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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Resistance Speech

Today's Post is a speech I gave at a Resistance gathering in Utica, NY as part of the demonstrations that were held in the United States - and in several countries around the world - to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump to the Office of President of the United States.  I hope it reminds us that we have a duty to protest and resist whenever democratic values are threatened; that we also have a duty to use that right in a bold, positive, reasoned and effective manner.   This POST is also meant as a thank you to all the participants around the globe yesterday, especially those at the three events that took place in Utica, NY.  

The challenge facing us now is how to keep the Resistance alive for the next four years.  That will be the test of our commitment to democratic values as Citizens of this nation, and to human rights as Citizens of this World.    
Anti-Trump Unity Rally
January 21, 2017
Utica, NY

This talk today was advertised as being about resistance.  And indeed, we must be ready to resist whatever Donald Trump and his followers – including our new congresswoman – attempt to do that is harmful, hurtful and demeaning of people and destructive of our democracy.  We must be prepared to counter that which leads us away from our constitution, away from our moral underpinnings and away from our mutual responsibility for each other.
While I stand firmly on the side of resistant actions that display our objections to injustices and to inequality of access and opportunity, I want to accentuate the positive approach that was an important part of President Obama’s farewell speech on January 10th

And let me begin where he began – with us.  Change happens when people of hope and good-will engage with each other to forge that more perfect union that was set in motion over 2 and 1/4 centuries in our past.  We can handle dire current challenges by working to make people’s lives better with greater economic opportunity, by upholding laws and policies that prevent discrimination, separation and denigration of people, and by knowing that the long sweep of our history has favored a progressive advance toward realization of that ideal of equal justice-for-all forged centuries ago.

Fear-mongering, contempt, intolerance, bullying and the attitude that might makes right are not helpful in the quest to expand the rights, the liberties and the opportunities for every member of this society.  Walling off portions of our nation and protecting privileges of a small percent of our population, pulling back into protective enclaves is not the way toward inclusion and unity out of diversity. 
President Obama pointed out that the worst threat to our democracy is when good people choose to do nothing; taking Democracy for granted.  We must throw ourselves into the work that strengthens democracy; And we must certainly seek to enlist others in this cause because, as President Obama said:  the most important office in our democracy is that of Citizen.
 He even laid out for us some of the necessary attitudes and actions we citizens must cultivate:
  • We must Reject attempts to enfeeble our sacred ties to one another for it weakens the underpinnings of Democracy when we write-off certain people and deny our responsibility to care for one another.
And those first attempts have already begun in the new Congress: our new congresswoman recently voted in favor of cutting off funds to the UN; she also voted for a budget resolution designed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  And we face the approval of cabinet nominees who basically reject the mission and purpose of their assigned departments and seem poised to eliminate some vital functions that will more than weaken our democracy. 

·       Run for office.
  While Democrats ignored local politics and needs, the Republicans took over school boards, town boards, county legislatures, college curricula, state legislatures and a hefty portion of Governorships.  It is necessary for us to be candidates, find candidates, train candidates and win local elections, and even to help fill empty Party Committee seats in other towns and cities where some party committees don’t exist right now.  We have to build from the bottom up; not from the top down.
·         What President Obama said about the Constitution was very meaningful: “The Constitution is nothing but a piece of parchment that has little power of itself unless the people give it force” – the force of progressive ideals and values.

Let no one misunderstand.  The word “force” does not mean the use of violence, but it does mean the reasoned use of power.  The use of Economic Boycott, for instance, is a tactic that has been employed when nothing else worked.  We may have to consider well-researched and well-planned boycott actions against businesses, services, non-profits, and even some individuals if they insist on supporting immoral, non-democratic, unjust actions of Trump and his followers.  Let it be plain and very clear that no one should be boycotted just because they may have voted for Trump or Tenney.  Boycotting must only be used as an economic wake-up about attitudes and actions that deliver hurt or harm to people.

The repeal of the ACA for over 20 million formerly uninsured and under-insured citizens may not respond to the usual tactics of protest, and targeted boycotts may turn out to be necessary. So, be prepared to be innovative; to be forceful but reasoned about tactics.
However, we must become BOLD; in the spirit of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the Anti-Viet Nam War movement of the 1970s. And so, I’m going to conclude today with a few of the thoughts and ideas that are occupying my mind lately:

·       Those who attack equality and justice-for-all must be made to feel the loss of privileges that too many politicians and office-holders believe they deserve.  If Congress and Trump insist on destroying affordable health care insurance operated out of government exchanges with federal subsidies, then we must find ways to abolish free clinics at the Capitol and subsidized surgeries for members of Congress at army & navy hospitals.  And, we must advocate for Congressmen and Senators to have to follow every provision in whatever they legislate to replace the ACA. No exemptions! Just for the record:  I would much rather my taxes be used to cover subsidies for people who can't afford healthcare insurance than to have my taxes used to subsidize the health care and insurance plans for members of Congress, 40-50% of whom are millionaires.

·       The Electoral College has always been a way for an elite group to hold some sway over elections for president.  It must be abolished.  And one way to do that is already a Movement across the country worthy of your consideration, called the “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.”  Its premise is that once states containing more than half of the total electoral votes pledge by law all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote, the Electoral College will become simply a rubber-stamp of the popular vote.

·       Recently, a coalition of agencies supported the City of Utica in a press conference held at City Hall featuring a joint agreement between the Mayor and the Common Council that opposed repeal of the ACA.  Such local participation in national issues is a necessity, and we must support and promote just such a model elsewhere.  What’s more--

·    We must develop coalitions of progressive organizations;
·    We must have rapid response teams trained in creative ways to react immediately to the errant proposals and actions of the Alt Right;
·   We need people to utilize and scrutinize social media, as well as writers of Letters-to-the-Editor (LTEs);  
·     In-depth education of the public is indispensable.
· Therefore, we must be holding training for candidates and writers and activists of all kinds like today’s Rally.  But we also need individuals who can call and post and text and write from their own homes.

So, Dive in; stay with it; have faith in the power of ordinary people to bring about change. Let us resolve to put our opinions, our values, our ideas to work, for we are the Hope, the Change and the Resistance that we need at this point in our history. Let us act with the determination and the audacity of true believers in a new and stronger social contract with each other. Let us have faith in the power of right over might and build up the protection and expansion of our rights and freedoms like voting, elections, healthcare and public education.

Let it be said as we pass the torch to a new generation that we met the challenges of authoritarianism, expanded our concept of democracy, and left a stronger more progressive nation to our children and our grandchildren, who themselves can then once more proudly proclaim:   YES, WE CAN!

NOTE:  read the previous Blog Post dated 1/10/2017 for more on the non-viable Republican alternatives to the ACA.