(The January 21 event in Albany had apparently 7,000 persons of a great range of ages and colors and faiths in attendance.)
I have chanted “The People United Can Never Be Defeated” in scores of demonstrations over at least 40 years, but have never felt comfortable with it. I prefer the more realistic version: “The People United will sometimes win and sometimes lose” even though it lacks the meter expected in a chant — because if we keep chanting the original version, and lose, we get discouraged. For me the highlight of the March was “The People United Can Never Be DIVIDED” along with the positive message of most of the signs and the whole atmosphere of love and mutual support. The focus was on US, together, and not on Trump. There are, nevertheless, two very hopeful things that the election of Donald Trump has achieved:
1. Due to Trump’s huge list of enemies, he has forced People of Color, Black Lives Matter activists, LGBTQ activists, Muslims, Civil Libertarians, Labor Rights Advocates, Climate activists, Women’s Health Advocates, Healthcare as a Human Right advocates generally, Social Security improvement advocates, Medicare For All advocates, Medicaid and other programs for the poor, Socialists and others for progressive taxation, and many many more — to take care of each other, have each other’s backs, and fight for each other’s causes, no longer focused solely on single issues campaigns. WE WILL NOT BE DIVIDED.
2. The Trump phenomenon holds up a mirror to the unresolved dark underside of American Democracy. We are reminded of the White supremacy embedded, as our national original sin, in the Constitution, in which a slave was counted as 3/5 of a person for purposes of calculating a State’s allocated number of Congressional Representatives but as no-person-at-all having the rights of citizenship. This undemocratic distribution of power among the States, along with the Electoral College, was regarded as a necessary bribe to obtain slave states’ consent to even establish the United States. This iniquity would have been corrected by the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing involuntary servitude but for the qualifying compromise phrase “except as punishment for a crime.” The phrase enabled the re-enslavement of Blacks: any number of “crimes” were invented — vagrancy, for example — that were enforced exclusively against Blacks, who were then rented by the State as laborers on their former plantation or in dangerous mining, manufacturing, and road building. It was the forerunner of today’s mass incarceration. The Trump election holds up the mirror to popular objection to newcomers (such as the Irish during the potato famine, who were greeted, in Boston, with NINA signs (“No Irish Need Apply”), even by the previous decade’s newcomers. The foreigner, the alien, the immigrant was demonized, sometimes executed — Sacco and Vanzetti among them — long before Trump rode that same calumny to the Presidency. This, too, is a piece of unfinished American business, a big piece of our unfinished Democracy. We waited 50 years for a Congressional Resolution acknowledging the nation’s shame in sending Americans of Japanese ancestry to “relocation camps.” We have never acknowledged national guilt for the massacres of indigenous peopled as recently as the mid 1800s, let alone the prior history of the genocide waged against them by European settlers — and the still current violation of our one-sided treaties with them, as at Standing Rock. We have yet to come to terms with our national sin of slavery. We are still dreaming of our Manifest Destiny and holding on to American exceptionalism to excuse whatever we do as a nation because it must be good just because it is we who are doing it.
We have the opportunity now, with our complacency gone, to envision together what a generous, diverse democracy could look like, how we could fortify an effective right to vote, what a sound response would be to joblessness due to automation and corporate-controlled trade policy, how the wide disparity of wealth and political power can be overcome, how the power of the military-industrial-education-media complex can be curtailed.
Peace. Justice. Persistence. Resistance.