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Resistance

Sometimes peace and love don’t have a real chance until you have done some resisting, but folks with new age  pretensions sometimes don’t know how to give resistance a chance.  The phrase “What we resist persists” has so slipped into the new age lexicon that some people will utter this sentence smugly and then feel they have just understood something.   It has zapped into their consciousness and they are unable see this innocent word in new ways.

If someone tries to harm my child, I’m going to resist them.  If I’m a black belt in Aikido, I may be able to resist them elegantly, without messing them up too much (though my old Aikido instructor used to say that if the other person’s violent energy causes  them to fall hard on the floor and hurt themselves, that’s  their karma.  He also used to say that if you stop them from hurting somebody – including you – you have saved them from some negative karma.)  Since I stopped practicing Aikido 30 years ago and have no remaining skill, if I want to stop the villain from hurting my child I may need to use a big stick – and I will.

The morning of the afternoon I was going to my first Resist Trump Tuesday rally, over breakfast I told some of my friends where I was going and three of them just totally jumped in my shit about the “resist” word.  “It’s negative”, “It’s not spiritual”, “It’s a bad word” and the final take-down “What you resist persists”.  I knew instinctively that they were wrong, but it was my first “Resistance” rally, the first time I ran into this buzz-saw of new age orthodoxy,  so I didn’t respond as elegantly as I would have liked.  I don’t think I literally said, “That’s the biggest pile of bullshit I ever heard”, but I think they could hear this in the lame-ass words I did use.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask, “Why do you feel the need to resist a little word?”, but it would have been totally appropriate.

I had just a day before written my “Sweet Peace” poem that had been commissioned by my church for an upcoming peace concert.  (https://avlresist.blog/2017/02/07/sweet-peace-majo/) This exchange over breakfast made me realize that my poem was missing some stuff – and I went right home and wrote a section on the value of resistance:

4 planning
My three dancers get some last-minute guidance from me.

Our work is to take to the barricades
Our work is to get arrested when that is our calling
Our work is to sit in and block traffic
And to be very, very noisy
To resist evil is a form of love
We will give “no!” a good name
Without some good, solid no’s
Our yes’s have no meaning
No integrity
To resist is to take a stand
To stand for something
To stand in their way
To stand up to Trump
Stand tall
To say, “You will go no further”
“You will not do this unchallenged”
“You will pay a price for this”
And “Yes I will stand for the poor and homeless
The immigrants, the oppressed.”
“Yes I will stand for the constitution
For equal rights under the law
For love.”

That made the poem a lot stronger, but a few weeks later a “Resist” t-shirt made it stronger still.  Several weeks after writing that last passage – and the day of the Peace Concert where I would be performing the poem – I was at my favorite ecstatic (free-form, improv) dance at nine in the morning.  When I had been dancing maybe 15 minutes and had gotten warmed up enough to strip off my outer shirt, it revealed underneath my brand-new “Resist” shirt.  I thought “This will be interesting – what’s it like to dance resistance?”

unveiling my Resist shirt
The “Resist” t-shirt gets unveiled at the concert

It was wonderful: energized, empowered, playful, frisky.  And it liberated some new poetry.  I right away grabbed the little spiral notebook that this writer keeps with him wherever he goes, and revised that passage above like this:

Our work is to take to the barricades
Our work is to get arrested when that is our calling
Our work is to sit in and block traffic
And to be very, very noisy
To resist evil is a form of love
We will give “no!” a good name
Without some good, solid no’s
Our yes’s have no meaning
No integrity
To resist is to take a stand
To stand for something
To stand in their way
To stand up to Trump
Stand tall
Rise up
Be proud of who you are
Oh, no they can’t take that away from me
Don’t touch her
Mess with him and you mess with me
Rise up
Say it with me
Rise up
Say it again
Rise up
One last time
Rise up

For me, the heart of that stanza is two lines:

“Don’t touch her”

which I deliver almost with a snarl – with a sense of menace that is not typical of me but feels totally right.  I see the offender immediately backing right off.  And

“Mess with him and you mess with me.”

I see myself protecting an undocumented man who is being threatened by an ICE agent.  One way I have pictured it is that I handcuff myself to my Mexican friend and say to the threatening agent, “You can’t take him without taking me.”  I knew this line had a powerful effect on my audience, though it was one of the first times I had managed to deliver it without getting choked up.

4 of us -me rdg in background
I read the poem while my dancers find a moment of repose.

The audience favorite in that stanza, though, was the call and response of “Rise up” – boy, they threw themselves into that stuff.

In the next post, I will talk about how our resistance needs to be informed by peace and love or it turns sour.

Blessings on our show from Stephanie and Alice and Sharon and Cameron

This morning I sent a last-minute, repeat invitation to the show to the seven people I live with at Lotus Lodge.  Stephanie – who apparently was also at her computer early in the morning – responded with her big good wishes and regrets that she couldn’t be there.  I sent her the text of the poem, apologizing that it was nothing compared to what we will deliver on Sunday, live with piano and dancers.  She responded with this,

“While I will miss the energy of the performance piece, it is your spirit that I treasure—and that was so generously and clearly woven into your written text.  As I read your words, I could clearly sense the spirit of you, your passion, the truth that you call forth… You have already gifted me with what you will generously share on Sunday.  Keep believing…”

I have really believed that this poem is bigger than me, that it comes from somewhere else – and that I have a sacred responsibility to support it by things like piano and dancers.  Stephanie’s words felt like a huge confirmation and I immediately forwarded them to my mates – Robert (piano) and Tom, Giovanna and Amanda (dancers).

In an earlier post (https://avlresist.blog/2017/03/14/when-the-resistance-is-aimed-at-me/), I described how – after a very exciting evening of talking about the show with my dancers – something dark came over me and I became convinced that the dancing would not work in that space (“No room on the stage”).  When Alice came through my checkout line at the grocery store this afternoon, she gave me an amazing A-ha around all that.  We were talking about that crisis with the dancers and she said, “Sometimes you have to be willing to let go of your plans.”  This one sentence unlocked so much for me.  I have done a lot of improv – improv poetry, improv dancing, etc.  But we never get the trust thing fully handled.  Talking about the dancing that evening, which was going to be all improvised, it was suddenly all just too much spontaneity for me – too much improvisation.  My poem would be scripted, but everything around me would be uncontrolled.

What tripped me up – what almost tripped up our whole piece – was fear, the desire to control things.  And if anything were to trip up our piece for me Sunday night, it would be fear. I would freeze.  I would stop breathing.  I would stop flowing with the inbreath and outbreath of the piano and dancing flowing around me.  At this point I know that this is the nemesis and will be much less vulnerable to it.  And there’s the blessing I then got from Sharon.

Sharon shouldn’t even have been in my checkout line today.  Alice came through my line with a cart full of groceries at 6:23 – seven minutes before the end of my shift.  I immediately put up my “Lane closed” sign.  I wanted her to be my last customer for so many reasons: she’s beautiful, fascinating and we always have great conversations.  We would certainly have a great conversation about the show – which we did.

So Alice was supposed to be my last customer (think control).  But as she walked away, with me starting to pick up my area, up walked my dancer friend Michelle.  She had three items – and there were so many reasons to let her in!  She’s a good friend of my dancer Tom, she’s a dancer friend of mine – this would be great!  And it was great…except… When I let her in my line, my friend Sharon – with a lot more groceries – saw that my line was open and scooted on in.

My heart sank.  I genuinely was tired.  My dog would need to get out, and I had a lot of tasks queued up for tonight.  But Sharon is genuinely a very cool, deep person and I like her a lot – how could I callously point to the “Lane closed” sign and send her away?  The whole situation had spun out of control.  Had I made a mistake by letting Michelle in?  The mind-fucking had begun.

When Michelle left and Sharon moved forward, I immediately began to relax.  I’ve known Sharon in several contexts and her presence had always set me at ease.  I think she is very aware and spiritual and strong and genuine.  I was starting to get happy.  I pushed back my exhaustion,  reached down deep and pulled up the energy to genuinely encounter her.  And I got paid back beyond my wildest dreams.

If I was going to have one last conversation with a customer today, I was by God going to make that conversation be about the show.  Almost from the first syllable I uttered about it, Sharon started to light up.  By the time I had talked about the enchanted singer-songwriter, headliner of the show, Cecilia St. King, Sharon was filled to bursting.  “This show can’t go wrong because it is real.”  This absolutely hit a nerve for me.  Cecilia seems to me like the real McCoy – like what she is going to offer will come from a very deep and genuine place.  And I honestly feel the same about my poem.  And my pianist and dancers – all improvising – will also be delivering genuine pieces of themselves.

I told Sharon that I would love to have her at the concert  – that I think she would get a lot out of it and that it would be so encouraging for me to see her there in the audience.  We quickly ascertained that she would not be able to be there, but she said, “I don’t need to be there, because I’m there right now.  The concert is happening now.  It is totally surrounded by blessings.  It’s full of grace.  It is protected by God.”  I drank all this in deeply and told Sharon that now she would absolutely be there Sunday night – that I would carry her there.

I was totally blown away by this, but now to punch out, buy four little items, and get home to my dog.  In the back room where we punch out, Cameron (Cam) was also punching out.  I knew from an earlier conversation that he was working until 7 tonight – yikes! I was 30 minutes late clocking out.  But I still got happy.  Cam is one of my favorite co-workers.  He is sweet and smart and has almost zero ego.  I was trying to remember another conversation we had had a few days ago about the concert – but I couldn’t quite pull it up.

“Were you a maybe for the show, or a no?”  

“I guess I’m a maybe – there’s no reason I can’t go.” 

“Well I’ve said things like this to people about the show before, but – based on a conversation I just had – I’m going to say this with a lot more confidence than before.  If there’s any way you can get there, come.  You won’t regret it.  Something very special is going to happen and I don’t want you to miss it.”

I think he really got the message, because he sounded totally genuine (I think he doesn’t know any other way to be) when he said, “OK, I’ll be there.”  And I am really happy that he’ll be there – happy for us and happy for him.

“Everything is peaceful as long as you love.”

I was telling a customer about my blog and told him the title, “Resistance, peace and love.”

His six-year-old daughter, standing directly in front of me, had been listening intently to the whole conversation.  She said, “I wrote, ‘Everything is peaceful as long as you love.'”

Her dad could see how blown-away I was.  “Yep.  She wrote it right before the election.  I have it on my desk.”

I use the words peace and love in my blog title – what do I mean by them?  Since I put them in the title, I’m indicating that I’ll be working this terrain as long as I write the blog – but here are some passes at it.

  • The monks in their monasteries create peace on the planet by meditating, thinking peaceful thoughts, living peaceful lives.  I really do believe this – if it wasn’t for them, we might have blown ourselves up already. monk meditating
  • My friend Sally didn’t want to come to my support group meeting because I announced the topic as “What to do in the age of Trump?”  It just upsets her too much to talk about him.  She is determined to keep a peaceful consciousness – is she like the monks in their monasteries?
  • My work friend Joan has unplugged her Facebook account because all the political talk there was too disturbing to her.  She is a deeply sensitive artist.  Is it maybe her duty to the world to protect herself from stimuli that are going to hurt her?
  • I have friends who are angry at people who didn’t vote in the last election.  Is the anger part of the problem?  Do we need to find non-angry ways to influence people to vote?
  • Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist order practices “engaged Buddhism” – they directly intervene in the way of violence.
  • Martin Luther King and Rev. William Barber led marches of civil disobedience, where they intentionally broke the law to expose a wrongful law. martin-luther-king-being-arrested-PWilliam-Barber-Arrest
  • I just went through a four-hour training (a pittance) on civil disobedience – where some people knew at the start that they are ready to get arrested, some knew that they could not afford (for all manner of good reasons) to get arrested, and others like myself were in a process of discernment about whether we are ready to get arrested.   I honestly feel almost sure that I’m going to get arrested this year, but don’t logically understand why i think this and want to approach it thoughtfully.

Sometimes, behind my cash register, I feel like I am called to directly intervene in the direction of greater peace for a customer.  I may not even know from where is coming the impulse, but I trust it.

Today I had in front of me a young mom who was clearly at her wit’s end.  She had a maybe ten year old son down at the foot of aisle, leaning on her shopping cart – seeming to be very resentful.  She had a three-year old son who was running around making noise – yet still seemed to be very clearly a special kid.

I watched her somewhat rough attempts to quiet him and then finally,  spontaneously and warmly said, “That little boy has a very bright light around him.”

This seemed to take her aback and she said, “Right now he’s really misbehaving.”

“I know, he sometimes is going to be difficult, but he’s a real  special kid.”

Then I looked her straight in the eye and said, “And you are doing something very right with him.”  This last line really seemed to reach her.  She seemed to soften and I thought she might cry.  I think she felt seen, understood.forrtune teller

A couple of weeks ago, I had a young woman in front of me who seemed really tense, really down. I didn’t know as I was speaking it where this was coming from, but what came out was, “You are a deeply creative, artistic spirit.  This kind of depth is not always comfortable and you may even suffer from it.  But you are on the right track and it’s going to get easier.”  Her eyes got bright and I was really glad I had spoken.

This morning a woman who came through my line said, “Several months ago, I came through your line right after getting some bad medical news.  You looked me straight in the eye and said ‘This is all going to work out.’  You really set my mind at ease – you were an angel for me.  And it has worked out.”  How did I know that things were going to work out medically for her?  I feel sure that I would not have said it if I didn’t feel sure of it.

The other day, based on very little data, I said to a couple, “You two are really good together.  You  put out a great vibe.  It makes me happy to be around you.”  There are so many factors in this society that make it hard for a couple to stay together.  They may not have a lot of cheerleaders for their relationship.  I don’t know really what moves me to say stuff like this to a couple, but it feels like a calling.

I don’t know where these words are coming from, but I trust them.  There’s the risk of this being intrusive.  Certainly I have not contracted with the person for the right to deal with them so directly.  I seem to be finding a voice that I had not known before. It’s a gift to me – and a gift I am meant to share with others.

When the resistance is aimed at me…

Sometimes I am the oppressor.

It all started out fine.  I was asked if I would write a poem for a Peace Concert at Jubilee, my church, headlining the wonderful Cecilia St. King (“The Inner Peace Troubadour”).  I knew right away that I wanted to write the poem, committed to do it – and then it all spilled out pretty magically later that night.  I liked the poem – Sweet Peace – a lot.

I knew that I wanted music.  A couple of weeks ago I was talking to Robert Thomas’ girlfriend Rose at a concert and told her how well he and I have worked together in the past – me with my words, him with his piano.  She saw the light bulb go on in my head – of course, Robert and I are overdue to collaborate!  He was free for the date and liked the idea, liked the poem when I sent it to him.

I also knew that I wanted dancers: this is about liberation – give me the people!  Amanda Levesque, Tom Kilby and Giovanna Allegretti had just recently knocked my socks off with their dancing at a Fringe Festival show – and Tom and Amanda had worked with my poetry a year ago, and they are close friends of mine.kneeling

The three dancers all liked the idea, so we got together.  We talked a lot and didn’t dance.  We outlined nine sections: music only, words/music, words/music/dancers, etc.  It started to feel real and we got very  pumped.  We planned another rehearsal for the next week.

bowling
Giovanna and Tom hold Amanda

Just how or why the forces of oppression started to take over in my head I don’t know.   Was it all just too much creativity…too much collaboration….too much liberation?  The short form of the negativity that started to surface was “This is not going to work.”  It fixated on what had just so much excited me – the dancing.  “There’s not going to be room for the dancing.”  Truly, I had been picturing the room – which I know very well and have performed in many times – arranged in two different ways that would nicely accommodate dancing, but not how it will certainly be arranged for a musical concert.  I really started to sink.

I sent an email to my concert contact, but really did not brainstorm with him so much as lay out my case that it probably would not work to have three dancers – including one in an electric scooter.  He took the cue and agreed with me.

I sent a very apologetic email to Amanda, Tom and Giovanna – and felt terrible.  The next day I felt even more terrible.  I felt that something was going terribly wrong, that I was making a big mistake.

I came home after work and opened Facebook to a four-way conversation we had started the previous day.  Amanda had just, real-time, said  “I had the idea of doing a guerilla style performance!!! What do you guys think!??”

Amanda spirit
Amanda has a feisty spirit – she never quits.

They were considering going ahead and dancing anyway! I was shocked and confused.  It was my gig and I had said that the dancing was off – how could this be?  Then a huge weight started to lift off my shoulders and I started to get happy.  What if I didn’t get to decide?  What if  – having joined my troupe – they now owned the piece as much as I did?  What if they are artists just as much as I am?  What if their creativity is just as important as mine?  What if I am wrong about them not being able to dance on this stage?  What if they know more about their art than I do?

bowling2
Another night at the bowling alley…

Layers of patriarchy started to roll off me.  I began to cry.  It all suddenly felt so fucking good.

Amanda had asked, “What do you guys think?”

Tom had seen that I had come on the conversation and said, “I think with Majo’s OK?”

I wrote, “I can’t say OK, having negotiated with Jay that we would not do it. If, however, we have unleashed something that can’t be put back in the bottle, so be it. It seems to fit the liberation theme of the concert and is actually making me very happy. While I was feeling the need to pull the plug on the dancing – ‘There’s not enough room for it, it will be messy’ – I’ve been feeling very sad about it, it feels wrong.”

I went downtown to a meeting and came back to my computer later in the evening. Giovanna was just coming online.  She pushed us in a different direction: “I feel like a guest in someone else’s home; I’d rather ask for permission than ask for forgiveness….I’m a planner. 🙂 I like to know what to expect. And I like to remain mindful of others involved who might also want to know what to expect.”

This shifted me.  I started to feel empathetic for the guy I had been negotiating with, who was also going to be the guitarist for Cecilia.  If this dancing happened out of the blue – after he and I had agreed that it would not happen – it could throw him totally off his game.  Giovanna loudly agreed.

But I obviously had still not totally let go.  I proposed that I go to Jay the next day and basically threaten him that the dancers were in insurrection and might dance anyway.

Giovanna replied, “I would go to him and say that the dancers are flexible, adaptable critters and enjoy small spaces. We are willing to work with this restriction, if he would find that appropriate.”

So soft, so smart – and she’s so young!  I replied, “You are clearly not an anarchist like Tom and me – and maybe Amanda.”

“Haha nope! 🙂

Me: “We need some good anarchists, but what a mess this place would be if we all were!  I like this approach – and could see doing it in an email, maybe with your exact words. I’ll wait until I get a go from all three of you.

“Great. This is feeling good. Kudos to Amanda for boldly launching the whole guerilla riff – that turned everything around, really rescued the project; to Tom for doing good listening through all this – what a perfectly non-patriarchal role to play; and to Giovanna – coming into the stream when so much had already gone down – for so much grounded common sense and empathy for those receiving our initiations. And to me for being so willing to let the three of you influence me.”Head shot

And I do believe this was my biggest contribution to the process, was to let them influence me.  I cried at several points in the dialogue.  It was thrilling to not have to be in charge.  I am more sure than ever that our collaboration is going to be very exciting, regardless of the space…because we have created so much space.

The Angry Activist

While our goal may be to have our resistance emanate from peace and love, we are still human beings in a very difficult juncture for our country, dealing in Trump with an adversary who is extraordinarily hostile and dishonest and dangerous and who has gathered around him other life-threatening people like Pence and Bannon.  So we’re going to get triggered – and the challenge then becomes how to get ourselves back to a zone that is genuinely life-affirming.

Given all that, it is extraordinary that all through the election cycle and the first few weeks of Trump’s administration – until yesterday – I have never gotten really furious at Trump.  Angry, outraged, but never gut-level enraged – until yesterday.

Maybe it snuck up on me because I wasn’t ready for it. I was on a ten-minute break at work (I’m a cashier in a healthy supermarket) and checking my emails on my phone.  It was in this somewhat distracted environment that I read, in the Washington Post, an article about Trump accusing Barack Obama of wire-tapping Trump Tower.  Then, the real killer, he tweeted, “He’s a bad (or sick) man.”

All through the election campaign, I would get angry at Trump for stuff he said to and about Clinton.  I like her, admire her – supported her as a candidate, felt sure she would be a good president.  But I never loved her.  This is maybe why I never got really enraged about his attacks  on her.

Barack I love.  You don’t fuck with my Barack.  I considered changing that word to “mess with my Barack”.  What if there are children reading this?  Not likely.  Mess doesn’t capture it.  There’s something primal about my connection with Barack.  I admire him and his family so greatly that I feel protective of him.  Fuck with him you fuck with me.  So I was pissed. angry-demonstrator-girl

I didn’t have time to integrate this before my ten minutes were over and I was suddenly back in front of customers.  I tried to function, but I was seething.  This is a very liberal town and a very liberal store – you’re usually safe to criticize Trump.  Finally, after about twenty minutes of trying to function but really seething, I looked at the customers in front of me and made a snap judgment that this was a situation where I could get away with venting.

I had a short guy at 2 o’clock – who, looking back on it, really did look like a businessman.  Then, directly ahead of me – the next customer after the short guy – a big tall guy and at 10 o’clock a woman who seemed to be his partner.  I tried to keep some brakes on and ensure my safety.  “Would anybody mind if I vent about politics?”  The tall guy directly in front of me said, “I don’t think that would be safe.”

Now why did I decide that meant “Sure, go ahead”?  I’ll tell you why – because I just plain could not control it any more.  I couldn’t stop myself from venting, so I told myself this did not mean that he was conservative.  Actually he and the short guy both turned out to be conservative and the wife, who seemed very friendly through the whole encounter, never reported.

Actually I could not have been much luckier in my choice of conservative customers.  Neither of them ever showed any signs of getting genuinely angry – they mostly teased me about assuming that conservatives don’t buy healthy food.  I must have recovered pretty well too, because we overall had a very funny encounter.  As the tall guy was leaving, I said “For a conservative, you’re really funny.”

So I got off better than I had a right to, but this was not an example of healthy activism.  And I was still angry.  angry-demonstrator-guyActually the rest of my day was a story about how do you recover from getting really angry in the political wars.  Several things helped me to recover.

  • After the encounter with these three people, when I was still very raw and exposed, I just shut up and swiped groceries for a while.  And breathed.  Here – and really for the remaining five hours of my shift – the simple monotonous physicality of the work was soothing and helped me to get back into balance.
  • During some slow moments, I told one of my colleagues the story of me and the conservative customers.  While I’m usually pretty safe to assume that our customers are liberal, I’m maybe always safe to assume that with my co-workers.  I would be surprised if there is a one of them who is pro-Trump.  This is especially true of the front-end, where I really know these people.  So the co-worker I picked and I had gales of laughs over the story of my losing it with my venting.
  • I made a better choice of a customer to vent with about the news story – and we shared our outrage about Trump.  I discovered that we also shared a genuine love for Obama – and there was something very soothing about sharing at that level.
  • One thing I love about my job is the chance to affirm people.  I make a game of looking for just the right way to appreciate customers.  I leaned into that and it restored a healthy sense of positiveness.
    • “I like your hair.”
    • “What a great hat.”
    • “You have a perfect nose.”
    • “You two put out such a great vibe.  I bet people like being around you.”
    • “These are the most well-behaved children I’ve seen all day.”
  • The question I like to ask people on Friday and Saturday is “What’s something you are looking forward to this weekend?”  That also helped – on a day when I was still, couldn’t shake it, raw and angry – to surround me with positive energy.
  •   That night I went home and. after walking and feeding the dog, spent an hour at my computer doing good positive movement work – making contact with the leader of another resistance group.  I actually kept falling asleep over the email I was writing him, but it soothed me towards sleep.
  • This morning I woke up angry – that’s almost unprecedented for me.  But then I went dancing at 9 a.m. – my Sunday morning routine, with people i like and love – and that was very good for me.
  • This afternoon I got angry at my dog for ignoring my calls for her to come.  She’s an adorable, lovable little four-pound dog and I pretty much never get angry at her.  I’m not over it yet.

It’s a process – recognizing the anger, working with it, releasing it.  If I want to do civil disobedience, I’ll have to get better at it.  If I want to survive this period in our country’s life, I need to learn how to soothe myself.  If I want to be a healthy activist – if I want to really serve the resistance – I need to learn all I can about this.

A perfect evening of resistance

I arrived downtown about a half-hour early for the 9 p.m.”Casserole protest” at the city plaza/Vance Monument.  I considered just sitting in my car checking emails on my phone for the half-hour, but I was parked so near to one of my favorite clubs that it was an easy choice to leave the car.  The Block off biltmore is a beautiful space with a great vibe and all manner of progressive activities – and cool progressive people.  And Cam McQueen, the proprietor, is beautiful and charming and smart and a real progressive hero.  I have several topics I’d like to talk with her about, including having her club host a dance party I have in mind.  cam16583343_1830860833835527_4442902556837937152_n

I was in luck: Cam was there, and even had a few minutes to talk.  She warned me that she was wanting to get an early start home, but reassured me that she really did want to talk with me.  I didn’t have much time myself, so the timing felt fine – and we jammed a lot of great connecting into about 15 minutes.  I left feeling happy – reconnected with someone who is more and more feeling like a genuine friend.

Cacerolazo or “Casserole Protest” originates in Latin America, where people would protest the dictator by gathering in the town square to bang on pots and pans.  The MoveOn and Working Families Party leaders encouraged us to do this in cities across the country, as Trump was spewing his lies to Congress and the American people.  It was a way of saying, “We’re not listening to you.  We’re turning our backs on you.  You are not our president.  We’re going to sing and dance and come together.”  We may read the speech the next day, preferably the Washington Post annotated version, or listen to what Amy Goodman has to say about it – but tonight we will not give you the TV ratings. 

heatherandconnor
photo by Jeffrey DeCristofaro

When I arrived at the Monument a couple minutes early, three people were there: Sherry Vaughan, Heather and her son Connor.  Sherry was in her car waiting to signal us when the speech began – and mom and son were over by the monument, seeming to be enjoying each other’s company.

Heather and Connor really do seem to enjoy each other’s company – and to enjoy being themselves.  They are each of them fresh and unique – very much their own person.  And they have created a mother-son relationship that is very democratic – so unoppressive.  Heather seems to really support Connor just being himself – and he seems very comfortable in his own skin.  Together the two of them stand for liberation.

Sherry and I had lots of fun talking with each other – backing off a bit from our banging to hear each other, then leaning into it and letting out some hoots and hollers.  We debriefed the civil disobedience training that Sherry helped to organize on Sunday.  We debriefed the afternoon Resist Trump Tuesday rally, which she had not been able to make.  We celebrated our NC senator Richard Burr getting caught being Trump’s puppet.

I appreciated her for organizing the Sunday training.  I appreciated all the ways she is always appreciating me for my leadership of the group. This organizing work is a labor of love and in a very real way I don’t need the appreciation,  but it still does feel good.  Sherry and I are really developing a relationship for the long haul – over several different contexts, building our reality in connection with each other, supporting each other.  We talked at some length about the word “resist”: resistance we had run into from our friends about our use of the word (ironic, eh?) and how each of us had come to love the word now.

pack-sign
Photo by Jeffrey DeCristofaro

The four of us pot-bangers would ebb and flow with our instruments – sometimes beating our pots and pans very vigorously, other times letting the clanging go way back into the background.  It was a dance.

Two teenaged girls approached us in the dark and wanted to take a turn wailing on our pots and pans.  We thought that was great and made sure that each got a chance to try out all four pots. After they had been playing their hearts out for a while, one of us asked them if they had any idea what we were doing out here.  They acknowledged that they did not – in an innocent way that indicated that it had not occurred to them that this was a significant question.  But when we told them it was a protest against Trump’s speech, they thought that was great – and, who knows, this may have even have made them feel better about all their banging.

We didn’t have any signs.  Connor: “None of these people going by has any idea why we are doing this.”  Sherry: “Yeah, but doesn’t it feel great!?”  And it did feel great – so much better than sitting home helplessly while Trump promulgated his lies.  It was rally and team-building and play time all at once.  It fed us and will keep us going.  If the monks meditating in their monasteries help to make the planet a more peaceful place (I do believe this), then maybe us banging our pots and pans did the same.  Casserole protests were happening simultaneously in many cities across the country.  We were a little band, the four of us – but, by God, a casserole protest happened also in Asheville.

At 9:30, Heather and Connor had to leave to pick her husband up from work, so we called it an evening.  As I walked the three blocks back to my car, I decided to stop back in The Block to use the bathroom.  As I approached the club, it looked so beautiful shining out in the darkness – the bar really radiant and the back room a little more moody, belting out swing jazz from a live band and full of the whirling bodies of swing dancing.

the-block-lit-up
The Block in the evening – bar to the right, back room (dancing) to the left

As I approached the club, I asked myself would it be an even more perfect evening if I lingered in this beautiful room over a beer, rather than hurrying home to bed.  I did not agonize over that question, just trusted my actually peaceful and non-hurrying movement homeward.  Little did I know that I was actually going home to write, which pretty much always trumps almost everything else I might be doing, even sleep – it’s just the best.

And even the little hit of the beautiful aliveness of this club was enough. In the last two days, I had talked with three people about the need for us to stay balanced, enjoy beauty and have fun as we immerse ourselves in our political commitments – or even as we just lightly touch into this political cesspool, which can be so toxic.  Here I had the beauty of the club and the dancers and the music and Cam.  I had the remembrance of how important dancing is to me and how much fun I have in the 1-3 times a week that I do ecstatic dancing.

The signs by the bathrooms (in this HB2 oppressive anti-transgender bathroom state) somehow pulled the whole evening together.

bathroom-signs-1bathroom-signs-2

 

Called to be out of our comfort zone

It maybe doesn’t help anything for us to be terrified. If public speaking is our greatest fear, maybe that’s not what the movement is calling for from us.  But there’s a lot to be said for being out of our comfort zone.  And maybe, in desperate times like these, we are all being called to step out of our comfort zones – and maybe, some of the time, way out.

Attending a rally could be out of your comfort zone , but you may feel called to come to the  Asheville Federal Building on Tuesday afternoons.  Waving a sign may feel even more like you’re “looking for trouble”, but maybe you could make a sign about love.  Getting in front of the rally group and giving a ten-minute talk may feel scary, but maybe you are the person in the group who knows the most about climate change.

Joining your church social justice team may be out of your comfort zone.  Participating in that team’s Facebook page may feel even more like you are outing yourself.  Standing in front of the congregation with this team to have your work blessed may be excruciating – and may be just right for you at that particular time.

I’ve never been arrested for a sit-in – or for anything actually.  I just missed the window for the civil rights movement: I was a little too young, a little too green, a little too  Midwestern.  In my freshman year at my  junior college, one day our Greek instructor said, “I won’t be here next week  – I’m going to Selma.  You should too.”  But none of us was ready.selma

I keep having this vision that I’m going to get arrested this year.  I don’t know how or why or where, but it feels like a for-sure thing.  Our Resist Trump Tuesday rallies at the Federal Building are totally legal, totally safe – “Bring the kids”.  The federal security guards are “just here to protect you. If anybody gives you a hard time, get us.”  And mostly, aside from the occasional extended middle finger from a passing car, nobody does give us a hard time.

About three weeks ago, I read in a local newsletter that there would be information forthcoming about civil disobedience training.  I knew I was meant to go, but before I knew it the training had been announced and filled.  This morning I heard there was still a spot – Sunday afternoon.  But I really like the Mardi Gras parade in downtown Asheville at 3 p.m.  And I have a notion of a woman I want to invite.mardi-gras

So, obviously, I am not a movement hero.  My motivations are not pure.  I’m pretty human.  But it did not take long for my real calling to assert itself.   How long would it be before there would be another such training? With an illegal sit-in, civil disobedience training may make the difference between discomfort and terror.  And then sometimes, depending on how undisciplined are the police, it might still be terrifying – and even then you might still be in the right place at the right time.  And even when it’s scary, following our calling can be thrilling.

The Trumpites are not going to go easily.  These totally legal, totally safe rallies are great at this moment in time – but the time may come for breaking the law.

If the right next step outside of your comfort zone is to attend a rally, call me.  If giving a speech is scary but you think you are probably ready, I could be a good ally.  If you want to go to civil disobedience training, I’ve got the woman’s name.  If you want a sit-in buddy and think I could be it, let’s talk.  Whether it’s a sit-in at the EPA or handcuffing myself to a Latino neighbor being swept up for deportation, I want to be ready for the act that is maybe scary but maybe still right.

When love leads to resistance

A few weeks ago, I was out dancing with my friend Susan and her friend Lucy that I had never met.  I have a sloppy habit these days of assuming, when I am out among friends, that we are all on the same page regarding Trump.  I was about to be reminded of the limits of this assumption.

Lucy said, “I voted for Hillary, but now I figure we should give Trump a chance.  As long as he doesn’t take away my Medicare and Social Security, he’s OK with me.  I don’t care what he does about the environment and all that other stuff.”

People won’t be moved to resistance when they have a very tight little understanding of who they are and what’s important.  “If he’s not messing with my benefits, the hell with everybody else.” In Lucy’s case, her circle of importance was drawn so small that she would end up with no planet to live on.  amanda

About thirty years ago, at a period when I had no political or social action commitments, my ex-wife – mother of my son – got involved in the “sanctuary movement”, the effort to provide safe-haven to Latino people fleeing political oppression in Central American countries like Guatemala.  My response was not sympathetic.  While I never said this to her, my stance was, “Sandy, Sandy, Sandy – why?  We have problems enough right here at home.  We have a child to raise.  We have jobs to work.  This is not our  problem.”

A few months later, for some reason I cannot remember – just that I desperately needed this – I started reading a book about the “disappeared” in Guatemala, including very graphic pictures of the brutalized bodies of young men who had turned up dead.  Somewhere about halfway through that book I began to weep.  My hardened heart was melting.  “They” were becoming “we”.

Not much later, I was involved in a church social justice team and had a Guatemalan refugee family living with me.  They were an amazingly strong, sweet, beautiful family from whom I learned a tremendous lot.   Six months later – with a lot of help from the church group – Margarito was working in a factory, Maria was cleaning houses, and Adolpho and Regina were in school.  They took an apartment with his brother and family – and I missed them.  The situation did not arise in my life to move towards resistance for them or for Guatemalan refugees as a group, but I think I would have been ready.

sanctuary-citiesWe can be moved to resistance out of self-interest and anger or out of hatred for Trump.  Or we can be moved by love.  We can storm the airports after Trump writes the Muslim ban because we love the people whose lives are being disrupted.  We can take people into our homes when ICE is trying to sweep them up because they feel more like we than they.  When we rally in front of the Federal Building every Tuesday with our “NO BAN, NO WALL” and “WE ARE ALL IMMIGRANTS” signs, we can do it out of anger or out of love.

When we do our resistance, we can do it for ourselves or for our children and grandchildren.  This may be especially true for environmental issues – what kind of planet are we leaving them?  But it’s really true of all our resistance activities.  Do we want our children and grandchildren to live in/grow up in a country where people are oppressed for their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender?  Our work will have one kind of spin if we do it out of our personal values – great.  But if, in addition to that values piece, we do it out of love for the oppressed, even better.  And if we add on to that our love for our children and grandchildren – our desire for them to inherit a good world – then our resistance will be fully infused with love.care-for-the-most-vulnerable

 

 

 

Who’s the leader here?

When people arrive at the Federal Building for their first Tuesday rally, they often ask who’s in charge.  When the TV news crew arrived on Tuesday night, they right away asked the same thing. WLOS I knew after I had been interviewed that I hoped my footage wouldn’t be used.  That sweet young reporter asked tough questions!  And I didn’t have great answers.  I haven’t been calling, emailing and post carding anywhere near as much as some other people in the group.  I was mightily relieved, when I saw the story today, that my interview had been cut.  Some of the people who did make the cut were very eloquent, very dynamic, very touching.

Some people lead by the signs they make – those signs can have tremendous power, can change the dynamic of the rally.  equity-for-allSome people lead by starting a chant.  That injects tremendous energy.  Some people lead by the conversations they have during the rally.  They instruct, they encourage, they cheerlead.

Some people lead by what they post on the Facebook page. Facebook event page  They post the signs they intend to bring.  They offer some guidance about how we should keep going.  They may share their experience of the rally with others.

Anna led the other day by asking me how she could help me.  She said we need not to burn me out.  She was taking leadership – asking the leader to step outside of his comfort zone by receiving help. I said it would be great if she wanted to word process the email list.

Anna
Anna

She was happy to do it – and I was greatly relieved to have the help.  Another labor-intensive task that I have been happy to do, but don’t even know if it serves enough of a purpose, is posting photos from the rallies, Rally photos  Let me know if this is a function you value.  I love the photos and like that they are up there, but I may be the only one – and I honestly am not willing to keep doing it.

If we’re going to stop Trump, each of will need to step outside of our comfort zones.  Each of us will need to lead – maybe in ways we never have.

I choose you

I went to Ash Devine’s concert last night, “Songs of Love and Revolution.”  It lived up to its name: there was lots of love and lots of revolution.

But for me the biggest highlight of the evening was a song that Ash obviously values a lot, too, because she features it on her web site. Here’s the song: I Chose You.   Half-way through the song, she shifts from “I chose you” to “Life chose you”.  This is where it gets really juicy for me.ash

Ash has obviously paid attention to where life has chosen her.  She has surrendered herself to her music – the writing of it, the recording, the performing.  She has pursued healing clown work internationally.  Her clown colleague Charlotte said to me last night during the intermission that the radical part of that work is that you meet people on a deeper, more unvarnished way than people usually meet – and that you are doing it cross-culturally, with some undervalued and under-supported people.

Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis let life choose her to launch these rallies.  ellenIt was not her natural skillset.  Lots within her resisted the role.  But she didn’t see anyone else coming forward to do it – no one did for the first week of the national roll-out.  So at 10:30 p.m. on the second Monday she went into the MoveOn system and registered a 3 p.m. Tuesday rally.  The next day was full of stressful activities to make the rally happen.  She skipped breakfast.  She got a headache from not having her daily coffee.  She threw her shoulder out from carrying a big heavy table over to the rally site.  But she did it.  Forty-five people came. She knew that it wasn’t going to work for her to do this every week, but she let life choose her for the first week.

When I arrived at that Tuesday rally, I knew that I needed some greater political involvement to work against what I see as very destructive forces afoot in our country.  So when I met Ellen and she very quickly told me that she was looking for somebody to take over organizing the rallies, I recognized this as a calling – life was choosing me.  majo-pussy-powerI actually do have some of the needed skill set.  I worked for many years in organization development, specializing in team development and management coaching.  Before that, I worked for 20 years as a clinical psychologist – helping people to develop and groups to function more effectively.

I also am a writer – who for the last many months have been lacking a project.  The day after I agreed to organize the rallies, I had a shock of recognition around writing – this is it!  I’ll write a blog about our rallies.  And that previous day, our first day of rallies, I was handed the theme of the blog.  When some friends objected to the title of the rallies – they didn’t like the “resist” in “Resist Trump” – I knew that we needed to integrate “Resistance, peace and love”, that maybe the whole movement needs to do that.

It’s not all a slam-dunk for me – and sometimes I just plain think I can’t do it. While I only work part-time and I don’t have family responsibilities pulling at me, time management is a chronic issue for me and I tend to feel that I don’t have enough time.  I’m a natural networker, but I feel intimidated by the panoply of social and political change groups in this town – mostly led by people with greater activist credentials than myself.  I’m not always good at asking for help and may burn myself out.  And I share with maybe most activists an occasional despair about any of this making a difference.  Yet, bottom-line I keep coming back to a powerful felt sense that I have been chosen to do this..

How about you?  What is life choosing you to do?

  • Did it choose you to go to the Women’s March here in Asheville or in Washington?
  • Is it choosing you to go to the Tuesday rallies?  To make signs for the rallies – a huge contribution?  To promote these rallies to your friends? Tuesday rallies
  • Is it choosing you to read this blog?  To build community among us by writing comments?  By writing guest posts?
  • Is it choosing you to write letters or postcards to your legislators?  To make calls to them?

When life chooses us to do something, there may be a shock of recognition – we know it’s right.  There may be a sense of relief – we don’t need to keep looking.  There may be a sense of overwhelm – “This is too much for me.”  There may be a feeling that we don’t deserve it, that we’re not good enough for it.

Yet when we surrender to who we really are, to what life is calling us to do, life can get easier (even as we are moving mountains), more satisfying, happier.  I intend to frequently listen to Ash’s song (link above) and to talk with my friends about how we each are being called.  Some of that conversation can happen right in these pages.  See if you are called to write something.