A Message of Hope for a Dark Political Winter
I’ve never liked winter; it has the longest nights of the year. It means trudging home in cold darkness, frost stinging your fingers. Even amid brief holiday joys, the season can feel bleak.
This year it feels bleaker.
January marks the end of one year under the Trump regime. It marks his final signature on the Republican tax bill, confirming the most brutal assault on American workers in years. It marks a year of deportations and Muslim bans. It marks a year of wildfires and hurricanes. It marks a year of a resurgent neofascist movement that should have died with the Third Reich.
As I finished my holiday shopping last month, I watched Trump gloat. Whenever his cold-blooded, reptilian smile flashes across my screen, the rage boils. A tax bill that enshrined $6 trillion in tax breaks for the rich and $4.5 trillion in tax hikes for the rest of us will mean pain and anguish for my generation and my children’s. I figure I’ll be giving out nicely written cards for Christmas next year. It’s disgusting.
New Year’s gave us nothing to cleanse our palates from the bile. Just in the past two weeks, immigration agents have targeted immigrant families and activist leaders. They’ve terrorized our workplaces, sweeping 7-Elevens and forcing a Moroccan mother on a plane just after Christmas. Trump has sicced these police-beasts on our communities while exposing himself as an unrepentant racist. We are the ones who truly live in the “shithole” country.
But the horror of this year goes beyond our borders. On the world stage, we have witnessed U.S., Russian, and Assad bombs rain down on Syria and Yemen after the sacking of Aleppo. We have seen Grenfell Tower burning up its residents, victims of profit-driven greed. We have wretched at the tens of thousands of fascists marching in Poland. Hurricanes and earthquakes have ripped across the world, leaving refugees trapped, cut off from safety by border walls and FRONTEX boats.
Many people I’ve talked to have imbibed the bleakness. I have too, in a way. The shock of Trump’s election victory a year ago has shrunk with the greater shocks of Trump’s actual presidency. To dam the constant rage and confusion, we retreat from our television sets, the news websites, and even our Facebook feeds for a time. To be aware is to be sick.
The tailspin has only been made worse by constant twists and turns in the Democrats’ Russia drama. The politicians people hope will oppose Trump aren’t really doing so; they’re waiting until the next election cycle or the next Robert Mueller revelation. Even before Trump, most people had it hard, families left behind from a supposed recovery and ripped apart by addiction. For many of us, we’re living in the coldest, darkest times of our lives – our own winter solstice.
But as we take stock of the bleak picture, we must look beyond it. Every year the dark winter comes with a promise. That promise is the beginning of a new dawn, longer days, and a coming spring sun. During the darkest night of the year, there’s hope for brighter days.
For the work we do against Trump, resistance is our source of hope. Even amid challenges, it is the light that guides us to fairer tomorrows. Part of me writes these words to make myself believe it. Part of me writes them with my heart full of rage, promises that “I won’t let his shocks work.” But these aren’t sickly-sweet words or simply a bitter defiance to reality. They embody real possibilities.
The day after Trump was elected, tens of thousands of people protested across the country. That number soon became a footnote to the far greater response to his inauguration. Women’s marches drew together hundreds of thousands of people in cities. They were broad, they drew from a shallow well of politics, but damn, they were beautiful. And they put Trump’s mandate on the defensive from day one, as Sean Spicer spent his first media moments petulantly comparing crowd sizes. It’s right to celebrate this anniversary.
After the shock of Trump’s Muslim ban, we flooded the airports to force open the terminal gates. Taxi cabs in New York stopped taking fares at JFK in protest and Uber took flak for trying to scab on their impromptu strike. We defeated Muslim Ban 1.0 with protest. Hold onto that memory.
A hashtag, #MeToo, burned across the internet and soon burned down the careers of dozens of serial sexual abusers. Women, along with people of all genders, took the energy of the Women’s March and their disgust with the rapist-in-chief Trump and turned it into resistance. A new women’s movement has yet to break through the topsoil, but the seeds are stirring and already shaking the foundation.
Socialism is back on the agenda too. Democratic Socialists of America has grown massively, and revolutionary groups like the International Socialist Organization have seen significant growth as well. Rightly so. The whole system is the problem, and socialism offers solutions. If that socialism still remains undefined and unorganized for most people after Bernie Sanders, it provides us an opportunity to define it and organize it.
International resistance should inspire us too. Catalonians defied police batons to vote on independence. After the central government said their vote was illegitimate, they shut down whole cities in one of the largest general strikes in years. More recently, Hondurans faced down election fraud and a new round of U.S.-backed state brutality, amassing tens of thousands of people in protests and road blockades to defy the right wing’s military. Working-class Iranians have risen up and struck too, as they call for the end of poverty and the overthrow of theocracy. Our allies and comrades face murders and clampdowns but still, they resist. As Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST) leader Marina dos Santos said earlier this year, “to globalize the struggle is to globalize hope.” It is the struggle that feeds our spirits in these dark days because it carries the promise and power for things to change.
We face challenges, no doubt. Trump is licking his fingers like an unrepentant devil after his first major victory in Congress.
While resistance is on people’s minds, the actual muscles for it are still weak. We remain unorganized. The organization that exists mostly remains zeroed in on the Democrats’ goals: getting elected and keeping the system humming. Independent forces have faced ice-out by liberal nonprofits, lack a defined political vision, or are just not big enough for this moment.
We can see this clearly with the Women’s March. This year’s will be smaller than last year’s, and the Democrats’ 2018 pitch has pulled protesting from many playbooks. As Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, organizers of the march in that state last year, alleged: “Marching does not significantly increase voter registration... Voter turnout in 2018 is critical to changing the direction of local, regional, and national politics.”
To be clear, they’re not turning out voters for a progressive third party. They’re turning out voters for the Democrats and contorting their goals to this moneyed party’s needs. An independent movement, that can reach into every community and confront every member of the elite, Democrat or Republican, still needs to be built.
Yet without ignoring the challenges, we have to hold onto hope and carry it with us into the coming year. Hope is what will sustain us in doing what needs to be done: pulling together the pieces of a serious resistance and building organization as our bedrock. Amid the cold darkness of our political winter, the fires of anger are there. New tomorrows are coming. We must organize, feed ourselves on hope and grapple with reality if we are to meet them.