Columnist J.M. Sorrell: Resistance necessary to protect democracy


Published: 12-13-2016 11:48 PM

Over the last five weeks, I have been reflecting upon the results of the general election, and I have been grieving and feeling deep concern for the future of our country and the world at large.

My integrity as a participant in society now must be more intentional than ever. It includes not accepting a new hyper-patriotic, xenophobic, racist, misogynist “normal” as OK.

When people, including Democrat politicians, showed up at a private, liberal arts college to bully the president into raising the American flag, I was horrified. The ensuing threats against students and faculty did not surprise me. The insistent flag-wavers did not bring kindness with them. They brought righteousness and insisted they are the true patriots.

The nationalistic dope they take is that our veterans fought for freedom, and to not fly the American flag is an insult to them. Yet most of our wars and military interventions have been fought for power and economic supremacy—not for freedom.

Veterans should direct their anger at the U.S. military economy and its fat cats, just as the little white guys should direct their anger about the lack of economic equality at the fat-cat white guys who rule.

Instead, those of us who do not take the dope are deemed to be unpatriotic. What if resistance to these norms is patriotic? Could it be that our resistance is essential now more than ever?

We live on an entire planet, not just in one country. We are not “exceptional” in our experiment with democracy. The roots of our democracy include genocide and the justification of slavery to create an economy.

Throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century, immigrants were both demonized and used for economic growth. Unless you are indigenous to this land, you are from immigrant stock.

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Our country is just 240 years young. We have much to be proud of and much to be ashamed of as we strive for a “more perfect union.”

What happened where we allowed less than 25 percent of eligible voters to decide the presidency? How did a misogynist womanizer, a racist and a user earn the highest office in our country? He did not. Trump lied consistently, he never owned his mistakes, he shamelessly exploited the fear and divisive feelings of his followers whom he has no intention of helping.

There has been much noise about who is to blame for the election results. It seems to be an unfortunate culmination of efforts rather than any one factor. I concur with Natalia Muñoz regarding Bernie Sanders (“Sanders traded in admirable principles,” Dec. 2). He was the original Hillary-basher. When I held her signs up on primary day, more Bernie people yelled nasty things at me than Trump people who drove by. It was a foreboding.

Sanders’ loss was by more than twice the margin of the Clinton loss to Obama in 2008. Yet he continued to whine and to pontificate about a “revolution” and the greed of Wall Street without seeming to notice the nationalist tone rife with anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. He did very little, quite noticeably, to campaign for Clinton.

Why is Sanders not held accountable for his unwillingness to concede earlier or for his cranky, self-adoring nonsense? Imagine a woman getting away with his behavior. Muñoz is correct in her assessment of male ego here. Trump’s and Sander’s. Not so different.

When we call out the Trump supporters for bigotry, they say we are the intolerant ones. Intolerant of sexist, racist, and homophobic behavior? You bet. It is not equivalent to be a bigot and to fight bigotry. We are not the enforcers of unequal rights. We are interested in shared power and equality.

The “alt-right?” The racists came up with the term to sound palatable. Make no mistake. They are the nationalists — mostly white — and they are the biggest threat to our democracy. Resistance is necessary.

And the American flag? I understand why it symbolizes freedom and liberty for many people, and I understand why it represents oppression and inequity for some. A mature and open democracy allows for such divergence of feelings.

Nationalism, on the other hand, stunts potential democracy; in fact, it offers harm and totalitarianism. Roll up your sleeves. We have much work to do.

J.M. Sorrell, of Haydenville, is a lifelong progressive and LGBT activist.