Tag Archives: resistance

It’s Easy to Lose Hope — Good Thing You Have Other Emotions

“I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

-climate activist Greta Thunberg

“Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something you create with your actions.”

-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

How can you be useful in activism when you’ve lost hope? In all the same ways you’re useful in activism when you have it. Hope is an emotion, like any other. It comes and goes. The work of protest, activism, resistance – it can’t depend on the presence of a single emotion. That denies you being able to be a real person within that work, and that will burn you out much faster than simply being hopeless for a time will.

Don’t despair that you can’t find hope; do the work to change things.

Despair can be its own convenience. Despair is a tool Trump, Pence, and Republicans sell you to convince yourself the endpoint you fear is inevitable. Despair can quickly become a comfort in powerlessness.

If you don’t feel hopeful, that’s OK. Hope isn’t the goal. Hope isn’t an accomplishment. The work to change things is.

There are days when I’ve called or researched threats or protested when I had a great deal of hope. There are days when I’ve had none.

You’re told always to hope, and that’s good if you can have it. Some days you don’t, and that’s OK. Still do the work. If you’ve done the work and need self-care to get yourself back up to doing the work again, that’s one thing.

If you refrain from doing the work to change things because you have no hope, hope is not always the fuel for that work. It can be. So can other things. Often, hope is manufactured by the work you do. Despair is chased out by standing up for yourself and others. Hope is a byproduct as well as a source.

If you give up hope, that’s OK. It’s tough to come by sometimes. If you give up the work to change things, that’s not OK. That produces hope for yourself and others, bolsters the work of others, encourages others to do that work.

We’re often told the opposite of fear and despair is hope. It can be. That’s legitimate. It’s not your only resource, though. You wouldn’t need resilience if you always had hope. You wouldn’t need persistence if you always had hope. You wouldn’t need the twinning of empathy and anger on its behalf if you always had hope.

You cannot work just from hope. You cannot expect hope to be your only fuel. You have to be a full person to do this work. You have to be a full person to do your best to help others. You have to be a full person to keep hold of your norms.

It’s OK to feel hopeless some days. It’s OK to get knocked down, take a minute to stand again, and then stand again because if they have to knock you down again they can’t do it to someone else. It’s OK to build your hope up again through other emotions.

Bring everything that you are to the work of activism and creating change. Some people aren’t strong in hope. You may be strong in resilience, or fortitude, or consistency, or translating needs between communities, or empathizing, or the anger that bridges empathy to action, or logistics, or you may be a range of talents and emotions that you don’t know how to wrangle together. Each of those can make change even when hope runs low.

Trust yourself to do the work that makes change. Trust the strengths that you have to make change even if they don’t match a quote or memes or whatever it is. You’re not an inspirational quote, and you can’t do the work as if you are. That would be exhausting.

You’re a human being, inherently uneven, strong in some ways, weak in others. Even when you’re impacted by horrors every day, that full human can be resilient, can call upon hope for action one day, anger for effort the next, communicate and self-care the day after, resilience to do the work again, whatever beautiful combination in you works because it’s the way you work.

The work to change things needs effort from different people, with different backgrounds, with different combinations of strengths, some optimistic, some pessimistic, some reassuring, others needing reassurance, but all doing that work to apply the pressure needed to change what is happening.

Hope alone does not accomplish a goal. It needs to be fused to the work of change, as a thousand other emotions can be. It is OK if hope has escaped you for the moment. It is OK if you’re a person who doesn’t feel hope in the first place. There are so many valid emotions that can help people. Make sure you can sustain yourself, and then help others regardless of whether you do so out of hope or empathy or anger or whatever emotion allows you to translate what is happening and act on helping people.

Be a part of a community that can supply some of what you’re drained on in a healthy way, but never feel bad if you can’t meet the standard of an inspirational quote about hope. The quotes about effort and work and anger have a tendency not to survive or get shared or be prized in the ways quotes about hope can be.

Hope is important. It’s not the only important thing. If it’s missing from you, that means you’re human and reacting to what’s going on. Sometimes it’s missing from me, too. Sometimes it’s so hard to find. I still do the work of activism in the ways I can, and sometimes that produces more hope in me, and sometimes it doesn’t.

One thing it does do, though – it keeps me from buying into the illusion that we’re powerless. It shows me the ways in which we’ve eroded Trump, Pence, and Republicans, the ways we’ve given them less ground to stand on, the ways we’ve clarified their barbarity to a larger public. It makes the ways we’ve slowed them down clearer, the people who are safer because of someone’s work clearer, the routes toward helping people clearer.

We wouldn’t need resistance, resilience, persistence, or any of the other things we celebrate if we were hopeful all the time. We wouldn’t need self-care if we were hopeful all the time. We wouldn’t need to reach out and do this with wider communities if we were hopeful all the time. Hope is one thing, important and inspiring. It is not essential all the time. If you lost it, it is OK. Bring the rest of yourself to bear, and witness that the rest of who you are can be effective, can create change, can even restore your hope or allow it to be restored by others.

Don’t despair. Just do whatever step is next in the work to change things.

If what you read on this site is useful, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Everyday Protest: What if You Can’t Organize a March?

What if you don’t know how to organize a march or write a calling campaign? What if you don’t know how to do the big things?

Here’s what’s important: that march and those calling campaigns would be nowhere without people taking actions to show up and do the daily work.

Call a Congressional office every day. It takes a few minutes, tops.

Get someone new to call with you. Encourage them, and stand by them if they’re nervous.

Change isn’t created by people doing large things. Those large actions are simply ways to harness and focus the daily actions. Those daily actions are a foundation that can shift governments. Those daily actions reinforce and reclaim norms. Large actions cannot exist without that foundation.

Scale is simply a matter of access, community, resources, organization. You can’t scale something up if it doesn’t exist to begin with. You need to make it exist to begin with. You need to take those daily actions. They are more important.

Trump and Republicans can defeat a single large action. Winning those is important, too, but what they can’t defeat is millions performing daily actions. They want to make you think you’re powerless and alone. They want to make you think your fate relies on one or two people.

They can defeat those people. What they can’t defeat is you, every day. And your friend, every day. And a family member, every day. And more and more every day.

If you put your expectations in a handful of people, Trump and his cronies can defeat and change your expectations if they defeat those people. If you put your expectations in yourself and your community, then they can’t defeat those expectations or change them. They can never escape those expectations then, and their being accountable to those expectations is only a matter of daily work and time.

They won’t win because they have power. They’ll only win if you don’t practice yours.

Whether you can organize a march or make a call, whether you can write a calling campaign or visit an office, whether you can speak publicly to hundreds or get one person you know to call, it’s just as important. There’s no difference between all those things. Scale can only be increased when there’s something consistent to increase.

Defeat Trump and Republicans every day, and they’ll be defeated in the big moments.

Only defeat them in the big moments, and we’ll fail to defeat them every day.

The daily, consistent work you do is what decides this. Decide it.

If what you read on this site is useful, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Don’t Want War with Iran? Call Your Congresspeople

I’m getting through to Congressional offices today. Call, please. There is a window to de-rail war with Iran, and it relies on pressure applied to Congress to avoid normalizing it.

Make it a priority. Don’t call as an afterthought. Mark it as something you do every day. It is important. Treat it as important.

Know what you want out of the conversation. Don’t call timidly. Have expectations. It’s their job to meet your expectations, not yours to lower them.

When they tell you they have no answers and can just take a message, remind them that Trump has talked about this for years, escalated the situation with Iran for months, and there’s an international incident that’s days old now. How is it that their office has no response from the Congressperson, let alone a plan of action to stop war? How much time do they need to do their job?

Ask them how they plan on paying for this. Charging it to future generations who will suffer the consequences is not a plan. Millennials already know that all this does is torpedo the opportunities of a generation.

Remind them that they’ve failed to win the other wars we’re engaged in. We retreated from Syria. Iraq is voting to kick American troops out. We have no long-lasting victory in Afghanistan. Iran is more powerful than those three countries put together.

Remind them that military families are exhausted. It’s been more than 15 years of countless tours. Remind them they haven’t taken care of the veterans from those 15+ years of war. They haven’t earned the right to declare another one.

Ask them if they know anything about Iran. Do they know its population? It’s 81 million people. That’s more than Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya put together at the times we became engaged with them.

Do they know Iran’s size? It’s 636,000 square miles. That’s more than three-and-a-half Iraqs put together.

Do they know the strength of its military? Iran’s military is ranked 13th in the world. That’s more powerful than Brazil, Israel, Australia, or North Korea.

Do they have a plan for how much worse this would make things in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan? Or is that the plan?

Do they have a plan beyond missile strikes and then see what happens?

How is it that Congressional offices don’t know the first thing about a war we might be diving into? It’s their job.

How is it the Congressperson has no response about escalations with Iran? Why are they failing to do their job?

Stop worrying about being polite. Call them out. Have expectations and do not allow them to be moved because someone is nice on the phone. They’re going to nice-on-the-phone us into a war, refugee crisis, and economic depression that will make the last 18 years of nonstop war feel like a relaxing breather. Be pissed. Demand answers to your questions. Ask why they fail to have those answers. Make it a priority. Get others to call with you. You only stop a war by stopping it, not by hoping someone else will.

Make Trump, Pence, and Republicans retreat on their make-believe, wannabe dictatorship and holy war playtime that would have real, inescapable repercussions. You can. It’s just a matter of whether you do.

“Still I Rise” — National Poetry Month 2018

by Gabriel Valdez

Maya Angelou’s voice was one of resistance and progress through celebration and hopefulness. She’s rarely called upon or referenced as a precursor to Slam and contemporary of the Beat poets because she was so unique a voice, focused on cultural experience and the future rather than personal history and the past.

She’s extraordinarily important today. Many do work in organizing, activism, and politics that burn us out. There’s a hopelessness that’s tempting because anger can be used as fuel, and our anger is very legitimate. Yet giving into it fully risks our greatest strength in terms of resisting: community.

Community can’t just be built on anger; it has to be built on hope, connection, a path forward. Anger risks isolation, and isolation is what wears us out the most. It makes our thinking two-dimensional and inflexible.

Anger has a place – it’s certainly earned, and you should never ask vulnerable communities not to be angry at their exposure and the history of harm they’ve sustained. You can even see Angelou’s show through here.

At the same time, anger must be tempered in Resistance, one of many emotions we learn to sit with and which can contribute to complex, realistic, flexible communities of activism.

The feature image of Maya Angelou comes from the New York Times’ farewell to the great poet. You can find it here.

The Work That’s Never Witnessed — “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

by Gabriel Valdez

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James 2:17

“Now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like.”

– Michelle Obama

After Donald Trump was elected, several people sought me out because of the work I’ve done in politics. They told me, “I’m willing to die opposing him.” I told them that attitude made them useless.

Show up to a march with the idea that you’re willing to die, and you’ll see everything that happens in that light. You’re so focused on the idea of a noble, meaningful, romantic act of sacrifice…that you won’t even think about protecting the person next to you. You become so obsessed with fighting something that you forget that you’re there to save something.

Who do you think builds something? The one there to nobly sacrifice themselves, or the one there who doles out water, who helps the elderly who grow tired, who communicates from the front of the march to the back what to look out for, or who is ready with first aid supplies in case of violence.

I don’t want someone willing to die. I want someone willing to make sure the person next to them lives.

Do you think the people who have died in marches wanted to? They wanted to live. They were scared for their lives. That’s what makes their sacrifices meaningful. They were there for a purpose. They were there to do work. They were there to hold each other up in an effort that would have been impossible on their own.

Resistance is not a romantic thing. It’s not built on some great act of sacrifice unique to you. It’s not an identity. In fact, it’s not about you. Resistance, and faith, and hope are all built from the same single thing: you show up day after day and you do the work of it.

That work is sometimes grueling and heartbreaking. It wears you down. It tests your spirit. It tests your boundaries. It can break you. There is often no witness for it, especially when the work is performed by women or people of color (or LGBTQ, or the disabled). There is often no reward.

You do the work and it joins with the work of all those around you, and maybe something terrible happens anyway. Was the work useless? Or did you prevent something even more terrible from happening? How do you measure it? How do you assess the amount of work every person did? Often, the only thing you know is that there’s more work to do.

You often feel penned into a corner. How does the universe keep going like this? What use are you? Are you even denting the things you seek to stop? Doesn’t matter. There’s more work, and that work helps people.

“The Last Jedi” is built around being worn thin. It’s built around desperation. It’s built on the back of a Rebellion that has dwindled, but keeps on doing the work.

Many of the heroes willing to sacrifice themselves keep trading on everyone else’s credit. They may come close to death, but as they escape it, it’s others who pay the consequences for their heroism.

“Star Wars” has always relied on building myths, and it’s built some good ones. “The Last Jedi” cares deeply about those myths. It also doesn’t feel beholden to them. It doesn’t feel as if those myths are sacred. In fact, it considers many of those myths downright dangerous.

Myths make us believe that our single heroic action can save the day. And our heroes? Well they’re our saviors. What’s the point of doing all that grueling work day after day if we can just tag a savior in? Hamilton electors, Jill Stein’s recount, Obama’s press conference, the Steele dossier, Mueller, impeachment, Susan Collins for a minute, Jeff Flake for two seconds, Bob Corker for half a breath, all of them saviors at some point since the election.

And yet…somehow we go unsaved.

It’s almost as if the work is up to us.

Some of these things have produced useful results, and some might yet, but only if we do the work that gives them the space to make a change. This is what “The Last Jedi” is about. It’s about persisting, about not putting all our hope in saviors, and not putting faith in our noble ideas of romantic sacrifice. It’s about enduring. There’s sacrifice here, but the only meaningful sacrifice is that which saves someone else. Otherwise, it’s not really a sacrifice, is it?

We find ourselves in the face of a moment that threatens to overwhelm us. As we grow tired, we grow separate, we lose our ability to trust – not just in each other, but that what we’re doing makes a difference. We rebel not just against them, but against each other. We do the work of breaking ourselves for them. And that’s the strategy of how they win, how they erase democracy. They do so by tiring us, by making us grow lonely and hopeless because each of us begins thinking we’re willing to die for something, instead of thinking we’re willing to keep on doing the work day after day.

If you came here for a review, “The Last Jedi” is superb. Writer-director Rian Johnson takes the style and filmic grammar of all the other “Star Wars” entries, even the prequels, and folds them into what feels like an entire trilogy’s worth of story. There are beautiful moments here that feel like still pieces of art, planets that feel built from impressions of emotion. There is a deep melancholy to the film, and a resilient hope.

Yet it acknowledges from the first seconds that “Star Wars” is silly, and that maybe by not adhering to the strict orthodoxy expected of it, it can still be a flexible, meaningful place to tell stories. It’s rare that a film can achieve bleak despair and steady silliness, a tragic reality and a determined irreverence.

It’s not a perfect film, but I think the perfect “Star Wars” film that it could be would be something far lesser.

“The Last Jedi” is a film that can feed a certain soul, one that’s doing the work and growing weary, and feeling more distant from all the other souls doing the work and growing weary.

More than anything else, “The Last Jedi” establishes what it feels like not to feel hope yet to create it, to have your expectations of saviors undermined and realize the power you loaned them is your own. It makes you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable and at risk because you always were, but now you’re doing something about it. It also reminds us that faith in saviors, if it does not have the works or the work behind it, is meaningless.

Go see this thing. Go persist and be resilient.

And remember you’re not alone. The work you do is a spark that carries, that we’re all trying to feed, and our little corner of the universe is in the mood for light.

The feature image of Daisy Ridley as Rey is from Cosmic Book News here.

Ferguson Sacrificed Itself to Give Us an Opportunity

Ferguson flames 3

by Gabriel Valdez

Protestors setting their community alight in acts of brazen defiance? I’m so glad people are supportive of these acts of frustrated protest. That such civil disobedience can raise $121 million in our country over a weekend is remarkable. Truly, we understand our long history of protest against a justice system established to find the poor and downtrodden guilty of being poor and downtrodden, that ghettoizes minorities, and reports on those less fortunate as if they were animals.

Those successful riots and acts of defiance were in The Hunger Games, though. Why do we find those acts compelling on a movie screen and, days later, turn around and condemn them in Ferguson, Missouri?

We just had our hearts moved by the struggle of a people who feel oppressed and must violently rebel. We saw the sacrifices they had to make in order to do so, sacrifices that most of us have never had to face and might not be willing to make. We just saw it in a movie, now it’s happening in real life, and we have the gall as a people to feel more empathy for the characters who are made up with names like Katniss and Peeta?

We look on in horror at buildings burning, at tear gas in the streets, at injured being loaded into cars and rushed to the hospital. I don’t want anyone to get hurt. I don’t want anyone’s livelihood to be ruined. Yet in many ways I am thankful this is happening. I was worried this would fizzle out, that people would shrug and go back home and there would be protests but they would have lost their heart. Instead, people who were willing to risk life and limb in order to display their frustration with a broken justice system forced this conversation to be front and center. Today, we cannot ignore it.

They did it using the very tools we so often cheer on screen. Why can’t we cheer them the same way here?

When any of us don’t get what we feel we deserve in our lives, sometimes we get angry. On a city-wide (or nation-wide) scale, when what you want is justice, equal treatment, and a fair trial according to the rule of our land, getting angry is going to mean fires and rocks and lord knows what else. But you know what? Every ethnicity – Irish, Germans, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, African-Americans, every single ethnicity – has had to get monumentally angry at some point in our history in order to get heard. To say your ethnicity’s moment of anger was somehow more warranted than this one doesn’t leave the door open behind you.

When the system so clearly breaks, moments of such widespread anger are the only thing capable of causing change over time. To pretend as if the residents of Ferguson are doing anything different than what every race has a long history of doing in the United States is, to put it quite simply, insanely racist.

Is Ferguson’s reaction too violent? Is it too destructive? You know what? I’m not going through what they’re going through. I am not qualified to be their judge. If you’re sitting at home, watching news anchors call them traitors or field reporters trespass to shove cameras in the faces of those suffering, then chances are you are not qualified to be their judges either. Whether they intend to or not, Ferguson burned down their city last night for so many other cities that face the same struggle. That their city burned down last night means other cities might not. If we cheer their cause. If we pay attention.

You want to be exactly like your heroes on screen, like Katniss and Peeta and Luke and Han and Leia and Maleficent and Captain America? You cheer on this cause. You don’t avert your eyes. You witness it. You let it burn into you so that you remember how damaging and painful injustice is. This moment can be a memory that changes something, that makes all that pain worth it. Or it can be a moment that happens again and again and again.

There is no difference between what happens on-screen in a movie and what happens in real life, except this: You can change what happens in real life. You can be the hero. All a hero is made of is the willingness to help. Don’t waste this opportunity to make your voice known. Don’t waste this opportunity to stand up for people who are suffering. A city burned. How much pain do you have to feel to burn your city? Do something about that pain. Be brave, make mistakes, but do something about that pain.