Progressives: it’s okay to diversify tactics

Post-election, there has been a lot of hand-wringing among Democrats and progressives in the U.S. I'm not going to argue with you if you think I'm too obsessed with "identity politics" or you think I live in a "coastal elite bubble."

What's most dangerous isn't slight differences in ideology amongst progressives but the sameness in clinging to the idea of the one good tactic and an obsession with what is immediately directly pragmatic.

I've seen in Twitter snark, impassioned Facebook rants, and long-form blog posts progressives railing against the futility of marches, the futility of petitions, the futility of tweets, the evils of the non-profit industrial complex... only phone calls matter. Phone calls are the only thing!

Now, I happen to believe that phone calls to representatives and senators do matter, but when people post inspiring images from the 50s/60s civil rights movement or from 60s/70s second-wave feminism, it isn't usually of crowds of people at telephones calling their representatives. Marches do matter. Protests do matter. Even petitions can sort of matter. Do they have an immediate and direct impact on legislation? Maybe not. Does it matter? Does everything have to have an immediate and direct impact on legislation? And legislation can't be the only thing that matters especially if laws themselves aren't enforced or laws are enforced but in an awful, twisted way.

Sophie Scholl was an anti-Nazi activist who distributed pamphlets telling the truth, and she was executed for it. Should she have been making phone calls?

Václav Havel wrote plays and was jailed for his resistance.

Pussy Riot was imprisoned for a musical performance in a cathedral.

Anna Politkovskaya was a reporter murdered for criticizing Putin.

Read about Steve Biko, Mary Dyer, Ariel Dorfman, Chiune Sugihara, Marion Pritchard, Elijah Lovejoy, Liu Di, or Fred Hampton. I can't list every single activist, resistor, and dissident in history, but if you take a look at what they did to "warrant" imprisonment, exile, torture, and/or death, it's usually not phone calls to politicians. It could be community organizing, writing, speeches, journalism, music, marches, boycotts—any number of things.

Activism can and should take many forms. There is no one right way. You want to make phone calls? You want to mobilize people to make phone calls? Great! Do it. I applaud you. Those phone calls will do something. But please don't tell others marches are useless, petitions are useless, talking and discussing online are useless, making art and music is useless, or writing articles is useless.

Don't chastise people for resisting in different ways. Chastise people for chastising (that's what I'm doing right now) others' resistance methods, but don't chastise people for their methods of resistance. You do you. She does her. He does him. They do them. I do me.

Honestly, a lot of the important resistance, whence outward resistance manifests, comes from within:

We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

Be your own light and work with others and their lights. Don't be divided; don't be conquered.

P.S. The other problem I've seen lately is a tendency to waffle between demonizing and deifying public figures. Deify this progressive. Oh, the progressive said a problematic thing. Demonize! Oh, this ally on one issue said a horrible thing on another issue. We can't work together. Horrible person. Horrible. Obviously form strong alliances with those whose values align most with yours, but you can pragmatically temporarily set aside differences on a particular issue to get stuff done on another issue you share concerns about. Temporary alliances are okay!

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