In this week’s edition of Blinks, our staffers reflect on recent moments of resistance, from marches to hunger strikes.
Tampons intertwined with braids and people wearing costumes designed to look like breasts stared at me as I made my way through the Women’s March on NYC.
Many clever signs plastered with resistance messages flanked the sides of the rally, as thousands of people made their way through the horde of people expressing their dislike—their disgust.
One verbal form of resistance, however, stood out among the witty signs, pussyhats, and colorful flags: the soft voice of a seven-year-old girl.
She had on the off-duty uniform of many middle schoolers: patterned leggings, glittery tennis shoes, and a fluorescent coat. Slouching, her rosebud mouth sprinkled with her breakfast, she looked up at her mother and said, “Mommy, I’m uncomfortable.”
Her mother, who worea shirt with a peace sign and held hands with her older daughter, in a sea replete with anger and peace, hate and love, pessimism and optimism, attempted to ease her child.
And invigorate her.
“Well, honey, think how uncomfortable you will be when all of your rights are taken away. I know it’s uncomfortable to stand, but we must. We must.”
And the seven-year-old stood straight.
I keep ending up in front of Trump’s buildings. It’s never intentional. I turn around, and there they are, with their gaudy, all-capital signs. The night before the Women’s March, my friend Emily and I are in Midtown for dinner and a walk. We wind our way through the sidewalks, colliding occasionally with tourists.
“Hey, look at all the police,” I call out, pointing to a sea of officers. Police cars, trucks, and barricades come into view. It seems odd, but this is New York, and police, though generally less obvious, aren’t an unusual sight. We turn the corner.
Lo and behold, Trump Tower, looming. I feel dumb, ridiculous. I know there will be a protest tomorrow—I can practically see the crowd, with its pink hats and cardboard declarations, moving slowly by the building. On the sidewalk, alone, a bearded man decked out in Trump apparel waves the American flag. I catch his eye, and in spite of myself, I cannot look away. The one time I stumble onto a protest, it’s nearly midnight, and it’s this. This middle-aged man stares resolutely at the passersby, saying nothing but making a clear statement. This isn’t the protest I expected to see—if you can even call a Trump supporter standing alone in the night a protest. The police are eyeing him cautiously. It’s very militarized. The entire area seems prepared for a fight.
But there is no fight. The Women’s March does pass by Trump Tower, peacefully. If the lone Trump supporter is there, he certainly doesn’t make headlines.
I call this the ghost protest phenomenon. I see people carrying their signs on subways, walking by me on the street, all going somewhere. Twice, I see police closing off streets, sealing off sidewalks, and waiting for protesters I never actually see protest.
I’m in class, and I hear yells and chants outside. I strain my neck, but I cannot see the crowds. By the time I leave class, it’s over—the crowds have dispersed.
Of course, this isn’t unlike the resistance in general—the majority of a protest happens in planning and setting up a behind-the-scenes dance we don’t often witness. While it’s not all I’ve witnessed (I lend my voice to those chants, too), it’s changed my perspective. Much of the movement is done with quiet diligence. Unfortunately, much of this administration is the same—subtle and pernicious. I cannot tell where this movement against Trump will go next. But I am encouraged that, months after the inauguration, I will still see people marching through the New York streets, carrying their signs. Ready for whatever comes next.
Tiny rubber rain boots of canary yellow, cardinal red, and parakeet green splash through puddles and sing songs of respect. Tiny gloved hands hold on to cardboard paper signs that read messages of love, tolerance, and acceptance—words those tiny gloved hands probably had not written. A dozen umbrellas, a dozen raincoats, and a dozen tots lead me to believe that I’ve walked through the cutest kindergarten parade on this grey, cold, glum day.
But this isn’t a parade.
The signs, clearly made by larger gloved hands that probably do know how to write, are pointed and direct. Because it’s Jan. 20, 2017, and Donald Trump has just become President Donald Trump. And on this Jan. 20, the signs are important. Because no matter how cute these tiny tots are, they’re most likely the youngest members of a long-drawn protest that will probably last longer than our president’s four-year term. This isn’t a kindergarten parade; it’s a tiny sliver of a resistance that we have a duty to partake in.
About a week after Donald Trump was elected, many penguins declared that he was not their president. Standing in front of a dance club named Dance Club, these penguins gathered together in what was ostensibly a protest.
These penguins, though they looked colorful and cartoony and unlike “real” penguins, were not virtual. Or, well, they were—they were virtual in the same way that your Facebook profile is virtual, the same way that all those articles and videos about Trump are virtual. Virtual, but not.
The NPR piece about these virtual-but-not penguins notes that the protest is just another marker of “political activity in a space designed for kids to have fun, in a safe and protected space online.” It would be a trite observation for me to say that the Internet is a pervasive, malicious, and echo-chambery monster. For every kid who sees people stand up to Trump, another finds a hateful, misogynist, and racist corner of the monster instead.
If the Internet is a battlefield for resistance, how do we find and create spaces that keep kids—or anyone who needs it, really—safe?
Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington is the largest immigrant detention center on the West Coast. It’s owned by GEO Group, a massive, private prison corporation that is currently facing a class action lawsuit arguing that the company is violating federal anti-slavery laws. And this April, immigrants detained at the center in Tacoma went on a hunger strike to protest conditions. The strike started on April 10 at noon, when a hundred detainees refused to eat lunch, and went on to include more than 700 immigrants. Their demands included more immediate medical care, more recreation time, properly cleaned laundry, reasonable commissary prices, access to educational programs, and a raise to a $1 daily wage. A lot of these people have been there for months, even though they haven’t gone on trial. I will never get over the absurdity of having people put their lives on hold and live in a virtual prison, or leave the country, because they don’t have a paper that says they can live on one side of an imaginary line.
I was not terribly impressed with the Women’s March. (I’m not even sure marches are a good way to effect change at all, but I will leave that discussion to a later date.) I know a lot of people went and felt inspired because a lot of people went. But I also know that most of the people who marched have not considered activism since, because they haven’t needed to. The people at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma needed to. So, when I was asked to write about an inspiring protest moment, their strike is what came to mind. I think it's important to support marginalized people who are resisting on a smaller scale, like the immigrants in Tacoma, or people who are, distressingly, trying to fund their own healthcare on GoFundMe. Addressing inequality in this country will require radical and structural change, like ending mass incarceration and providing truly universal healthcare. But for a lot of people, resistance means survival.
I hate the feeling of being powerless. Which is exactly how I felt on Nov. 8, and again on Jan. 20. More often than I would care to admit, I remained holed up in my room, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I resent the days that I feel were stolen from me. “What can I do?” I would repeat over and over in my head. What could I possibly do, in the face of such hate? What power do I have to curb the damage of these heart-shattering four years to come?
And then, I realized the simple, yet significant form of resistance that I could engage in: If I wanted to fight this administration, I needed to alter my daily actions into a form of resistance, in any way I could. And I don’t mean dropping out of school to become a full-time protester or to live in a tree that one too many logging companies want to cut down. We can resist Trump’s agenda by staring at the issues we care about in the face. This begins with conscious consumerism. We don’t only cast votes on election day, because with every dollar we spend, we are casting a vote for what kind of world we want to live in.
This is why after Trump’s election, I decided to go back to my high school diet of eating as vegan as possible. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change, which not only kills the only planet we have, but also disproportionately affects women, people of color, and low-income families. With every choice I make, at every meal I eat, I know that the right choices can indirectly combat Trump’s blatant disregard for this global crisis.
And it doesn’t have to just be about food. I have heard of students changing their banks from the ones that invest in human rights violations (plug: Dakota Access Pipeline) and choosing to purchase clothes that are produced locally and ethically. Or, simply listening when others are suffering, instead of raising their voices even louder. These subtle, yet daily and deliberate acts resist the very philosophy of hate and intolerance that Trump has preached every day since he announced his campaign.
Protesting is crucial. Posting our thoughts and voices on social media is a necessity. But we resist by changing ourselves—being a resistance in any way that we can. It’s the basic capitalist principle of supply and demand. If we do not demand it, it will not be supplied.
On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, the world stopped. I know, because I saw it happen. In my own bubble, where I was watching the 58th American presidential election unfold at Mel’s Burger Bar, the atmosphere turned from the buzz of nervous excitement to the dull but menacing ringing of alarm. I remember the night as a void, where my experiences were described by the absence of anything: Every time a fearful and disillusioned patron left the normally upbeat Mel’s, the sound of the slamming door seemed to pierce the silence. Later, as I was sleeping, I could hear people’s cries slice across a barren Broadway.
My walk to class the next morning felt unusually empty, far from the usual hub of students striding across Low Steps en route to breakfast or to their 10:10 a.m. classes. As I climbed the seven flights of stairs in Hamilton Hall, I did not face the usual mob of students that packed the staircases. Arriving on the seventh floor, I found my 80-person lecture about a quarter full. There was no competition for front-row seats that day, but I still trudged toward the back to be near the windows. Even the cool rain that slid down the glass panes seemed to know that the world had turned into a void, as it appeared to have come to fill the empty space.
On the day following Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States, much of our community responded by putting life on pause. The election seemed to have the same effect that a bad illness has: It was a reason to take a moment for oneself, to resist falling into the invariability of everyday life, and to make the point that sometimes, outstanding circumstances will prevent the continuation of business as usual.
At the start of class, my professor stood up behind his podium, cleared his throat, and took some seconds to gather his thoughts before he addressed us. Naturally, I expected him to comment on the events that had transpired and changed the nation less than 12 hours before. He acknowledged that he knew we expected remarks about the elections. Instead, he reminded us that, while we might have felt shocked and troubled, perhaps the strongest show of solidarity would be to resist allowing Trump to cut into our daily lives. And the best way to do that was to talk about Hamlet.
Much like the election itself, my election night watching party was a bit of a farce. In a friend’s Carman dorm, the room was divided between those of us who were watching with relative indifference and those who were gradually falling into a state of emotional distress as more and more states were colored in red.
Somewhat celebratorily, one of of the indifferent ones—not a Trump supporter, but an outspoken libertarian—started dancing to the song “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” in a way that was more festive than rebellious.
Around the same time that the dancing started, a collection of dejected girls started to do shots. The shots were considerably less joyful than the dancing.
Someone, whose name is unfortunately lost to me, once defined comedy for me in words that vaguely resembled these: “Comedy happens when two people with different perceptions of an event collide.”
This definition of comedy was applicable not only to my watching party, but also to the nation as a whole on that night in November. In every state, ecstatic Trump supporters were put into sharp contrast with despondent Clinton supporters. While some Americans threw their red hats in the air, others fell into each other’s arms crying.
At the watch party, I was in the indifferent group and watched Trump’s slow conquest with a sense of resignation more than anything else.
Leading up to the election, I had been listening to political pundits like Dave Rubin and Michael Moore who had all, despite not being Trump supporters, predicted his victory in what now seems like almost prescient detail.
In Michael Moore’s “5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win,” the author predicted that factors in the economically depressed Rust Belt—Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio—would all go red and result in Trump’s victory. Since its publication, these predictions have become reality.
As a Democrat, I believe we need to understand why so many other Americans felt disenfranchised enough to vote for a man whose presence in the White House now seems like a running joke. The only form of resistance against Trump that will be effective in the coming years is one that accounts for the fact that there will also be resistance against the resistance—and that these people are also Americans.
It is only through this understanding that we will able to turn the national comedy that is our current government into the serious drama that so many Americans believe it should be.
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