Resistance and Liberation: a Guide to Social Engagement in the Era of Trump

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Anti-trump protests in Los Angeles – approx 8,000 people (Nov 12, 2016) Photo: Lucy Nicholson Reuters


Now more than ever, White Awake is stepping up its call – and support – for white people to engage in organized resistance to the systemic force of white supremacist/capitalist/patriarchy embedded in our society. We remain committed to synthesizing spiritual practice with anti-oppression educational materials … and we want to be sure that you and your community have the support you need to bridge the gap between education and action.

To this end, we have prepared a resource guide to help White Awake users prepare for the Trump administration. There are so many good materials circulating at this time – if you see something you think should be added to this resource guide, please feel free to share it with us via a comment on the page.

Many thanks to Hugh Byrne (IMCW Guiding Teacher, and White Awake board member) for his article Our Way Forward Post Election. I have organized this guide around the four central themes Hugh put forward in this piece:

  1. Acknowledge and accept the truth (which includes reason based study and assessment of the what we are facing in a Trump administration).
  2. Build community and draw strength from it.
  3. Practice self care – including personal spiritual practice – and prioritize resilience for the long haul.
  4. Develop our capacity to resist what is harmful, and stay socially engaged.

Please note that while most of the materials in our White Awake Manual section are oriented towards white affinity work, this is not a guide for white people organizing with other white people. It can be useful to organize in this way – this is the focus of Showing up for Racial Justice, for example, which is a national network of white people organizing for racial justice that then partners with indigenous and POC-led organizations on a group to group level.

However there are many other powerful avenues of engagement available to each of us at this time, including: MoveOn.org; Standing Rock solidarity; Cosecha; The Movement for Black Lives; 350.org; People’s Climate MovementFight for $15; localized Muslim support networks … to name a few. We hope you will join together with people in your area and plug in as best suites your unique gifts, passion, and location.

Wherever you align yourself and put your energy, White Awake is here to help you do this with self reflection and awareness of identity, race, and dominance, and with access to spiritual resources that break down harmful cultural patterns that are the product of the attempt to create a unified “dominant” group.

Now is not the time to despair … but to join with others, strengthen our resolve, practice “radical hope”, and sustain ourselves for the long haul. Who knows what will come. White supremacy is not new, but – like all things on this earth – it’s days are numbered.

In solidarity,
Eleanor Hancock

Director, White Awake


Part One: Acknowledge and accept the truth

“In his book, The Wise Heart, Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield describes three qualities of a bodhisattva, or spiritual warrior. First, they acknowledge and accept the truth of their situation—not that it is right or just but that it is a reality. They face the truth, turn towards the difficulties, and shine the light of understanding on them.” – Our Way Forward / Hugh Byrne

MOROCCO-US-ELECTION-COP22-DEMO

American students protest outside the UN climate talks during the COP22 international climate conference in Marrakesh in reaction to Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, on November 9, 2016. Photo: Fadel Senna AFP Getty Images

The broad nature of the threats the Trump administration poses – as represented by Trump’s cabinet nominations and picks for White House staff, the overwhelming number of judicial vacancies his administration will fill, and other aspects of executive/federal power to which the Trump administration and the GOP have almost unlimited access – are positively dizzying. I make no claims to address all of them here, but will attempt to offer some central resources that assess these dangers.

As a general set of resources on the “who” of the Trump administration, I refer you to CNN’s interact list of appointments, and Democracy Now! as one reliable source of information/starting point for reading up on each of these top picks. Of particular note: Stephen Bannon as Chief Strategist; Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor; Jeff Sessions for Attorney General; Scott Pruitt for Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency; Exxon CEO Rex Tillerman for Secretary of State.

Lest we drown in specifics, I will highlight three articles that focus on a central, existential threat embedded in the Trump administration – fascism. See:

Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?

We have spent two decades studying the emergence and breakdown of democracy in Europe and Latin America. Our research points to several warning signs. … Drawing on a close study of democracys’ demise in 1930’s Europe, the imminent political scientist Juan J. Linz designed a ‘litmus test’ to identify anti-democratic politicians. Mr. Trump tests positive.

Prepare for Regime Change, Not Policy Change

Confidence in the exceptional resilience of American democracy is particularly misplaced in the face of today’s illiberal populist movements, whose leaders are constantly learning from each other. Defenders of liberal democracy, too, must learn from each other’s victories and defeats. Below are some hard-earned lessons from countries that have been overrun by the contemporary wave of illiberal democracy. They could be essential for preserving the American republic in the dark years to come.

Autocracy: Rules for Survival

“Thank you, my friends. Thank you. Thank you. We have lost. We have lost, and this is the last day of my political career, so I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss. Our political system, our society, our country itself are in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The president-elect has made his intentions clear, and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions, and the ideals on which our country is based.” That, or something like that, is what Hillary Clinton should have said on Wednesday …

Right about now is probably a good time to balance “inner” with “outer” focus … I suggest you take a deep breath, and assess the truth of how you’re feeling. Notice your thoughts, your emotions, and your body. You may want to do a complete body scan, and give permission for anything tight or uncomfortable to readjust or relax. Do not “will” anything – simply take stock, and give permission.

If particular emotions need expression, take time to let them out. Part of your assessment may be what these emotions need in order to be expressed and fully “felt” – an intimate conversation with a loved one, intense physical exercise, a community gathering that centers cathartic expression … . As my spiritual teacher, Katrina Messenger (White Awake advisory council member), often reminds me – all emotions want is to be felt. We don’t need to overanalyze them, or hang on to them, just feel them.

Now, I would like to suggest you take a moment to reflect on these words:

“To me, hope has nothing to do with optimism: the latter mindset, like pessimism, thinks the future is foreseeable and intervention is unnecessary. Hope for me is the belief in the unknowability of the future, the sense that its outcome is not fixed, and that we might intervene in it.” – Rebecca Solnit (Preface to 20th Anniversary Edition / Savage Dreams)

Ironically, the need for broad social engagement to counter the fascist potential of Trump’s administration could be the force that galvanizes millions of people to reject our “ideological differences” and work together in way we haven’t experienced before. Who knows! This is possible … this #WhiteLash could even be the dying gasps of white supremacy itself. A lot depends on how we respond.

Finally, while we assess the threats that are gathering at the federal level, let us not lose sight of the forces of life at work. Most notably, I would like to point out that an unprecedented, historic display of indigenous strength and leadership has arisen at same time as the 2016 presidential campaign, and the election of Donald Trump. This cannot be seen as circumstantial. There are broad forces at work. To get a better understanding of the forces represented by the struggle at Standing Rock, see our post with updates, heart-centered stories, and current call to action. Another powerful article of sober hope:

The Time is Now: To Defeat Both Trump and Clintonian Neoliberalism (article)

“If Trump is the price we have to pay to defeat Clintonian neoliberalism – so be it.” – Mumia Abu-Jamal

Black Lives Matter, the Black Youth Project 100, Dream Defenders, our reinvigorated labor movements, Socialist Alternative Party, Workers World, the movements for Mumia Abu-Jamal and other political prisoners, the MOVE Organization – all of these are organizations by some of our most vulnerable and repressed peoples who have combined with some from elite sectors to fight repression. Their fight will continue.

I wager that the fight of these new growing movements will be greater than the bluster, despair and demagoguery of a Trump regime – even with his henchman at the ready. We can face them down. The repressed can return. They can rise up against the order represented not just by the Republicans but also by President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, two faces of Clintonian neoliberalism.

Where and how we align ourselves, at this potent moment in history, matters.


Part Two: Build community

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Photo: SURJ DC

“When Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant, had a moment of insight and went to the Buddha and said, ‘I’ve realized that sangha (community) is half the spiritual life,’ the Buddha responded, ‘Don’t say that, Ananda, don’t say that, community is all of the spiritual life.’” – Our Way Forward / Hugh Byrne

“How do we begin to recover from this shock? By experiencing and building and rebuilding and consolidating community. Community is the answer.” – Angela Davis

As you find your place in the growing networks of resistance to a Trump administration agenda, we encourage you to engage with other people in person – not just online. Real time, embodied community, action, and connection is vital as we face the forces of hatred, exploitation, and (potential) fascism that are about to dominate all three branches of the federal government.


Contemplative Action Circles

a template for building close-knit community that centers courageous social engagement, collective resistance, and movement building

Work coming out of the Boston area (initiated within Episcopalian circles, and informed by Swarm) is resulting in a template for tight-knit communities that build the bonds necessary to take risks together and engage in social resistance and transformation for the long haul.

We can learn from these social experiments. I encourage anyone who is ready to build deeper communities of resistance and resilience to put together a circle like this. Make a commitment to practice together for at least 3-6 months (at which point the group can consider continuing, changing the structure, or disbanding). Below is the basic template and vision.

Please note: While we have borrowed the name “contemplative action circles”, what I’m sharing here is not formalized by the Boston group, but rather inspired by their process.

Logistics:

  • intimate circles / approx 10-15 people
  • meeting in a home, or another intimate setting
  • shared food, prepared by participants
  • 3 hour meetings, 2-4 times a month
  • when possible, make this a “whole community”, multigenerational experience (child-focused activities that take place separate from adult-focused activities may be necessary for portions of the time)

A program for time together that includes:

  • spiritual practice
    • this can be based on shared practice of participants, especially when participants are all coming from the same religious tradition or spiritual community
    • can include singing, reading from sacred text, meditation, or any other spiritual practice
    • elements of the White Awake Manual can be adapted for this small group format
    • White Awake will be building out potential community practices as part of our resources, and in collaboration with SURJ DC leadership healing team
  • sharing a meal together
  • personal storytelling, and empathetic listening
    • see Relational Uprising video for inspiration
    • White Awake is committed to building out our toolkit of relational practices; again, many practices in the Manual section can be adapted
  • dedicated discussion, role-playing, or other activity that builds skill set, knowledge base, and commitment to engaged social action

Vision:

  • that these communities of practice would engage in action/activism together
  • communities that include middle to upper class members would work together, and within their networks, to support resource redistribution (see Resource Generation for analysis of resource distribution in the context of collective liberation)
  • these communities could become building blocks in local/regional transformation (inc sustainable food networks; municipal models of participatory democracy; solidarity and resource redistribution between over-resourced and under-resourced neighborhoods; etc …)
  • these communities could be central aspects of national organizing and solidarity

Your contemplative action circle can be white affinity, but it does not need to be. Regardless of group demographics, awareness of power dynamics between individuals, the development of a shared anti-oppression lens, and group norms around conflict and the expression of trauma are all important to the healthy functioning, and social engagement, of the group.

This development of group culture will of necessity incorporate aspects of study, and key resources already present in White Awake may be helpful in this process. We are actively working on resources that support building a healthy, relational culture – including conflict resolution and sensitivity to trauma.

Commit to principles of Decolonization. As you build community, know whose land you live on, and how you came to live there. This article can help!

Our encouragement, whether you form a “contemplative action circle” or not, is to go beyond the study group. Try to get together with like-minded folks every couple of weeks, at least, support and encourage one another in being socially engaged … and include some element of food, joy, storytelling, and fun!

If you form a Contemplative Action Circle, please write us and let us know how it goes! We want to keep learning from one another, and developing best practices together.


Part Three: Prioritizing resilience for the long haul

While community and resilience of the heart are closely tied together, this section is focused on individual practice and self care. White Awake has just initiated a new “Personal Practice” section, we’ll keep building this out to support you in bringing your full self to the work of social transformation. This section is taken entirely from “Our Way Forward” / Hugh Byrne.

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Photo: Satya

“Given the challenges ahead, it will be essential to take care of ourselves—and each other—and cultivate the resilience to work for as long as our bodies, minds, and hearts permit us.

The first rule of resilience is to ‘put on your own mask first’, as we are told when we board an airplane. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we will not have the resources to support others in pain or distress. This is not a luxury—as anyone who has burned out while doing work of the heart knows.

Some of the ways we can build resilience are well known but bear remembering:

  • Develop or deepen a practice of awareness that gives you the resources to deal wisely with stresses and reverses while remaining grounded and engaged
  • Stay embodied—practice yoga, qigong; take walks, spend time in nature, take in beauty

[White Awake has a new body of work for you to draw upon to “stay embodied” – see Whole Heart Connection resources in our Personal Practice section]

  • Take time to step out of routines—when conditions allow, take vacations, go on retreat, observe the Sabbath or other ways of renewing and restoring yourself, creating a ‘clearing in the dense forest of your life’ (M Postlethwaite, ‘Clearing’)
  • Bring awareness to diet, nutrition, and sleep and be aware of habitual behaviors and conditioned responses that prevent you from living healthily or that provide short-term comfort with long-term costs
  • Stay connected—nurture intimate relationships and friendships that are one of our strongest supports in times of adversity, helping us remember we are not alone.
  • Don’t neglect taking care of the business of life—paying bills, taxes, scheduling medical appointments, which can come back to bite us later and sap our resilience if we ignore them.

Paying attention to these areas of life will help create the conditions to stay engaged for the long run.

But the deepest support of all is resilience of the heart: developing an unshakeable faith and trust in the human capacity for goodness and love—even in the midst of greed and ugliness—and in the possibility of our awakening to the truth of our interconnectedness. Authentic spiritual practices that help us cultivate and remember truth, love, and our capacity for freedom can support us on this path.” – Our Way Forward / Hugh Byrne


Part Four: Develop our capacity for collective action, and stay socially engaged

Make a commitment to engage, and use community as a way of holding ourselves accountable. You’ll want to study social change strategy; assess local landscape, identify organizations to support (you can find one such list here), and find your own personal calling and community of engagement. This section begins with some general advice from “Our Way Forward”, then continues by highlighting a few specific resources.

Catalog of Resources:

  • The Craft of Nonviolent Action and Mass Mobilization
  • Learn from the Tea Party’s Success
  • The Overton Window
  • The Power of a Local Focus (Municipality Movement in Spain)
  • People’s Mandate / Exercise our Power
  • Get Trained
  • Existential Crisis in White America … create a spiritual response

“Resistance can take many forms—from protests, civil disobedience, and lobbying members of Congress to registering as a Muslim if laws are passed requiring Muslims to carry documentation of their religion; from churches and synagogues declaring themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants fearing deportation to towns, cities, and states refusing to work with federal authorities enforcing unjust laws.

There have been and will continue to be pressures to ‘normalize’ words and actions by Trump and his allies that at other times would have been considered unacceptable or ‘beyond the pale’—such as reintroducing torture or excluding people from the country on the basis of religion. The dignity of the office of President can increase pressure to normalize behavior that should not be considered normal or acceptable. This does not mean mindless opposition or resistance for its own sake—but rather resisting what is clearly harmful.” – Our Way Forward / Hugh Byrne


The Craft of Nonviolent Action and Mass Mobilization

“There is a craft to uprising – and that craft can change the world.” – This is an Uprising

Ayni Institute / Momentum Training Webinars (and other resources online)

In order to transform our society, we cannot simply settle for what’s winnable within our current political climate: we must create the political climate to win what we truly need.

This is an Uprising (book)

From protests around climate change and immigrant rights, to Occupy, the Arab Spring, and #BlackLivesMatter, a new generation is unleashing strategic nonviolent action to shape public debate and force political change. When mass movements erupt onto our television screens, the media consistently portrays them as being spontaneous and unpredictable. Yet, in this book, Mark and Paul Engler look at the hidden art behind such outbursts of protest, examining core principles that have been used to spark and guide moments of transformative unrest.


Learn from the Tea Party’s success …

INDIVISIBLE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR RESISTING THE TRUMP AGENDA

Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President- Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist — and we have the power to win.

We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism— and they won.

We believe that protecting protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

Core elements of Tea Party strategy:

They were locally focused. Form tight knit, dedicated local groups. Understand what motivates your Members of Congress ( it’s all about re-election), and be vocal, visible, and relentless in asserting your agenda to your MoC.

They were almost purely defensive. “A defensive strategy does not mean dropping your own policy priorities or staying silent on an alternate vision for our country over the next four years. What it means is that, when you’re trying to influence your MoC, you will have the most leverage when you are focused on whatever the current legislative priority is.”


The Overton Window

Defenestration (blog post)

“Imagine that you live in a room with just one window.  It looks out onto a rather normal scene:  a bit of lawn, a strip of flowers alongside the road, a maple tree in the middle. One night, without your even really noticing, someone comes and moves the window a  few inches to the right …”

The Overton window, also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept. If you control the window, you can move policy in the direction that you want. This article makes a few strategic points about how the Left can stop the “purity wars”, get out of defense mode, and join with diverse allies to insist on what we really need.


The Power of a Local Focus (Municipalist Movement in Spain)

“Alternative policies will not be enough to create an effective challenge to Trump; different ways of doing politics will also be needed, and local politics has great potential in this regard. As the level of government closest to the people, municipalities are uniquely able to generate new, citizen-led and participatory models of politics that return a sense of agency and belonging to people’s lives.” – Kate Shea Baird, Barcelona en Comú and Steve Hughes, Working Families Party

Barcelona en Comú publishes ‘how to’ guide to winning back the city (article)

On 24 May 2015, against all the odds, the citizen platform Barcelona en Comú won the Barcelona municipal elections and former housing activist, Ada Colau, became the city’s first woman mayor. Similar citizen platforms were catapulted into office in cities across the Spanish state, from Zaragoza to Madrid to Coruña.

Since the election, Barcelona en Comú has been inundated with messages from activists in cities all over the world asking the same question: how did you do it?. That’s why Barcelona en Comú is publishing “How to win back the city en comú” to mark its first year in office. The guide, drawn up by the platform’s International Committee, aims to explain the origins, philosophy, and strategies of the new municipalist movement in the Spanish state to activists in cities around the world.

Recipe for a municipal movement (documentary) (scroll down to Vimeo video embedded on page)

Spain’s Micro-Utopias: The 15M Movement and its Prototypes (article)

America needs a network of rebel cities to stand up to Trump (article)

The municipalist movement need not be limited to the largest cities. Though large cities will inevitably be strategic targets in any ‘bottom-up’ strategy, given their economic and cultural power, all local politics has radical democratic potential. Indeed, some of the most innovative — and successful — examples of municipalism around the world are found in small towns and villages.

Popular Resistance (online resource)

With the corporate takeover of federal and state governments, more people are becoming politically active in new and creative ways. A growing culture of resistance is utilizing nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience as a primary tactic, and is forming real democratic organizations to empower local communities—as opposed to working within the corrupt government dominated by a two-corporate party system and within an unfair, big finance, capitalist economy. PopularResistance.org is a resource and information clearinghouse for this movement.


People’s Mandate / Exercise our Power

How To Fight For The Climate During A Trump Administration (article)

The climate crisis is already underway and we can’t waste four years playing defense. We need to drive action at the state level, pushing California, New York, and others to build out clean energy, shift the markets, and tie up the fossil fuel industry. We need to look to the courts, not only to defend regulations, but to start holding fossil fuel companies and the federal government accountable. The Children’s Trust case and the investigation into ExxonMobil become even more important.

We need to challenge private institutions to take action, ramping up the divestment campaign, pushing carbon neutrality, and urging colleges, museums and foundations to become leaders in their own communities. We need to go after the banks, getting them to move billions out of fossil fuels and into clean energy. We need to push companies to green their supply chains and commit to 100% renewable energy. We need to think globally, looking for ways to support fights around the world with our funding, solidarity, and online campaigns.

DefundDAPL (solidarity divestment campaign)


Get Trained

Look for training in your area in Nonviolent, Direct Action and Active Bystander Intervention. Reach out to Showing Up for Racial Justice if you can’t find local/regional trainings, and see if they can help you make the connection.

“5 Ways to Disrupt Racism” (video / post-Brexit bystander intervention focus)

Organizing for Power, Organizing for Change (online resources)

Alliance of Community Trainers (Texas based collective / offers training and consulting)


Existential Crisis in White America …

… create a spiritual response

“The new people were something else before they were white—Catholic, Corsican, Welsh, Mennonite, Jewish—and if all our national hopes are to have any fulfillment, then they will have to be something else again.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Where Does it Hurt?” Ruby Sales, episode of On Being (transcript here)

“I really think that one of the things that we’ve got to deal with is that how is it that we develop a theology or theologies in a 21st-century capitalist technocracy where only a few lives matter? How do we raise people up from disposability to essentiality? And this goes beyond the question of race. What do you say to someone who has been told that their whole essence is whiteness and power and domination? And when that no longer exists, then they feel as if they are dying or they get caught up in the throes of death, whether it’s heroin addiction.

We’ve got a spiritual crisis in white America. It’s a crisis of meaning, and I don’t hear — we talk a lot about black theologies, but I want a liberating white theology. I want a theology that begins to deepen people’s understanding about their capacity to live fully human lives and to touch the goodness inside of them rather than call upon the part of themselves that’s not relational. Because there’s nothing wrong with being European American. That’s not the problem. It’s how you actualize that history and how you actualize that reality. It’s almost like white people don’t believe that other white people are worthy of being redeemed.” – Ruby Sales

Alt-Right Gathering Exults in Trump Election With Nazi-Era Salute (article)

“To be white is to be a creator, an explorer, a conqueror.” The choice facing white people is to “conquer or die.” – Richard B. Spencer

“All Nations Rise” (video / FB post)

“Some of the first Indigenous Peoples that were forced into hiding were the medicine women of Old Europe. They estimate that 6-9 million women were raped, beaten, tortured, burned alive or drowned alive for being ‘witches.’ Let us reclaim our Earth Selves no matter what ‘race’ you are and do it soon! The earth may depend on it.” – Lyla June


Conclusion

“Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.” – Rebecca Solnit

Activists gain resolve from civil rights vets post-election

Maria Varela, a Mexican-American member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee: “The Trump election is going to unite progressives in a different kind of way,” Varela said. “Just wait.”

Find your place in the movement, and bring every gift you have – including self awareness, humor, and joy.

Raging Grannies Blockading Entrances and Exits of WA Department of Ecology

The groups are sitting in rocking chairs chained together across the Department’s vehicle entrance. They are telling workers that the Department is closed today for a “Workshop on How to Say No to Big Oil.”

 

 


 

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