Posted by: Grandma LaLa | February 19, 2017

Resist and Persist

On the day that Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier and opponent of environmental protections, was confirmed as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, I found myself trying to make sense.

Trying to make sense of what is happening to the national community in which I’m a citizen. Where, in just three weeks, the new presidential administration has assaulted our values of sheltering refugees and immigrants; has started a witch hunt against scientists researching and reporting climate change; has appointed a billionaire who has never attended a public school (and who distrusts public education) as the new head of the Department of Education; has angrily lashed out at journalists and judiciary members who are doing their jobs, … well, the list goes on and on.

Trying to make sense of how to resist and persist for the sake of the human and non-human life forms on this amazing, lovely, and fragile planet.

I read an interview with Timothy Snyder, a historian on the faculty of Yale University, whose expertise includes European history in the 1930s. An insightful, disturbing, and yet empowering conversation about the reality of what we’re now facing in America. One of Professor Snyder’s observations touched me most:

“This is part of what contemporary authoritarians do: They overwhelm you with bad news and try to make you depressed and say with resignation: “Well, what can I do?”. I think it is better to limit yourself. Read the news for half an hour a day, but don’t spend the whole day obsessing about it. Americans have to pick one thing to be confident about, and then act on it. If you care about and know about refugees, the press, global warming – choose one and talk with people around you about it. Nobody can do everything but everyone can do a little bit.”

Well said. It’s not that any one issue is more important or more urgent than another. It’s just that we are each limited and finite – in energy, in stamina, in resources. So, as with every aspect of life, we have to prioritize.

There are so many issues and cultural dynamics that I care deeply about: refugees and immigrants; national security and individual privacy; racism, sexism, and xenophobia; religious oppression; freedom of the press; and more. Yet it’s the constellation of issues related to climate change and global warming that I feel most drawn to as my “one thing” to contribute. I need to stay focused on this, trusting that others in our richly diverse national community will help with the issues to which they are most naturally and passionately drawn.

Another article attributed to Professor Snyder outlined 20 lessons from the (early) 20th century that are starkly relevant in this challenging time for our nation. I need to read the lessons multiple times. Maybe daily. And take to heart #10: practice corporeal politics. Activism is important. Advocacy is important. So is rest in order to sustain the activism and advocacy. So is relaxation in order to find a loving, powerful, and empowering balance. So is taking a deep breath and long walk to cherish the very planet and myriad creatures we’re trying to protect.

Resist and persist.

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