When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
As Inauguration Day approaches, I will be joining people in taking to the streets. We need to resist and delegitimize the dangerous and hateful policies of Donald Trump in every (nonviolent) way we can, on every front.
But we must also keep in mind that there is much more at stake than Trump’s presidency. The United States is deeply divided at a time when we need unified action to deal with the many national and global threats on the horizon, including climate change. At the same time, the country is on the verge of fascism. Spirited, creative, nonviolent resistance is our only hope to prevent the worst forms of abuse.
Trump’s election surprised many people, but it was not a fluke. It was the result of corruption at the highest levels of both the Republican and Democratic parties, the highjacking of the electoral process as a whole, and a system of governance that is dominated by money. The hate speech that Trump and his followers express so opening has been expressed by conservative Republicans in veiled words and discriminatory policies for thirty years, with Democrats “providing a weak and tepid alternative” to the “lunacy” that has taken over the Republican party (Mike Lofren in The Party’s Over). As Trump’s supporters say, “At least he says what he means.” During the primary election, the Democratic Party manipulated the process to favor the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, transnational corporations and wealthy donors pooled their dark money in Super PACS, seeking to buy the election with money that counts as free speech. What could possibly go wrong?
Now Donald Trump has been elected president. This is not because Trump spent the most money or because the majority of people favored him, but because the destruction of democracy has unleashed forces that not even Exxon Mobil or the Koch Brothers can control. Nevertheless, powerful interests are getting on board, planning to make the most of the wealth-producing policies promised by Trump. For instance, Energy Transfer Partners plans to go forward with the Dakota Access Pipeline, in spite of the resistance of the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies. We shall see.
I made the case in Shaking the Gates of Hell that “the system is designed for the results it is getting.” Those people who serve the system at its highest levels are shaped by its imperatives. They perpetuate the system’s dysfunction while benefiting from the wealth and power it offers.
It is essential that those of us who yearn for justice not fall into hate speech when expressing our justified contempt for unjust policies and systems. Martin Luther King, Jr. is right when he calls us to seek to defeat the system, not the individuals who are caught up in the system. As he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
To see more of Bob Fitch’s historic photos, scroll down the main page of http://www.bobfitchphoto.com/. Bob, who died last year, was my friend and colleague at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz. I miss him.
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