Volume 8: Spring 2016
Pockets of Resistance
January 11, 2017
by ELIZABETH REED
A few weeks ago I grabbed my raincoat as I ran out the door to attend my son’s orchestra concert. It wasn’t cold enough for a hat, but it was cool enough for gloves. When I searched my coat pockets, I found a plastic spider I’d forgotten to hang up on our web-covered bushes at Halloween and a campaign pin—a picture of Hillary Clinton with smart, ready, tested written on it. Halloween and autumn canvassing in New Hampshire felt like a lifetime ago.
As the concert music started I let Beethoven’s symphony wrap around me like a mantle of the determination that embodied him. Beethoven always carried a notebook in his pockets to jot down musical ideas, and later when he was completely deaf, to communicate with others in writing. He resisted against his deafness; he fought it in the best way he could—by composing one masterpiece after another. Beethoven showed us that silence is not the answer. His determination made me realize we must take our hands out of our pockets and resist.
Artists can resist with notes, words and paints. Art is an unstoppable force that can redeem us from anemic and lethargic acquiescence. Musicians have the discipline to develop an idea into a symphonic orchestra that plays together in tune. Painters have the courage to paint an unflattering portrait and transform the controversy into a conversation. Like actors and actresses, all of us have the strength to dance and sing through deafness and injustice. We must use our power to turn communities into pockets of peaceful, but not passive resistance.
Germans know about resistance; my husband is a native German. He has a friend who escaped from the former East Germany. The last time that friend crossed the border into West Germany, he carried his apartment key in his pocket. A key to an apartment where underground connections met. A key to an apartment where documents were hidden, waiting to be handed over to escapees. A key to an apartment that held an art collection—art that he would never see again. He had been tipped off that the Stasi, the government’s secret police, was on to him. His departure had to look as normal as possible—just another trip, for which he had clearance. The end of that trip was the start of a new life in the freedom of West Germany, the usefulness of that key replaced with a pocket full of strength, courage and hope.
Although pockets can hold things they can fray with friction. Donald Trump has pockets—deep pockets with questionable wealth. Mounting political pressure forced 21 million dollars out of Trump’s pockets to settle the lawsuits brought against his now defunct university by thousands of students who’d been scammed. Vindication ripped a stitch in another pocket to let out one million dollars to the state of New York for operating illegally as a university. Trump’s greed has opened another incompetently stitched seam. His charitable foundation is not even registered as a charity in New York State. In November of 2016, Trump paid an artist twenty-thousand dollars for a portrait of himself and wrote it off as a donation to this “charity.” Now, artists may not earn a lot of money, but this trumped-up donation didn’t pass muster with the New York Attorney General. The Foundation is now under investigation. And in another act of triumphal resistance, in attempting to secure big name performers for Trump’s inauguration his pockets have come up empty.
Throughout history there have been pockets of resistance in the United States: the Underground Railroad, women suffragettes, the protesters against the Vietnam War, the civil rights marchers. These groups did not have deep pockets of money to support their causes; they had something more enduring—strength, courage and the conviction of knowing that what they were marching against was fundamentally immoral. That conviction gave them hope. That hope changed the United States.
Now it is our turn to show our courage and strength. We can hope for an America that embraces all religions and races, is compassionate toward the disabled, welcomes all families—LGBTQ, bi- and tri-racial. An America that is respectful of each new wave of immigrants willing to work long hours at hard jobs (that many Americans wouldn’t touch) because these immigrants know the value and the sacrifice of honest work, and want their children to have a better life. But we must do more than hope. And we are.
Trump wants to tear families apart by deporting millions of immigrants, but his plans have instead vivified the leaders of cities, towns and states to proclaim pockets of safe sanctuaries all over the country. His vows to defund Planned Parenthood jumpstarted a complacent population that has filled Planned Parenthood’s pockets with donations forty times over the typical amount. And that dormant national registry which could have been misused as a registry for Muslims under a Trump presidency? Public outcry spurred President Obama to empty that jail-like pocket with his order to dismantle the agency. The President’s Inaugural Committee blocked the option for the upcoming Women’s March on Washington on January 21st, 2017, to take place on the Mall, but WoMaWa found another pocket where thousands will gather to affirm the power of women and to tell Trump that we are watching and will react to every one of his hateful actions.
There are small and large pockets of friends, activists and organizations that are tweeting and emailing us with daily actions to occlude Trump’s detrimental policies. We might not stop his agenda, but we can impede it with all the available legal means. We need to be strong, to keep up the political pressure. We need to be courageous and stand up to obdurate friends or family members who hail Trump’s racist and misogynist policies as being great for America. We must be inviolable and steadfast in the face of name-calling, to show no fear when we are threatened, to preserve our dignity when offenders have squandered theirs.
On my way to the concert that December afternoon, I didn’t find gloves in my pockets but that pin reminded me I had something to withstand the bitter political winds, something much more empowering in the face of this barrage of hate—strength, courage and hope. Hillary’s motto, Stronger Together, has galvanized her supporters, who come from all religions, races, backgrounds, economic and educational levels into a force of strength that can produce change, and gives me hope that—yes, together we will make a difference.