To Resist or Rise Above?

To Resist or Rise Above? February 20, 2017

I find myself in a disorienting dilemma.

Everything about Donald Trump repels me – to the point that, quite frankly, I can’t even bring myself to legitimize his presidency by referring to him by the title, a feeling reinforced every time a bratty, self-absorbed tweet is reported as news.  During his improbable campaign, I vacillated between a certain level of understanding of the gamble some were willing to take on him and utter incredulity at how so many could be so easily played.  Given his manifest narcissism that has only become more blatantly manifest since taking office, the incredulity is winning.  I am increasingly baffled that anyone can believe this man genuinely cares about anyone beyond himself.

And yet.  For all that moral and visceral repugnancy, I cannot join wholesale with the img_0066-cropped-2“opposition” coming from the left, which has been jumbling grievances together with a haphazardness that almost seems to mimic Trump’s own chaotic style.

The day after the inauguration, I happened onto a protest that encapsulated the absurdity of the reactionary polemic this “resistance” is being pushed into: a crude mélange of generalized (but limited) declarations of goodwill, a mixed bag of endorsements from human rights to Planned Parenthood, more than a little outright vulgarity, and at least one direct promotion of violence (in the form of a reference to “killing fascists”).

To further reinforce the impression, seeing news footage of protestors blocking Betsy DeVos from a school recently, I noticed that some of them – for reasons I couldn’t quite work out – were carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs.  Has someone accused DeVos of racism?  Are the holders of those signs assuming her position on vouchers and charter schools would be disproportionately harmful to black students?  That’s the only possible connection I can think of, unless they really were just conflating issues willy-nilly.

Some have suggested that it’s a strategic component on the part of advisors such as the famously incendiary Steve Bannon to provoke reactions that push the left further into its own extremes.  From the ongoing race to the bottom that continues to pass for civil discourse, that strategy appears to be working, or at least taking a toll.  Theologian C.C. Pecknold recently wrote,

If every Trump policy maneuver — and he does seem to think of every policy change as a maneuver, as a temporary stance in a long set of negotiations, already evident in the way the White House walked back the restrictions on green card holders — is treated as though it is some kind of coup within a banana republic, not only will the Left be exhausted and lose all credibility by Ash Wednesday, we’ll also find the ice we are skating on getting much thinner indeed. We have to think about the shape of our common life. Do we have one?

The always level-headed David Brooks has been similarly talking about the rising tide of incivility in a national tone that feeds off of Trump’s combative psychology.  He has also offered a few possible models for how Trump should be resisted – namely Dietrich Bonhoeffer, St. Benedict, and Gerald Ford – depending on the nature of the threat he represents.  Of the three scenarios he lays out, Brooks puts his money on the third: that “we’re approaching a Ford moment.”  While I’m inclined to see some degree of truth in all three, I’m also inclined to hope he’s right about the possibility that “Trumpism contains the seeds of its own destruction.”  I’ve pretty much been waiting for his chaotic administration to somehow self-destruct since the inauguration, because like Brooks, I have trouble seeing how it can sustain itself for a full term.

That being said, I believe there is an additional and better model for the kind of resistance that can have some actual substance: Martin Luther King.

A true modern-day prophet, King was certainly not hesitant to call out wrongs where he saw them.  And yet in all his prophetic denunciations, he consistently refused to demonize anyone.  Having no patience for injustice, he still knew that every human being without exception – and yes, that means even Donald Trump – is beloved of God.  I confess that Trump’s arrogance makes that statement a little hard for me to stomach, but that’s ultimately my problem, and it doesn’t make it any less true.

As strongly as his words resonate, King is still able to make me squirm, and that may be a good thing.  In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King makes this stinging critique of “the white moderate”:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Even though I don’t like to think of myself as a moderate and am a firm believer in the nonviolent direct action that King practiced, reading these words still makes me feel as though he’s talking to me.  And I squirm.  His rebuke makes me wonder: am I being too moderate by keeping my distance from the outrage?

King himself wrestles in the letter with being labeled an extremist, having sought, if not a middle ground, then certainly a third way between passivity and violence, “neither the ‘do-nothingism’ of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.”  Yet he ends up embracing the label:

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?

His point is disconcertingly valid: if our Lord himself, and prophets before him, and many apostles and martyrs after him were killed as extremists for love and justice, those of us who wish to follow him must become extremists of the same kind.

But that’s the thing: when I look at what is coming from the left these days, I don’t see much “extremism for love.”  Spouting platitudes about tolerance in a hateful manner, while carving out significant exceptions to the kinds of people one is willing to tolerate (let alone love), doesn’t cut it.  Even as I wonder whether I’m simply passing the blame to assuage my own conscience, when I read King’s frustration with “shallow understanding from people of good will” I can’t help but also wonder if he would have the same frustration with the “white liberal” of today.

So the question now is, what does it actually mean to be extremists for love in this time?  What can a true alternative be to complicity in or outright support for all kinds of injustice, and a sometimes well-intentioned but shallow understanding that is at best merely reactionary?

I think it will have to mean some form of radical hospitality toward those we truly see as “the other” – and not just the kind of “other” that makes us feel comfortable or righteous. If on the one hand your fear of an obvious other makes border walls and travel bans and hyper-militarization seem comforting, you are being ruled by fear rather than love and are clinging to an idol.  But also, if your words and actions show love toward middle-eastern refugees and hate toward rust-belt Republicans, you have not loved your enemy.

For myself personally, being an extremist for love has to mean humanizing people at both of those poles.  I must learn to see – and to love – the image of God even in those with the loudest voices, whether those voices are shouting ugly nationalistic slogans or ugly vulgar pro-choice ones.  I can’t honestly say I’m there yet – which makes it all the more necessary to admit who my “other” is, and that I too am not immune from the refusal to love, nor exempt from the need for conversion.

If this all sounds foolish, well, it’s supposed to.  Part of the lesson of the gospel – and the example of those who have visibly lived it – is that no hatred, no malice, no evil can ever be effectively resisted by stooping to its level.  To rise above the enmity that has a death grip on society, including what threat to peace and justice and social healing Trump himself poses, will be the only way to truly resist it.


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  • It doesn’t sound foolish at all. It makes so much sense. If only every American can introspect as you just have, you’ll rise above all these troubles. You truly have a great country. If only people will turn from their self-absorption to self awareness.

  • Agellius

    First, as much as I dislike Trump personally, I have much more fear of the left, who seem unafraid, some of whom indeed consider it a duty, to use violence and destruction to get their way. Trump may say some scary things, but the left does some scary things (as well as saying them). (Obviously this is a general statement and not intended to refer to everyone on the left, many of whom are as reasonable and civil as anyone.)

    Second, it might behoove the left to realize that people on the right just might possibly have been feeling every bit as worried and anxious and depressed about the direction our country was heading while Obama was president, as those on the left are today. Hard to believe, I know, because you see nothing wrong with Obama. Well, ditto for those who see nothing wrong with Trump. But again, the difference is that the right did not resort to fire-setting, bottle-throwing, blocking freeways during rush hour, etc.

    I say this not to claim moral superiority for the right, but in an effort to help those on the left to try to see things from the perspective of the other side.

    • Agellius, your response to Julia Smucker’s extraordinarily fine and sensible approach to resistance to the most morally obtuse and intellectually repulsive American politician I’ve ever seen in my lifetime horrifies me; Drumpf is a demonizer of tens of thousands of innocent people, a serial abuser of women, an enemy of open and free discourse and exchange of information–and, very possibly, an intriguer with “foreign powers,” which is an impeachable offense. The only thing I’d add to Julia’s astute recommendations is that the so-called “leftists” must resort to ahimsa, non-violent civil disobedience, to Drumpf’s evil decrees. The folks whose behavior she rightfully decries will scatter like autumn leaves when this ogre’s hired thugs arrive at the doorsteps of sanctuaries, to seize and deport women and children; the true “resisters” will quietly hide them and go to prisons with them, to show their solidarity. That’s what Christ would enjoin, and it’s what Pope Francis is implicitly enjoining.

      • Agellius


        I agree that Julia’s post was excellent. I don’t share her apparent fears about Trump, but I appreciate that she has the openness to see and admit the faults on her own side of the aisle, which is an uncommon ability. Also I agree with her prescription, which is to be Christ-like not only to refugees and illegal immigrants, but also to your own countrymen with whom you disagree.

      • brian martin

        While I agree almost completely with Julia (who continues to show herself to be a thoughtful individual not given to knee-jerk responses) and dismas, I also agree with something that Agellius is saying. The idea that thoughtful people of conscience might have been frightened and concerned about what they perceived to be a country going in a bad direction under Pres. Obama, and choosing to vote for Trump because of their fears-whether about terrorism or about sudden changes to their “moral order” is really the only explanation of why Trump was able to be elected. He spoke to a whole bunch of people’s fears in a way that was not dismissive. The fact is, if you listen to the strident voices on the left, you would believe that anyone who had concerns about Muslims coming into the country from countries where Isis is active are automatically racists and islamophobes, anyone who does not support gay marriage due to their religious beliefs is a bigot, anyone who wants to not have individuals whose biology is one gender but who identify as another openly in the bathrooms of their identified gender as being ignorant bigots. The fact is, a good portion of the population’s fears were written off, and they were labeled haters…and the had someone saying things they were thinking…even if he was/is taking them to ends that they may not ultimately agree with. Hillary’s baskets of deplorables comment came across as another liberal looking down their nose at common people…rather than being seen as targeting the extreme right neo-nazi, kkk, alt. right crow that she seems to have been targeting. And he is right, I don’t know of very many if any riots that shut down freeways by people on the right. If I look at the extremes of either side, I see different tactics but similar rhetoric…because I don’t see a bunch of armed redneck militia folks taking over a government wildlife refuge as any more lawful than a bunch of people rioting in the streets. If we really want healing, we have to understand those people who think differently than us. Dialogue is as much about exploring and understanding differences as it is about finding common ground.
        Agellius ended with this “I say this not to claim moral superiority for the right, but in an effort to help those on the left to try to see things from the perspective of the other side.”
        I would simply change that to the idea that we should always try to understand where the other is coming from, what their perspective is

      • black_promethea

        I’d like to know where these “true resisters” (presumably of the Catholic variety) were during the post-Reconstruction era, when blacks were being systematically disenfranchised with a wink and nod from the federal government, during the mass lynchings of the early twentieth century, when slavery returned under the names of sharecropping and convict-lease, when the Scottsboro “boys” were put through a gruesome show trial, when sharecroppers were killed trying to unionize, or when black schoolchildren were being pelted by rocks during busing. The same people who profess to be horrified by “leftist violence” see nothing wrong with using institutionalized violence or extralegal violence to get their own way.

        Perhaps no figure epitomizes this better than Lester Maddox, who used a gun and a pick-ax handle to chase blacks away from his restaurant in the 1960s, declared segregation to be “Christian” and “American,” and was subsequently elected governor of Georgia. When Maddox died in 2003, George governor Sonny Perdue ordered flags at half-staff, something he didn’t do when Maynard Jackson, famed civil rights activist and the first black mayor of Atlanta died several days previously. Even the most public and unrepentant segregationists are still given more respect in life and in death than those who fought against Jim Crow. The election of Trump is the logical end of more than forty years of the GOP’s Southern Strategy and over two hundred years of ontological and structural violence against non-whites. Trump is merely a crasser, more bedazzled form of Maddox, and the chickens have truly come home to roost.

        • Kurt

          “But again, the difference is that the right did not resort to fire-setting, bottle-throwing, blocking freeways during rush hour, etc.”

          That is not a sound statement. There have been a handful of recent incidents while in opposition to Trump, with the participants still not identified. To call that the “left” is false as it is false that we have gone the eight years of Obama without acts of violence by people opposed to him.

          There is a vast, broad Democratic Party and progressive movement that uses peaceful, democratic means to advance its end. Please don’t make false assertions about it.

          • Agellius


            If you’re saying that most leftists reject those tactics, I’m very glad to hear it.

          • Kurt

            Agellius, with all due respect, I am not only saying it, but I am noting that should be self-evident to any informed person not just making polemical comments.

          • Agellius


            I don’t find it self-evident. If that causes you to conclude that I’m being polemical or that I’m ill-informed, so be it.

        • Kurt
  • Julia Smucker

    To that, Dismas, I say an unequivocal yes, and should perhaps have gotten to this point more fully: nonviolent civil disobedience is exactly what’s needed, or quite possibly soon will be. And that’s exactly the difference between the moral courage of the movements led by a King or a Gandhi and directionless reactions based in ideology. Thank you for bringing this into sharper focus!

    I’m wondering now if part of the problem is a lack of visible leadership, which the present zeitgeist is painfully allergic to but which (maybe for that reason) we need more desperately than ever.

    The need for civil disobedience in one form or another is not new, though it may be more obvious. But I do see a categorical difference in terms of the capacity to govern. I’m not exactly the audience Agellius is talking to here, but speaking for myself, I saw a number of things wrong with Obama, as I did with George W. Bush. But for all their flaws (some of which were quite serious), they were both qualified for office and showed a relatively more demonstrable grasp of said office as a form of public service.

    • Agellius


      I don’t disagree with you that GWB and BHO were probably better qualified. But IMHO, we were (are) desperately in need of breaking the iron grip of political correctness, and it may be that someone like Trump was the only kind of person who could do it. I have always thought he was something of a knucklehead, temperamentally unsuited to the presidency, and lacking firmly held and well-thought-out principles. But on the other hand, I have faith in the ability of our checks and balances to rein in his potential excesses.

      Obviously I would rather have had a better man be elected, but I see no rational basis for the extreme fear and hysteria that we see around us. Those who fan the flames of this hysteria, I find more dangerous than Trump, since convincing people that they being ruled by Hitler is liable to lead to the belief that violence and destruction are justified.

  • black_promethea

    Julia Smucker

    It amazes me that at this critical juncture in history that your primary concern with anti-Trump protesters is that their tone is lacking “civility” and is occasionally “vulgar.” That’s the very definition of misplaced “moderation.” If some of us are “uncivil,” it’s because we’re terrified for our very lives; hate crimes against racial, religious, and sexual minorities are skyrocketing, millions may have their health insurance yanked away, a self-described white nationalist is pulling the strings of government, and environmental and labor protections are being dismantled as we speak, but it’s “uncivil” to mention these inconvenient facts in public?

    Recall that “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was addressed to “moderate” churchmen who were tone-trolling King that his constant demonstrations were “uncivil.” This document, written on scrap paper in a jail cell and references Aquinas, Thomas Jefferson, and the Bible is the height of moral rectitude. Yet, it was considered profoundly “uncivil” when it was first written because King dared call out these “respectable moderates” on their hypocrisy. Also keep in mind also that when the Montgomery Bus Boycott was occurring in 1955-56 that King’s house was firebombed with his wife and oldest child inside. And this was all for simply asking the for the “right” to sit wherever one wanted on a bus paid for with black taxpayer dollars. Yet, this modest request was considered to be a slippery slope to the gulags by conservatives and “moderates” alike. And what did King get for his dogged adherence to pacifism? A bullet to the head. Such is the way America deals with its prophets.

    • Agellius


      Julia can obviously answer for herself, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is a Catholic blog and she is speaking of how a Catholic and a Christian should behave in these circumstances. Incivility in the form of judging and condemning and cursing those you disagree with, not to mention violence and destruction, simply is not the right answer.

      Reciting a list of historical atrocities against blacks does not defeat the proposition that people may have valid reasons for supporting Trump and don’t deserve summary judgment and condemnation for their political opinions. Obviously those who support him for racist or hateful reasons deserve to have their racism and hatred condemned. But 29% of Latinos and Asians voted for Trump, as well as 8% of blacks — both of which are likely undercounts since Trump supporters tend hide their support for fear of being labeled racist, sexist, etc. — so clearly he has some appeal to his supporters other than white supremacy. It’s uncharitable and therefore unchristian to paint them all with the same judgmental brush.

    • black_prometheus, if you know anything about Martin Luther King, you will realized that he always ACCEPTED that he would die with “a bullet to the head.” However, I DO agree with you AND with Julia Smucker about how resistance to Drumpf is to be conducted, and I most definitely do not agree with Agellius about the moral equivalence of the concerns of the racists and reactionaries in America, as compared with those of the people who are able to recognize incipient fascism when they see it. You must understand that my chief reason for advocating ahimsa and civil disobedience is not that it is the most ethically pure strategy–though it is that; it is, rather, that it is the resistance that is the most potent and the most likely to succeed.
      Also, as regards your history of the lack of participation by Catholics in the struggle for civil rights and against militarism, surely you have heard of the Berrigan brothers, of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton? We haven’t always been on the sidelines in America.

      • black_promethea

        Yes, I know MLK expected to die early, but what does that say about the nature of the American social and political order? It does not reflect well on the United States that black leaders who tried to assert their rights have tended to meet untimely ends, including through constant harassment and blacklisting (i.e., Paul Robeson), exile (i.e., W.E.B. Dubois), entrapment (i.e., many of the Black Panthers), or flat-out assassination (MLK). Merely trying to assert the constitutional rights that are afforded to white citizens is seen as subversive when blacks do it. When King died, most of his white supporters had abandoned him, because of his views on the Vietnam War, the military-industrial complex, and racism in the North. All of the things that critics decry about BLM were said about King when he was actually alive, and not some sanitized proponent of “colorblindness.” The militarized police response to BLM protesters is no different from how Bull Conner turned dogs and water hoses on civil rights protesters over fifty years ago. The only difference is that enough time has passed where observers can say that the protesters from the 60s were morally correct, whereas modern protesters are different and wrong, despite the fact that they’re essentially asking for the same things; #blacklivesmatter is simply an updated and non-gendered version of the “I am a Man” signs carried by protesters during the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968 (this is also a depressing commentary on our society, since it indicates that not much has changed in almost fifty years):

        Nonviolence can be very violent to the status quo, which is why when the Civil Rights Movement was going on, the “respectable conservatives” like William F. Buckley and were claiming it was a “communist plot” that needed to be suppressed, stat.

        I’m also quite aware of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and the Berrigan brothers. However, that’s four people out of a church with an American membership that consists of tens of millions. There was no institutional commitment on the part of the Catholic Church and its hierarchy to support the abolitionist movement (which they tended to equate with “heretical” Quakers) or the Civil Rights Movement like there have been subsequently mobilized to fight against abortion or same-sex marriage; abortion and same-sex marriage are painted as threats to the very stability of Western society, while racism is simply seen as a minor inconvenience on par with having to empty your email spam box every so often. If an individual or group truly believes in a cause, they’ll stick with it whether it’s politically popular to support it or not. For example, the NAACP was founded by a group of multiracial activists who tended to be some mix of Unitarian, Ethical Culturists, and/or secular humanists. The same is true for the Urban League. If Catholics were involved more intimately than I’m aware of, I would be interested to know, but my impression is that the Catholic Church was loath to support a minority group that was even less popular than itself, especially when supporting civil rights with said group was associated with “communism.”

        Documents like “Rerum novarum” don’t provide much insight either; Leo XIII seemed to prize social stability over all else, and thought that workers should work together with capital, rather than engage in demonstrations or strikes. Granted, this approach probably does works in a homogeneous country like Sweden, but not in the deep South where white landowners never pretended that they had any interest in their sharecroppers other than what they could extract from them. It wouldn’t even work in Detroit, where black autoworkers were the last to be hired and the first to be fired. An interesting figure who tried to apply Catholic Social Teachings to race relations was Fr. John LaFarge, a Jesuit who established the Catholic Interracial Council. While he was forward-thinking in many ways, LaFarge was very paternalistic towards the people he was ostensibly trying to help. Regardless, his books are worth reading, if you can find them used.

        • black_prometheus, thank you and God bless you for the good work you do. Right now, as I live outside of the United States, and have for a number of years, there’s little I can do beside donate and “pontificate” on the Internet. However, because I live at present in a predominantly Muslim country, Egypt, I am particularly concerned over the extent to which Islamophobia is being fanned by the Right-wing press in America. Everything I see around me here in Egypt indicates that much of what they are disseminating are lies.

        • Julia Smucker

          Rerum Novarum is not so either/or. Leo not only believed that workers and capital should work together, but that they shouldn’t be categorically separate in the first place: that workers should also be owners. And failing that ideal, he explicitly stated that workers should have the right to strike.

    • Julia Smucker

      Black Promethea, I’ve been thinking about your comment today with a nagging suspicion that you may be right. I’m honestly just trying to find what the right response is to the present situation. It’s a lot easier to say what it isn’t.

      My hesitation on the leftist resistance is not only because of a lack of civility (which is starting to look eerily like the birth of the Tea Party), but also a lack of direction and substance: it’s so all-over-the-place that there’s no “there” there. And it often ends up conflating so many things at once as to alienate many people who wouldn’t pass certain ideological litmus tests but are nonetheless deeply appalled by Trump’s antics in many ways.

      At the moment it looks like my options are a) sit here wringing my hands about how to react to everything, or b) don a pink hat and take to the streets shouting, “Not my president.” Neither seems very helpful. The concerns you name are serious, and require a more serious response (and I do not at all mean to suggest that mentioning them is in itself uncivil).

      I seriously want to know: what is a better way to join in solidarity with those who are being made vulnerable? Is there any moral equivalent today of the Montgomery bus boycott, or the diner sit-ins? Or anything analogous to that?

      • black_promethea

        If anti-Trump protests seem to be all over the place, it’s because participants have a wide range of concerns and issues that they want to be addressed. Since Trump has managed to find some way to offend wide swaths of the population, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. A Muslim American of South Asian decent will probably have different concerns than a Mexican American, for example, but they share the same anxiety that the definition of American identity has regressed to where only white Christians can be considered “real Americans.” There is also a well-founded fear that civil rights for a variety of groups will be rolled back under this administration.

        The entire Trump campaign was established on the belief that civil rights and social gains are a zero-sum game (i.e., if racial minorities are doing better than they were fifty years ago, that must mean whites are worse off). In a way, the Trump campaign was almost like a performance art piece of “Birth of a Nation,” because of the not so subtle promise that “Making America Great Again” would require whites “taking the country back” from threatening dark-skinned others. While there was much I liked about the Bernie Sanders platform, his belief that a New Deal 2.0 would cause all boats to rise equally is unfounded, because the original New Deal only passed because FDR promised Southern Democrats that Southern blacks would not benefit from the workers’ rights programs (agricultural workers and domestics, the two jobs that were overwhelming black were exempt). Racial inequality is a feature, not a bug of the American system, and our inability to speak honestly about this is part of our collective problem. Black and brown poverty is seen as “normal,” “natural,” and dare I even say “necessary,” whereas the plight of the “white working class” is a national crisis that must be addressed ASAP.

        Now this gets me to your question about how you can show solidarity with those who are vulnerable. The first thing I would advise you to do is educate yourself about the historical context that has led up to this moment. If you are really interested in Kingian non-violence, you should read the books he wrote on this subject. In particular, you should read “Where Do We Go From Here? Community or Chaos,” since it contains an outline for the kind of society that he thought the US should be aiming for. Among other things, King advocates for a national guaranteed income, which I think is a good idea, since those manufacturing jobs Trump claims he’s going to bring back are gone forever. I would also recommend “When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America” by Ira Katznelson, which details how early twentieth century social welfare programs were designed to benefit whites at the expense of blacks. If you don’t have a lot of time to read lots of scholarly books, the “For Beginners” series has some good graphic novels about black and Latino history. I also recommend “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” since I think everyone should read that book, although it should be read alongside Manning Marable’s magisterial but very lengthy biography of the man. I’ve focused on black history, because that’s what I know best, but there are many other fine books on other topics.

        There should also be various organizations, meet-ups, and community organizations that are helping to build solidarity between different communities. You’ll probably have to go outside the Catholic Church to find them, but they’re certainly out there. Recently in my own city, there was a workshop about fighting against Islamophobia, which may be more your style (i.e., cultivating individual and community-based dialogue). If there’s a workshop on anti-racism training, consider going to that. You have any skills that can be used for a non-profit or volunteer organization, you can use those. I can understand if going to protests isn’t your thing on a personal level, since I’ve only just become comfortable doing them myself, but to knock protesting in general as “lacking in civility” is counterproductive and not consistent with how social change actually works.

        You may have heard of Vincent Harding, a notable black theologian, activist, and scholar who was a Mennonite for some time, but left because he was frustrated with how his co-religionists defined non-resistance solely in terms of avoiding “worldly thing,” while ignoring civil rights:

        Don’t make the mistake these Mennonites did and prefer an unjust peace simply because it’s more comfortable and convenient.

        • Julia Smucker

          Just one point of clarification: I never meant in any way to suggest that “protesting in general” is inherently lacking in civility. I was merely referring to the particular incidence I saw whose content stooped to ironically Trump-like levels. (How easy it is to become what we hate.) I have at certain times participated in protests where the message was clear and coherent and consistent with respect for human dignity. I can also tell you from my own experience that I definitely don’t have to go outside the Catholic Church to find socially active organizations.

          I will look up “Where Do We Go From Here?”. I haven’t read that one but it sounds like it could be prescient.

  • Thales

    Julia, great post. And nice comments, Agellius and brian martin.

    I have one thought related to what has already been said: Trump-qua-Trump or Trump-qua-President is not the equivalent of racial injustice identified by MLK. In contrast, an unjust policy supported/advanced by Trump is the equivalent to racial injustice… but not Trump himself. In other words, resisting unjust Trumpian Policy X is analogous to MLK-era resistance to racial injustice; but resisting Trump just because he’s Trump is not analogous.

    I bring this distinction up because I think it’s an important distinction to keep in mind, for the sake of truth and justice, and for the sake of having practical results in the policy debates in the years ahead. Examples that illustrate this distinction have already been mentioned above: “resisting” Trump by blocking DeVos from entering a school, or resisting Trump by rioting because you don’t like the fact that he was legitimately elected as President are irrational responses that offend truth and justice, and are unproductive responses that ultimately generate greater support for Trump (by driving away independents who find the responses to be crazy) and that entrench Trump in his worst behaviors and inclinations (because he and his supporters see it as confirmation that their opposition to “liberals” is the proper stance to take). I think if Democrats and liberals want to have success in shaping policy and curbing Trump’s excesses, they need to step away from the crazies on the left side and to not be sucked into the rhetoric of these crazies. (I know this is sometimes difficult to do, and conservatives are just as guilty of failing in the same way at times with regard to the crazies on the right.) Resist unjust Trumpian policies, as they need to be resisted; but don’t resist good and/or legitimate Trump actions just because “he’s Trump” as I think that’s a losing strategy (and, I think, an unjust position to take).

  • Ronald King

    With Trump’s election we appear to be given the opportunity to develop some insight into our lack of real commitment to living the life of sacrifice as believers. We have created this outcome because we are practicing our faith through rituals and without the passion necessary for sustaining a living faith. The passion is always there being suppressed and hidden from expression because it has been attached to shame and a fear of being nothing. Trump, being an intelligent narcissist with sociopathic traits, knew exactly how to direct that underlying fear and shame to give people a sense of purpose and meaning even if it is an illusion.
    This emptiness and fear create the rage which is exhibited in the extremes but resides in all of us. Our passion as human beings becomes fear and hate the moment we learn that we are considered less than. Trump is the name for what we refuse to see in ourselves and we are afraid ashamed and afraid of it. So I/We live our lives in a muted state of rituals and result in the death of passion or the birth of rage.

    • Julia Smucker

      Ronald, I was just thinking of your comment while watching this segment on the power of ritual to transcend the cognitive (which seems right up your alley), since I’d been puzzled by your portrayal of ritual as something muted and passionless.

      Otherwise I thought your social diagnosis here was well said and spot-on. Particularly quotable is this:

      Trump, being an intelligent narcissist with sociopathic traits, knew exactly how to direct that underlying fear and shame to give people a sense of purpose and meaning even if it is an illusion. This emptiness and fear create the rage which is exhibited in the extremes but resides in all of us.

      Maybe a part of what we need is a return to the sense of purpose and meaning found in ritual, rather than the dangerous habit of trying to fill the void with political messiahs.

  • Mark VA

    Woke up this morning feeling bound and confused …. is the Moon new? Circles wobble, trouble trouble, Baba Yaga flying west with “fenny snake” on a quest;

    Queer compulsion to see the Wizard of Oz, are the slope and the derivative still married? Did Berlioz have a third eye, or did he indulge in too much Shakeshaft?

    Trump Tower in Chicago uses reinforced concrete – did you know that? Ludwig Mies van der Rohe would have approved. Still, I feel bound … what’s the antidote to baboon’s blood?

    Seriously folks, if you want to indulge in some kind of “La Résistance” better define it well, before the hatted loonies define it for you.

    • black_promethea

      I don’t think this comment went through the first time, so I’ll try again.

      During World War II, Gerald Gardner, the influential English Wiccan leader, and his coven cast a spell that they claimed protected the UK from Nazi attacks during World War II:

      By your logic, the Allied cause was illegitimate because a small group of religious eccentrics supported it through magic means. In all seriousness, I don’t see how witches claiming to hex Trump is any stranger than the “spiritual warfare” and exorcisms found in many conservative churches. The only difference I can see is that white conservative Christianity, especially Protestantism, is considered the gold standard by which all other religions are to be compared, whereas Wicca is small and misunderstood. Also, Gerald Gardner was a Tory (i.e., member of the Conservative Party), so being Wiccan and/or neo-pagan doesn’t automatically translate into being a leftist. In fact, there’s a long history of European aristocrats being interested in ceremonial magic and occultism.

      • Mark VA

        Understood – from the Atheist perspective, we (Wiccans, white conservative Protestants, Catholics, etc) all look alike – we are loonies wearing different hats;

    • Julia Smucker

      Agreed. It’s about time he got checked-and-balanced, in a big way. (Or should I say bigly?)