“Ben Franklin warned his pals—the other Founders—that unity was the overriding goal as they struggled for freedom from British rule.”
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Hang together or hang separately
By Tom H. Hastings
Ben Franklin warned his pals—the other Founders—that unity was the overriding goal as they struggled for freedom from British rule.
Today, that remains true as we struggle for freedom from Trump and his authoritarian ambitions.
I am going to go so far as to paraphrase Malcolm X, uniting him and Dr. King: By any nonviolent means at our command.
If this means getting out the vote for Biden and Harris as a stopgap, so be it.
If this means offering nonviolent resistance to any influencer or decider who declares Trump the victor before the votes are legitimately counted, that is what is required.
And if it’s understood that Trump lost but he’s engaged in the machinations he’s already signaled in order retain power, seriously, we need to shut down the country until he’s out the door.
We cannot win using violence. The combination of the armed agents of the state and Trump’s paramilitary alt-right brownshirts will slaughter people and cause popular sympathy to shift toward Trump as the one who can bring law and order.
No, he actually can’t—as we plainly see, with far less law and order than we’ve had in generations—but the tool of the autocrat is always the claim that He is The One who can do that. The best way, by far, to generate enough widespread participation in resisting him will be to stick to nonviolent discipline. It brings more gain with less pain and this is documentedin case after case, around the world.
Is using nonviolence a guarantee? No, but it is by far the best bet. There are no guarantees.
It’s time for moderate Republicans to really think about this. We who have not voted Republican in the past are asking now, will you join us in defending our threatened democracy?
It’s time for police and Border Patrol, ICE, and Homeland Security officers and members of all branches of the armed forces to declare their loyalty to the Constitution, not to one ambitious ruler.
It’s time for the business community to make a stand with the rest of us, to lean into protecting themselves from the chaos that Trump has sown and will make ever worse if he remains past January 20.
It’s time for all peace, justice, and environmental activists and supporters of all those campaigns and movements to unite, to pledge to nonviolently resist.
Yes, there will be mistakes, there will be ill-advised acts of violence against Trump and his supporters. Nonviolent scholar and strategist George Lakey correctly advises us, when that happens, reset and recommit to nonviolence.
It is clear that our immediate work in a democracy is to get out the vote and to protect voting rights. This is our primary task until the election.
But concomitantly, we need to think beyond that. Trump and his minions are doing so. To begin planning resistance isn’t premature, it is adaptive.
On this matter, police who want a real democracy should be reaching out to Black Lives Matter. LGTBQ activists should be reaching out to Christians and Muslims. Environmental activists should be in dialog with the business community. Antifa should commit to nonviolence and enter into discussions with members of the military.
If this is unrealistic, so is keeping our democracy. I have been a critic and opponent of many US policies for decades, but at this moment I’m committed to nonviolent defense of the democracy that gives us all the choices we say we cherish and that gives us endless promise of improvement and advancement.
Can we look past the many divisive problems and unite in this cause? Once Trump is out we can go back to bickering with each other, but this is a transcendent period we are coming into. Now is when we all earn our stripes, swallow our ego needs, and say, this is bigger than me. We need to put up with each other for a few months while we preserve the basics of our 244-year experiment in People Power.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Coördinator of Conflict Resolution BA/BS degree programs and certificates at Portland State University, PeaceVoice Director, and on occasion an expert witness for the defense of civil resisters in court.