“What exactly are you resisting?”
The man who asked me that question in the parking lot of Kroger had seen saw my RESIST bumper sticker. He was larger than I am, had a huge beard, was getting out of a huge truck, and was wearing mismatched camouflage and mirrored shades. His truck had a large Confederate battle flag decal on the back window, and a bumper sticker advertising his support for the current president.
“Man, I don’t have time to give you the whole list”, I said with a laugh before I got in the car and drove away in my tiny import while he eyed me suspiciously like I was a strange creature heretofore unseen in these parts.
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Hi there. My name is Hugh Hollowell, and this is Hopeful Resistance, a newsletter about Hope. And Resistance. This is a new venture and will take a few issues to get its bearings, but just remember that if it isn’t your thing, you can find the unsubscribe button at the bottom of this page. On the other hand, if you like it, I could use your help getting the word out, so please share it with your friends.
It is a strange, frightening time to be alive.
I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in the US, we are in a cycle of endless war. Our current administration whipsaws us back and forth, keeping us off guard. Those of us who have made our career in justice work see hard-won progress peeled back. And in the face of collapsing infrastructure and inadequate healthcare options, now we are in the midst of a pandemic outbreak, which, depending on whose reports you believe, is either the end of civilization or just really bad sniffles or, most likely, somewhere in between.
The list of things we want to resist seems endless.
But the main thing I am resisting these days is fear and the collapse of hope.
Which means I must resist so much about the world as it is, and all of those who are vested in keeping it the way it is. Some of the people I am resisting have Confederate flags on their truck, and others have Facebook employee badges on lanyards around their neck. Some own white hoods and march in racist demonstrations while others work at advertising agencies and try to sell me on all the ways I do not measure up.
But I can resist those folks while still hoping for, and working for, their liberation.
The man interrogating my motivations in the grocery store parking lot probably thought he knew what I meant by my RESIST bumper sticker, and he probably thought it meant him: That I was resisting who he supported politically, that I was resisting his neo-confederate “heritage, not hate” ideology, and that in my fuel-efficient car I was resisting ideas around machismo and disdain for the planet. And so when I gave my attempt at a clever answer, he no doubt thought I was just trying to get out of there.
I mean, he isn’t wrong – I do resist all of those things. But that isn’t the whole list. Not by a long shot.
I also resist the idea that we have to hate each other to make progress. I resist the belief that says, “If you are different than I am, we can’t be friends.” I resist the idea that we are going to hell in a handcart, and that cynicism is the only realism. I resist the urge to isolate myself into a safe cocoon while the world burns around me, and I resist the notion that says I must set myself on fire in order to keep others warm. I resist the corporate media that makes it’s living by feeding us fear, and Social Media that exists to divide us. Oh, I resist a lot of things.
But I’m not just interested in resistance – I need hope. Because it’s not just about what we are against, but what – and who – we are working for. I am reminded in these times of the words of the Catholic activist Ammon Hennacy, who said: “I may not change the world, but I’ll work so the world won’t change me.”
It matters not only that we get to the better world we are working for, but it matters how we get there.
Of course we will change the world. As my buddy David LaMotte reminds us, we can’t help changing the world, even if by merely our being in it. And because I refuse to give in to fear, and hopelessness, I believe that over the long term, optimism is the only realism. Like Arundhati Roy, I believe that another world is possible, and I too can hear her breathing on quiet days. I believe we can make the world as it is into the world as it could be, as it should be, as it was meant to be.
And in order to get to that new world, we have to both resist the old one, while never losing sight of the better world we dream possible. And that requires a resistance built on hope.
You can listen to the audio of this essay here.