01.31.17 Beyond civil disobedience: Why we need bridge-burners to smoke out Washington’s monsters
Earlier today, I read a Tweet from editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden that said, in part, “Protests are great and should continue but shaming the unshameable isn’t a plan.”
He’s right. And we’re going about this all the wrong way.
Part of the problem – the true cognitive dissonance many of us have been feeling since the inauguration – is that we are reacting to the new administration the way we would if other politicians were irritating us, or doing things we disapproved of. We opened up the rule book and it said, “Make calls.” Then it said, “Write letters.” And all along it said, “Protest. Show up and hold signs and march.”
But I utterly doubt that they will have any lasting effect that matters. This time, the rule book is bullshit.
Here’s why I didn’t march in Washington, D.C. or any other march recently: Not because I didn’t believe in the concept, but because it was like going up to a brick wall and screaming into it for hours on end. The brick wall moves not an inch, and all you’re left with is a sore throat and the sense that you did something. You took action. And now you can go home and settle in to binge-watching “The OA.”
And I don’t blame you. In most cases, millions of people taking to the street in support of a cause would have an effect. People of conscience and who actually believed in this country would hear the echoes and see the masses and think, Maybe I need to reassess.
What so many don’t seem to understand is that there is no reassessment going on here. There is no bending, there will be no rethinking. The monsters we currently have in our highest elected offices have their beliefs and ideologies firm in the cement — and they are not about actually understanding what this country was actually built on. To do any amount of rethinking or reconsidering would be to crumble their entire sense of self.
They do not actually care about America or Americans.
In their minds, here are the truths:
Men know best.
White people know better.
Only Christians can know God.
Secondarily, but no less crucially, are the other truths:
Heterosexuality is the only legitimate way of life.
Every man for himself.
Take what you can; if you don’t, someone else will.
They believe that anyone who deviates from these beliefs and corollaries is wrong, damned and unworthy of a voice.
You cannot reason with them. This is how they believe; they are the “unshameable.” They are the brick wall. They are the rocks and you are the hard place, and they will grind you into small digestible chunks before either reverting to pre-1950s standards or throwing you out of the country entirely.
Part of our problem is we watch too many movies.
I’m just as guilty as everybody else in this regard. See, in the movies we’re meant to believe that the rebel good guys are going to win. The ones who are saving the planet or the universe or the village – and yes, they will take a beating and yes they will lose loved ones and right before the Big Final Moment they will seem to be completely out of the race. That the monster only thinks he’s about to win, but in fact there’s a fatal flaw – and the hero comes roaring back to defeat the monster by exploiting that flaw.
That is a story.
The thing is, in this case, the monsters in the administration think that they are the heroes. They are the ones who are saving everybody – and by “everybody” they mean “themselves.” They are the oppressed, the ones who have been forced to share, forced to live under others’ belief that the world contains multitudes. They feel – and perhaps even genuinely – that this is their own last stand. That they had to lie on the floor for the last eight years while the rest of us prepared for our final blow. And now, look at them! They have risen in the final act! They are in charge and they have won!
That, too is a story. And we are the sum of the stories we tell ourselves.
Here is the thing: I don’t have good answers. I don’t have a solution at the end of all of this to say, “Here’s what I would do and here is how I would fix it.” I think there is not a good way around any of this. The horrors already perpetrated by the administration days into it are doing as they were meant to – scare us all, and purge the nonbelievers (former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is a heroine, certainly, but we’ll always wonder if she could have done more with quiet, extended undermining). The purges will continue until after just a few months the monsters will be left with a scrubbed-clean set of advisers and lackeys and flunkies and toadies who will simply say, “Yes, your worship.”
Edit to add this related article: The Immigration Ban is a Headfake, and We’re Falling For It
What I would hope from anyone who’s gotten this far is to ask that you re-think your strategy. Figure out exactly how to best use your energies. Is your outrage best used in a directed, single-ditch effort that burns every bridge or are you best served in slow, persistent poking of holes in the dike? We all have different answers to this. I personally believe every oppositional elected official needs to be ready to burn all the bridges – and go to prison if necessary – to eradicate the monsters.
Because we are not going to change their minds. We are not going to come up with a meme that asks the crucial salient “why” or makes a witty remark that somehow turns the tide. Not one Facebook post or online petition matters to them. Not one pink crocheted hat. We need bridge-burners. We need the disobedient. We need those who will upend their lives, not just for a weekend but ongoing. We need actual bravery.
So far, we’re hearing a lot of sound and fury.
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