A Time to Resist: Awakening Soul Force

Awakening Soul Force.jpg

"'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo. 'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

This time has been given to us--and it is a time that calls for great moral courage and clarity of purpose. It is a time when we are asked to resist injustice, resist bigotry, resist the targeting of vulnerable minorities, resist racism in all its forms. It is a time when we must stand up for Mother Earth and all her species, more strongly than we have ever done before. It is a time when we must wake every morning and set our moral compass.

For some of us, it is inevitably a time when we experience a sense of threat. If we are undocumented, we fear deportation. If we are Muslim, we fear being put on a registry. If we are African-American, we fear increased racial profiling. If we are in the LGBTQ community, we fear the loss of marriage equality. If we are women, we fear the erosion of our reproductive rights. If we are rape survivors, we fear the normalization of rape and sexual harassment. If we have come here fleeing an authoritarian regime, we wonder if history is repeating itself. Where now can we go?

For others of us, the threat may be less evident. It is tempting to look on the bright side; after all, it's only four (or eight) years. The People have spoken (sort of, as Hillary won the popular vote). Now we need to give Trump a chance. It is tempting to accommodate, to look the other way, to get on with our own lives. And this is why we need to set our moral compass every single morning as we awaken to a new day. Is racism permissible, because it won't affect us? Are deportations acceptable, if our family won't be deported? Is persecution of a religious minority acceptable, because we don't belong to that minority?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller.

We face, at best, a presidency that could set us back fifty years in terms of civil rights, LGBTQ rights, women's rights and basic human rights. Let us remember how hard-won these rights are. People struggled and died to get us where we are today. And we need to gain much more ground before minorities truly have equal protection under the law.

At worst, we face the erosion of our democracy and its transformation into a Fascist autocracy. American exceptionalism may lead us to think, 'It couldn't happen here.' We have a constitution, a Bill of Rights; we have strong democratic institutions. Yet many, even today, do not experience all of these rights--the right to a speedy trial, for example. Our rights will last as long as we defend them, not just for ourselves but for all segments of society. Our institutions will not protect us--we need to protect them.

This time has been given to us; and it is a time to awaken soul-force, satyāgraha. Soul-force is a Gandhian concept that has become part of the American psyche through the work of Martin Luther King Jr. The Civil Rights Movement was powered by soul-force.

'Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement 'satyagraha', that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence.'

Gandhi: Satyagraha in South Africa.

'Non-violence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It does not mean meek submission to the will of the evildoer, but it means putting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. Working under this law of our being, it is possible for a single individual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honour, his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire's fall or its regeneration.'

Excerpt from Gandhi's writings.

We see this soul-force demonstrated today by the Water Protectors who stand in peace and prayer in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Faced with tear gas, mace, rubber bullets, water cannon and LRAD noise bombs, they continue drumming, chanting, praying and standing their ground. The Water Protectors are willing to die to save the Missouri for all our grandchildren. This is satyāgraha.

This time has been given to us. It is a time to use our freedom of speech while we still have it; a time to assert our right to free assembly; a time to defend press freedom as reporters from prestigious media outlets shiver in the cold outside Trump National Golf Club, waiting for scraps of information. It is a time to protect our democratic institutions, not to wait for them to save us. It is a time to uphold the rule of law.

This time has been given to us. It is a time to overcome our fear, thinking of others who have more reason to be afraid. Today we all need to stand in soul-force, ready to defend our cherished freedoms. For so many, these freedoms have yet to become a reality. To allow them to be further weakened would be a catastrophe. As a nationalized citizen, I have taken a vow to defend the constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, inner and outer. I pray that you will join me in this endeavour, for this time, a time for soul-force, has been given to us all.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

But if I am only for myself, who am I?

If not now, when?"

Rabbi Hillel, Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14


Thank you to activist Marty Rosenbluth for calling my attention to the opening quotation from Lord of the Rings.

See also my post Dear Mr. Trump, here's why you are not 'my' president. http://www.alandiashram.org/mas_blog/2016/11/dear-mr-trump-heres-why-you-ar.html

Further reading: mostly excerpted from a list compiled by Professor Jeff Colgan of Brown University. Also see his Google Doc on Risk of Democratic Erosion https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxqZWZmZGNvbGdhbnxneDozN2RmZGMzMmEyOWRmNjM5