Abigail practicing nonresistance with both her sign and hat in September, 2017
Before you accuse me of taking the Trump administration and its policies too lightly, take a moment to consider the word associations below:
Nonresistance: Using existing forces to create/inspire, using what you have; acceptance, malleable, limber
Resistance: Fighting against, going against the flow; denial, brittle, stubborn
Resistance in 2016-2017
“Resist” – a firecracker of a word that entered the vernacular of this country the dawn of November 9, 2016, and quickly became to symbolize the movement of Americans who took offense and alarm at Trump’s rhetoric. For those actively taking action against Trump and his administration, it has become a way of life, and a uniting rallying cry for myriad causes, activists, artists, and ordinary citizens. However, despite all this, I would like to make the case for nonresistance in the face of great adversity that many of us experience on a daily basis. Perhaps, with another glance over the words above, you may begin to understand what I mean when I call for nonresistance over the urge to resist.
Over the past few months, I, along with like-minded individuals, have gone through a flurry of emotions since we woke up to the news that Donald J. Trump had beaten Hillary Clinton to clinch an electoral college win. What started with tears, and a dark sense of foreboding, quickly turned to horror, disbelief, and anger, as his rhetoric transformed into policies and our fears morphed into reality. I myself participated in the Women’s March, Climate Change March, and attended multiple rallies on Capitol Hill. I wrote letters, made phone calls, and posted defiant messages on social media. I resisted.
There comes a point though, when perpetual resistance becomes exhausting. None of us have the time to attend rallies every day, and, unfortunately, my D.C. senator cannot cast a vote due to the fact that the District lacks official statehood (my theory is that the Republicans won’t vote for it due to an overwhelming Democratic-leaning demographic in the city). While our court systems are doing a stand-up job of slowing down and diluting many of the policies coming out of the Administration, citizens do need to play an integral part if our Republic (and non-majoritarian democracy) is going to survive. And this is where we can practice nonresistance.
Gandhi & Nonresistance
I find my inspiration for nonresistance (or passive resistance, civil disobedience, and nonviolence resistance) from Gandhi and the principles he practiced in India when fighting the British occupation. Some examples of nonresistance include strikes, boycotts, fasts, sit-ins, and work-ins. It also refers to (and I love this), the disruption of established patterns of behavior by the creation of new ones. While I won’t dive too deep here into the details of his tenets, the links above provide a fairly comprehensive look into his philosophies, and I would encourage you to read them if you have the time. I will, however, provide a modern update to nonresistance in the Trump era, and provide some concrete actions for you to take starting from the moment you finish reading this post.
Nonresistance & You
For some, nonresistance may mean switching where you buy groceries and clothes from big box retailers that contribute to pollution and degradation, to local, sustainably-sourced, products. Or, perhaps it means saying “hi” to your neighbors instead of casting your eyes to the side when you walk by them. It might also take shape in the form of self-care, making time for meaningful social interactions, and volunteering for an important cause. While nonresistance has the prefix “non” in it, rather than not doing something, be proactive in what you pursue and in it, seek a higher purpose. For me, it means, staying positive and hopeful; reading, educating myself; donating to organizations with which I share similar values; and creating this blog. Here I’m able to express my artistic side, amplify my voice, and foster connections.
Nonresistance also means staying true to one’s values; despite harmful, new Trumpian policies, and always, always setting an example of empathy. I do this by thinking to myself: what would I do, or how would I feel, if I were in their shoes? Indeed, to understand is to forgive.
Another way we can exemplify nonresistance is by refusing to hold ourselves to diminished standards for our words and actions, and treating others with love, kindness, and compassion, despite how our President chooses to act. Nonresistance also requires us to tell the truth, even if others may call it “#fakenews”. As Gandhi explains, each person possesses part of the truth. I don’t hold a monopoly on the truth, and neither does the President. And, although I hate to admit this: even Trump’s truth is his truth, as much as my truth is mine. Share your truth by sharing your story. Facts can be argued with, but your personal experience is watertight. No one can tell you what you lived through wasn’t true. Sharing your truth will most likely necessitate more courage than will spouting off statistics, but I can guarantee that it will be much more effective in touching others on a personal level.
In closing, I want to encourage you to find ways to practice nonresistance. I’d like to tell you that it will be easier than resisting, but, despite its name, it will most likely require more effort than holding a sign at a rally or making a phone call to your representative (but don’t stop doing that either!). Nonresistance calls for us to go inwards and ensure that our personal words and deeds are of the highest moral caliber. It insists upon creative new solutions, human connection, and truth and love above all.