Resist In Love
An Open Letter to My Friends Concerned About Trump
Friends in concern, I see you.
I see you in uncertainty, taking to shelter. I see you in deliberation, taking your time. I see you in resistance, taking the streets. I see you, and I appreciate you deeply.
I see us all processing, adjusting to a new political reality. Dealing with dread, outrage, and concern for others. Overcoming fear and hopelessness, and screwing up our courage. This is hard stuff, and the stakes are so very high.
And then there’s the news. Oh my goodness, the news. It just won’t stop.
So our pain and righteous anger just keep building up. We have to let it out, right?
I see you. I feel it too! But hold up just a sec. Can I ask you a personal favor?
When you find your voice and begin to speak out — and I know that you must — will you bring that voice from your heart, and speak with love?
When you realize your power and bring it to bear — and I believe that you will — can you build that power on a foundation of empathy?
Please. I’m begging you. Because if you don’t — and I say this with love — if you channel that pain and anger the wrong way, you’ll probably make the situation worse. It might feel good for a little while, but it won’t help us win. Your response might even cause you to lose someone that you hold dear.
And you’ll be playing right into Trump’s hands. He wants to divide us.
Don’t let him.
“You can be different. Recognize that you’re the enemy Trump requires. Show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those who brought him to power.”
I know, it’s gonna be hard. But it’s necessary. You’ve seen the meanness on social media, and you know it doesn’t work. You’ve been called names, or seen friends be shamed, and of course that didn’t change your mind. How could one reasonably expect otherwise?
“Anger and fear are like Miracle-Gro for strongmen — keep your message positive.”
Friends, we need to figure out how to win our country back. And we probably can’t do it all by ourselves. We’re gonna need to make peace. We’re gonna need to reach out to all of our people, including those that voted for Trump. Even if we could do it without them, we can’t leave these folks behind. They’re our friends. Our family. Our loved ones. Don’t you miss them already?
“We need to find a porch swing to sit in, where we can talk about what ails us and then work out ways to cure those ills, together.”
That’s why I’m asking you for this favor. Because I’m seeing people I know and admire — folks that are otherwise loving, compassionate people — tearing each other down. And it’s counterproductive. It’s divisive. Even worse, it’s just plain dumb.
“We have a steep and icy road ahead of us. There is palpable fear in the air. We need to find a way to raise our voices and listen with our hearts. Healing, unity, hope… our bywords as we persist with empathy.”
To be clear, I’m talking to myself here too. I do every single one of these things too, even though I know better. Even though I try not to. Even though some of the smartest people that I know have taught me that it just doesn’t work.
But I know we can do better. And I really think we have to.
“To be a peacemaker …speak kindly to each other at all times. No name-calling, no threats, no ultimatums, no personal judgments.”
We in the resistance even fight amongst ourselves like this! That’s the other reason I’m writing to you. Because I want to say I’m sorry. I want to give you a virtual hug, to tell you I love you. Because I want us to get back together. We all want the same things. We may disagree on tactics or strategy, but we know where we want to go.
“Unless we can transform our anger into love and compassion, we won’t see the change we all desperately seek.”
So please, stay riled up! We need you. We absolutely must resist this administration and its clear momentum toward white nationalism, sexism, racism, fundamentalism — even fascism. We don’t have a choice. It’s who we are, thank goodness.
But we need to do it in a way that will help us win. And we have to be able to respect ourselves when it’s over.
“Either we are the people we say we are, or we are not. And if we are to be the people we say we are, that we want to be, then that requires we not resort to the behavior we despise.”
Together, we can write another story. But we need to bring the folks we love along with us.
All of them.
So please do, resist! But don’t forget to love while you’re at it.
RESIST! By all means. But not literally; not by any means. Not by scorn and contempt and derision.
To quote a beloved friend and mentor,
“Resist In Love. The ‘Resist’ part refers to a lot of fellow-travelers and the majority of Americans who are very concerned about the new president. The ‘Love’ part is the way we proceed in resistance.”
It might not be the only way we can win.
But it’s the only way worth winning.
Update: As I had hoped, this letter has sparked a robust conversation within my circle of friends, and I’d like to thank each of them for reading and engaging. I’m humbled by the passion and wisdom they’ve brought to this discussion, and based on their input, I’d like to clarify my position a bit further:
I see now that the words “resist in love” are not at all self-explanatory, and that I should have been more explicit about what these words mean to me. To be clear, when I ask my friends to resist in love,
1. I’m asking for resistance grounded in a love for the humanity in each of us, even the oppressors. As Jeff Blake says, a love in the manner of Jesus, Dr. King, and Ghandi.
2. I’m not precluding a strong or defiant resistance; I consider that “tough love.”
3. I’m not even proscribing a violent resistance; self-defense does not presume a lack of love for the instigator.
4. I understand that those with less privilege will find it harder to do this.
5. I hope and trust that my friends will forgive me for asking this, despite my own privilege.
6. I do not presume to tell anyone what to do or what they need to do.
7. I do not convey any expectations that folks will do what I’ve asked.
8. I absolutely respect everyone’s right to do otherwise.
9. I understand that some will see this as presumptuous, and I’m willing to take heat for that.
Friends, thanks for being patient with me and with each other, for helping me to clarify my thoughts on this important issue.