Stand against hate, fight against tyranny

I will protest. I will put my body on the line, but I will not be violent.

I will protest. I will put my body on the line, but I will not be violent. Let us take to the streets in PEACEFUL protest.

This week, the daughter of an African-American woman told her mother that she, her Latino husband and their children would be moving out of the country following Tuesday’s election of a man who has promised to show nothing but contempt for them.

Another woman’s biracial grandson was called the N-word on the school bus.

A lesbian friend was called a reprehensible name and told her marriage would be annulled.

A Muslim friend is afraid to go grocery shopping.

These examples are just among my friends.

In our schools, Latino children are being taunted with threats of deportation and gay and trans children are being harassed.

This is the new America.

On Facebook, a high school friend complained that Democrats are bad sports because a white man reportedly was beaten up by black men because he voted for the man whose name I refuse to utter.

I reminded that friend of the verified news reports of gays, Muslims and people of color being beaten up as their assailants named this man who might move into the White House.

The hatred is palpable.

I will not hate. I will not commit violence in any form. It is against everything I believe, everything I stand for.

That does not mean I won’t fight.

Last night, I listened to Rev. William Barber on a conference call with hundreds of other people, as he told us he believes we do not have to be gracious about the political victory of a man who has promised to be cruel to immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people and more.

We do not have to offer congratulations to a man who has shown no compassion, no honor and no regrets for the violence of his followers.

This morning, I spoke with my friend, Rev. Rodney Sadler, who echoed Rev. Barber’s sentiments.  Rev. Sadler and I talked about the protests we plan to organize and/or attend, and about our fears for the safety of people we love.

Sitting at home is the same as doing nothing. Silence in the face of tyranny makes one complicit. As this man tries to implement his hate-driven policies, we who enjoy privilege must stand against all of it.

I will stand with my brothers and sisters whose lives and bodies are under threat. You will have to go through me to get to them. I will do everything in my power to protect them, except violence. I will not stoop to that.

I am a follower of Christ, who instructed us to love our enemies, to care for “the least of these” among us. I will feed the hungry and love the marginalized. I will defend the defenseless and give voice to the voiceless.

To me, loving my enemy does not mean being gracious toward someone who would let children go to bed hungry, who would deport millions, who would strip women and LGBTQ people of their legal rights, who tweets vile insults to people who disagree with him.

Loving my enemy means not harming them in any physical way and believing that they are deserving of redemption if they seek it.

Loving this person him does NOT mean any form of approval for his policies or beliefs.

I will stand against this person as I stand for peace and justice for everyone. I will not sit down.

I will take to the streets with my brothers and sisters. I will do no violence. This is my promise.

 

Can love win? I hope so

Middle Passage and "Granny" Ruth Zalph walking along Highway 401 in North Carolina during the NAACP's Journey for Justice last year. We are called to stand up for justice, we are called to love one another, now more than ever.

Middle Passage and “Granny” Ruth Zalph walking along Highway 401 in North Carolina during the NAACP’s Journey for Justice last year. We are called to stand up for justice, we are called to love one another, now more than ever.

The sun came up again this morning.

Yeah, somewhere deep down I knew it would, but I was still just a little surprised.

My husband spoke to our financial advisor, who said we’re OK for now. I’m not sure I believe him, but his voice was soothing and calm.

So, now begins the fight on a national level. I will keep the news turned off, since I blame the corporate media for this mess we are in. They jumped all over Hillary’s e-mails while allowing Trump a pass on all his criminal activities.

The upshot is, what has happened here in North Carolina in the last four years is about to happen nationally.

I will lose my access to health care for at least the next year (in 11 months and six days I can get Medicare — if it still exists), as insurance companies take advantage of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and once again refuse to sell policies to anyone who might get sick.

My LGBTQ friends will lose their rights to be married to the people they love.

My African-American and LatinX friends will lose access to the ballot box in larger numbers than we have seen in a half century.

Multi-national corporations will pull out in protest and people will lose their jobs.

At least 20 million people will lose their access to health care. Thousands will die.

We’re likely to get into some real and nasty wars. Tens of thousands will die.

Climate change will continue its inexorable march, and perhaps millions will die.

This is what I can see from where I sit, in a state where much of this is happening already.

But we here in North Carolina have developed a coalition of groups and individuals who are answering this hate with love. We have been using nonviolent protest to send our message, to change hearts.

We haven’t won the war, but we have banded together and we have the love and support we need to continue this fight and take its model across the country.

Hate won the election, I will not let it conquer me. I will stand with my brothers and sisters against injustice, against hate.

I am a follower of Jesus, who taught me that I need to love my enemies, as difficult as that is this morning. Gandhi and Martin Luther King followed in the steps of Jesus — not the Jesus of the modern American evangelicals, but the one who spoke the word of justice and love, the one who embraces the poor and marginalized, the one who went to his death for what he knew was right.

Not all of us will survive this fight, but we must engage in it if we are to survive as a society.

We are entering a dark age. Let us be the light.

 

 

The power of nonviolence

rush-johnSome 55 years ago, the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans began in earnest in Montgomery, Ala., when Rosa Parks sat in a bus seat and refused to give up her seat to a white person.

Parks was arrested and the African-American community began a boycott of the city bus system. They organized carpools and they walked. They endured the elements in the worst weather to prove the transportation company needed their business more than they needed the buses.

They didn’t throw rocks or shoot anyone; they just did what they needed to do to prove their point. Eventually, they won a Supreme Court decision saying they were free to sit where they pleased on buses.

Later, an integrated group of people boarded buses to cross the Deep South and use the bus terminals. In Anniston, Ala., one of the two buses was met by a mob that threw rocks at the bus and slashed its tires. The bus managed to get out of town, but six miles outside of town, the mob caught up and firebombed the bus and attempted to keep the passengers inside.

In Birmingham, Ala., “Bull” Conner, the director of public safety had a mob ready and waiting to greet the second bus. Again, people were beaten.

But national news cameras were there to capture the mayhem. When not one of the Freedom Riders fought back, the nation’s sympathy turned to the Civil Rights warriors. Images of brutal beatings and bloodied faces horrified viewers.

These were among the first images I recall vividly of the Civil Rights Movement. Among the others were the marchers over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., being attacked by police as they attempted a peaceful march to Montgomery in 1965. I have walked that bridge on a Civil Rights tour alongside African-Americans. It was sacred ground. I felt the courage of those people who risked their lives for equality.

Andrew Young, one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, said later that several people wanted to go home and get their guns to retaliate, but they realized before taking that action that it would only cause the movement to fail.

They attempted the walk again two weeks later with Martin Luther King Jr. at the head of the column and walked the more than 50 miles to Montgomery under the protection of the National Guard.

I remember seeing marchers attacked by dogs and by powerful water cannons, causing them to skitter down the street like trash or cower against buildings as the water beat against them with the power of a battering ram.

And I remember the outrage of so many Americans who saw the powerful abusing unarmed, nonviolent people. The violent overlords looked evil, as does Rush Limbaugh today.

The fight was a battle for dignity and respect, and one who possesses dignity does not stoop to the level of the ignorant when seeking respect.

King’s work made possible today’s inauguration of Barack Obama. Although there still is racism, it is dying out with the people who fought against civil rights. Nonviolence won.

Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi and Christ when he decided to lead a nonviolent movement. Nonviolent civil disobedience moves nations in the right direction. It is the only way to achieve real and lasting peace.

Violence begets violence and love begets love. It is time for society to learn that lesson.

 

The message is clear

 

I’m in the first 9. Can you spot me?

The mainstream media have been saying our message isn’t clear. Well, I don’t know how to make it any clearer.

We want corrupt corporate influence out of our government.

Without the influence of Wall Street, we would have had strong financial reform already.

Without the influence of big banks, we would have gotten credit reform with teeth.

Without the influence of insurance, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing companies, we would have gotten meaningful health care reform.

Without the influence of the military industrial complex we wouldn’t have wars and other overseas adventures going on.

We want our Democracy back.

The word “mob” is being used to describe what we’re doing, but we are not a mob.

We are nonviolent.

We are acting by consensus, and that’s very hard to do.  It takes painstaking detail and total agreement on each action. In Washington that first night, we spent an hour discussing whether people would sleep in Freedom Plaza, which is illegal, or on city sidewalks, which is legal. The decision came down to stay on the plaza.

Yesterday, after the October 2011 permit expired, the police told demonstrators they won’t interfere for four months.

There has been no violence at Freedom Plaza, although there was the Smithsonian incident where an editor for the American Standard infiltrated our march and shoved a security guard, leading to the pepper-spraying of dozens of marchers. Even after we were hit with pepper spray, several of us walked around calming protesters and reminding them that this is a nonviolent movement and that goes for verbal expression too.

The thing that makes us look muddled is that advovates for a dozen different issues finally have come together. My primary issue is health care; others are working for an end to our wars, an end to the use of unmanned drones, true finance reform, education, poverty, justice system reform, and end to the death penalty, a real living wage … So you’ll see any number of signs.

But we all want the same thing: to get corporations out of government and have it work for the people again.

What scares the 1 percent is that we, the 99 percent, have come together. We are one for economic, social and civil justice.

 

What they say vs. what I saw

Security guards pepper-sprayed protesters as we tried to enter the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

I was with the protesters at the Air & Space Museum today. We had marched there from Freedom Square, probably a mile or so, hundreds of us, chanting and waving. We got to the museum and I was pertty close to the front, perhaps 10 feet back, when I saw people in front of me start to fall down and others running away. My eyes, nose and throat started stinging, but my journalistic instincts kicked in and I ran toward the door with my camera.

I was close enough to the front to know there was no warning. No one asked us to move back in a voice loud enough to hear 10 feet away.
Someone might have pushed a guard although I didn’t see it. I did see guards knock over an older man who was carrying a camera. He was pushed with enough force to fall down and lose his glasses.
We had planned to go into the museum to the drone exhibit and have a “die-in,” meaning some of us would lie down under the exhibit. When we were told to move, only a few of us would remain (the ones willing to be arrested to bring more attention to the use of unmanned drones, which kill civilians).
The guards claimed at first that we were the ones who used chemicals first, but that wasn’t true. No one had any chemical spray of any kind. I heard no one tell us to move back; I only saw people in front of me dropping or running, covering their faces and coughing.
We did not perpetrate any violence. In fact, we all signed a pledge of nonviolence and several of us calmed frightened protesters who were cursing at the guards.
I think the guards themselves were frightened. I’m certain they haven’t had to deal with hundreds of protesters asking to come in.
The Smithsonian spokesperson told the media that we had sprayed first and that they closed the museum because there had been a bomb threat. The truth? They closed the museum because so much pepper spray had been used that you couldn’t get near the door without feeling it.
Hours later I can still taste it, although it no longer stings.
The crowd did NOT disperse, contrary to what the spokesperson said. We sat down and waited for word of the three people who had been detained. We talked to each other, sang, did some improv puppet theater and waited. Some chanted, “Whose museum?” “Our museum!”
When we heard the 19-year-old who had been detained had been taken to jail, a couple dozen of us walked the two miles to the jail and sat on the lawn outside, waiting for her release, which we were told would be within two hours.
When she came out, we decided to take the Metro back to Freedom Square rather than walk. Most of us were pretty tired.
As we waited in the train station, we sang again, and as the train approached, we chanted, “Whose train?” Our train!” The other passengers were supportive, waving, giving us the thumbs-up or peace sign. At our stop, we chanted, “Whose stop?” Our stop!” as the other passengers laughed.
We marched back to the plaza, chanting, “We are the 99 percent!” and arrived to a cheering crowd.
During all our marches, we have been met with enthusiastic support. I think the American people are frustrated with a government that ignores their needs and their wishes just to kiss the butt of corporate donors.
The three days here have felt like something really historic is happening. The crowd has grown each day and people are enthusiastic and positive.
I hate to head home tomorrow.
But I will hook up with the Asheville occupation once I get home. This is just the beginning.
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