistance;
- convince them that the objects of the regime are immoral and unjust;
- to convince the opposition to resist or refuse to carry out orders;
- 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.
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!