On inauguration day 2017, Greenpeace hoisted a banner behind yet above the White House that said “Resist.” I loved the boldness of the act and the way it “welcomed” the new administration to Washington. At the same time, the Indivisible movement was building, and they too adopted the term Resist as they began to challenge Trump’s agenda using the old Tea Party strategy of showing up to Congress member town halls and making themselves heard.
I identified with the word and its implications in these times when civil rights, healthcare, and nature are assaulted, and yet something about the concept left me feeling uncomfortable. Maybe it was the voice of a friend from some environmental activism quoting Carl Jung in saying “What you resist persists.” Or maybe it wasmy exposure to the stance of nonviolence advocated by Ghandi and King and my admiration for the Zen Peacemaker approach, which stresses “not knowing,” “bearing witness,” and “compassionate action.” Perhaps my discomfort stemmed from my concern that the challenge is so daunting and comprehensive that I wouldn’t have the energy to resist, to fight, for years to come. Maybe it was the fact I’d been on the losing side as corporate interests bowled over citizen stances in my own small Colorado city.
And yet I wanted to be out there with marchers, standing for all I hold dear. I wanted to focus on what I was for, to “stand up.” I wanted to hold a stance that reflected my love for life, my passion for nature and for justice, one I could hold no matter what happened out there on the streets or resulted from the sea of influences converging in our out-of-balance world. In the midst of the turmoil and breakdown occurring I knew what I stood for, and I knew many others did too. Regardless of party, race, religion, or region, regardless of stance even on climate change or immigration, most want clean air and water, good healthcare, opportunities for meaningful work, politicians who listen to their constituents. We can start there I thought, find these values we hold in common.
Recently I heard a podcast in which The New School at Commonweal featured mythologist Caroline Casey. Casey noted that Resist is a basic, elementary concept for concerned citizens. She praised the Standing Rock movement and its ability to set a stage and tell a story for what they were standing for, and she noted that instead of calling themselves “protestors,” a word which, she says, means “grab them by the balls” in LATIN, a word that connotes fighting against. I looked “protest up in Merriam Webster to verify, and I found it means to assert publicly, “assert” coming from “testare” or “testis,” which means “witness.” I love that the people at Standing Rock, that Native peoples, call themselves “protectors” of the land, water, people. The thousands that visited or inhabited Standing Rock emphasized their interdependence with the river and chanted “water is life.” They told the story of how Native women were protectors of the water, and how the people know their reliance on water and treat it with respect.
Their stance, their peacefulness, and the unity of so many tribes made an impression on many American youth who traveled to be part of the move to protect water and to acknowledge our connection with it. It captured the imagination of war veterans, of Christian clergy members, of Buddhists and Hindus.
Those protectors modeled for me how to express my love for nature and my conviction that we must treat her well. They showed me how to stand up, how to stand for, what I love and cherish in this life. They reminded me that we actually are one with the land, dependent on clean water and air, and on each other. I now remember and know clearly what I stand for: Respect for nature, and respect for all God’s creatures, human and animal. A just and moral society in which we care for one another and engage in practices and ceremonies that honor creation, that tame our minds and egos and help us remember who we are and of our interconnectedness. A society of people always learning to be humans fitting of the name.