Now that President Donald Trump and his Goebbels-like propaganda boss Steve Bannon have taken control of Washington, it feels as though fascism is back in fashion.
But so is activism.
As a fertile springtime begins, we are watching an exciting new form of activism evolve that is inclusive, robust, and growing more muscular by the week. Less than a month into the Trump era, we have seen millions demonstrate at the Women’s Marches and thousands show up at airports to demonstrate for rights of immigrants.
If you’re scared, if you’re worried about the future, look inside to find what has stirred your gut. Then look around to find like-minded friends and neighbors who share your passion.
Here on Maui, one of those neighbors is Teresa Shook, the retired lawyer whose Facebook post inspired the largest public protest in U.S. history, the January 21 Women’s March in Washington and in hundreds of cities across the country. A few nights ago, I joined a forum she hosted on the island, and the place was so packed I couldn’t even get inside the door.
We may not succeed in getting Trump out of the White House, but we can get the likes of Mike White and his backroom deals out of controlling the future of our Maui County government. We can get pesticides out of our soil and water aquifers. We can even join together to solve our housing problem.
If you’re discouraged and need a pep talk, go online to read historian Howard Zinn’s short essay “The Optimism of Uncertainty.” Even though the ruling elites have overwhelming power and seem invincible, “that apparent power has, again and again, proved vulnerable to moral fervor, determination, unity, organization, sacrifice, wit, ingenuity, courage, patience…”
In her book, “Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities,” Rebecca Solnit speaks of “the extraordinary achievements of ordinary people.” A handful of people plotting the abolition of slavery in a London coffee shop never imagined what they unleashed. Ditto for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and other heroes of resistance.
Ready to do more than sign a petition or send an email? Pick up the phone, show up at a rally, speak out at a government hearing, and meet up with neighbors who want change. Have a good time acting up. Effective movements have used humor, mischief, and mirth to achieve their goals.
Get involved with party politics. A small group of Berners acted up at the state convention and quickly wrested control of the Democratic Party of Hawaii from Clinton stalwarts.
Maui’s citizens are taking action to a new level, many of them stepping outside their comfort zone. The coalition of thousands that supported the GMO Moratorium initiative has grown, and in November we became the only county in the state to elect four progressive candidates to local government.
On January 2, hundreds of citizens showed up at the first meeting of the new County Council to voice their support for open and transparent government, and more than 60 people waited all day to speak out against the rigging of the chairmanship. Many speakers said it was their first time. While Mike White’s Old Guard still has a slim majority, they were put on notice. Their days of backroom rule for their corporate sponsors are coming to an end.
Let’s take inspiration from what the Lakota Water Protectors have done to protect their natural resources. Hawaii has water protectors too. Notice what the hard work of a new generation of powerful Native Hawaiian leaders like Tiarre Lawrence and the demonstrations at Olowalu and Iao Valley have accomplished.
Imagine what your passion might achieve in our county to finally build affordable housing for our working families, to deal compassionately with the homeless, to stop A&B’s theft of Maui’s public waters, and to reduce the insane chemical contamination of toxic agriculture.
The fight for East Maui water is the same energy as the protests at Standing Rock. We are the Standing Rock of the Pacific. People are saying “enough already!”
We can’t just let unconscious people acting on behalf of oligarchs and polluting multinational corporations crush our way of life, whether they work in Washington or Kahului.
Protest works, especially when citizens are willing to show up, be bold, and take risks.