Any Kind of Resistance These Days Is Welcome

A Washington Post columnist, Alyssa Rosenberg, objects to the use of the word “resistance” that has been appearing frequently, such as on Women’s March signs, when people exhort the public to do things like calling up one’s Senator or Representative to express one’s strong protest against Trump’s words and actions. 

Sometimes, when people talk about resistance, they’re talking about genuinely disruptive actions, such as Greenpeace’s scaling of a crane in downtown Washington to unfurl a “Resist” banner that floated evocatively over the White House. But a lot of the time, the term seems to be cropping up to sex up what might be better described as good, old-fashioned civic engagement: calling your members of Congress, learning what it takes to run for local office, or even educating yourself about the formerly square elements of the Constitution such as the emoluments clause.

She argues that these are just ordinary actions that citizens should be doing all the time, and there are dangers in “rebranding” them as “resistance."

We should be wary of adopting a renamed version of civic engagement that seems mostly intended to make ourselves feel good and brave about doing things we should have been doing in the first place. Meeting our basic obligations as citizens is not the same thing as revolutionary action.

And we ought to be doubly wary about that re-branding if it opens the door for the basic functions of our political system to be recast as partisan and radical, rather than as fundamental and routine. If picking up phone calls from constituents makes our senators and representatives complicit in “resistance” against Trump, I would place a rather large bet that some lawmakers will use this as an excuse to stop taking calls.

I say all of this not because I’m opposed to more genuinely radical action, but because I want to preserve the possibility of it. When the basic functions of our civic life become radical acts of resistance, we’re not kicking down the door; we’re confining ourselves to screaming through a keyhole.

This strikes me as a good example of overthinking. The writer may have a point about the ways some Women's March participants and others may be thinking about resistance, but what a lot of us mean by "resist" is quite literally "fight back." This new President, as a number of other Post columnists have pointed out, has stormed into office spouting completely false nonsense day after day and giving every occasion of being mentally  unstable, to say the least. And he was given victory in the election by a small minority of the population who just happened to be voting in enough numbers in just the right places to give him a victory in the useless Electoral College (which was put into the Constitution in the first place to support slavery). 

Perhaps Ms. Rosenberg has another perception of this situation, but to a lot of us it looks almost like a takeover of the government by a hostile power, and it will take a lot of work over some time to correct it. "Resistance" is a perfectly correct term, in my opinion. 

I don’t think referring to even rather conventional kinds of response to the dangers of the new administration as resistance will foreclose stronger responses in the future, as people are inspired to move on to them. Resistances to policies of dictatorships in other countries have started out rather mildly but escalated later. The same thing ought to happen here and now.

qedd© Jon Johanning 2011