Friday, February 03, 2017


Into the Breach

Before the election, Mahan Siler wrote an op-ed for the Asheville Citizen-Times, inviting readers to join his passionate work for social and ecological justice. One person responded. I previously blogged about Mahan, who was the oldest member of the week-long March for Our Grandchildren in 2013, quoting his inspiring words at Lexington Park at the end of the march. Since  the election, dozens have joined Mahan and Steve Kagan, the founding pair of Elders Fierce for Justice, now deep into strategizing a series of actions joining elders and millenials. Some of these actions will involve civil disobedience. After taking my cues from for many years, I now plan to join this vibrant regional group as they move from planning into action.

I know of several women in both the Asheville area and from our local community in the South Toe Valley who went to the Women's March in DC. Most of them were marching for the first time, and they were thrilled and energized. Similarly, the surge of activism that I observe all around me contains more newbies than veterans.

Here in South Toe, many collaborative, overlapping groups have sprung up. I am a co-sponsor of Surviving Climate Change, one of the largest. We focus on making a strong, highly-networked community even more resilient. But as one person said at our first meeting, we still need to work on ways to mitigate the problem (which means getting rid of Trump and his anti-environmental agenda as quickly as possible). In this winter's semester of Cabin Fever University, many of the events have focused on community organizing (Dinner and Democracy; Forming a Chapter, Higher Ed and its Discontents, Progressive Educators Unite, Advocating for Children, etc.). We are noting the many points of overlap, and weaving our network more thickly.

But the most focused response to the Trump Coup has come from Yancey-Mitchell Indivisible, with groups in Burnsville, South Toe, and Spruce Pine. On the Indivisible site map, I note 8-10 Indivisible pods across Western NC. Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda LINK, is a sophisticated, highly organized plan for emulating the Tea Party strategy that emerged after the 2008 election out of revulsion to Barack Obama. Congressional staffers who understand how things work in Washington wrote it, with the whole strategy focused upon pressuring MOC's in every possible congressional district as relentlessly as possible, especially at publicized events like town halls and ribbon-cuttings. Though I have been a climate lobbyist for years, I learned quite a lot from reading through the site, and look forward to working with my progressive neighbors in implementing Indivisible's strategy in my rural conservative district.

Many of Trump's executive orders have questionable legality. Democratic attorneys general of several states have already lined up to file suits against his most unconstitutional act to date, banning visitation and immigration from a host of Muslim countries.

Our biggest legal avenue will be to push the limits of freedom of assembly, crossing the line into trespass and blockage of egress to provoke arrest and a day in court to publicize our cause. Many people I have talked to in this new year, rent by its disruptive politics, have said that they expect they will be going to jail before the year is out. I expect to be among them. Potential targets of these actions are manifold, increasing with every new round from DT's Gatling pen: federal lands on the giveaway list, DAPL and Keystone pipelines, the Marcellus terminus pipeline heading down the Atlantic Coast, not to mention immigrant detention centers, abortion clinics, banks who fund Big Fossil – name your cause. We need to quickly train a non-violent militia to be deployed in several places, ready to stand up to what could devolve into a police state.

As events are moving swiftly, panic beckons. But we each need to take the necessary time to discern our priorities, our role in what could become a confused patchwork of actions, rather than a coordinated campaign. These are indeed trying times, but perhaps we are made for these times.

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