A(nother) Letter Home

 Dear friends,

It gives me so much strength and hope to see you all fighting back, through the things you post, the rallies you attend, and the thoughts you share.

I really hope that in this moment we can not only fight the immediate threat but also realise that we have the opportunity to build something out of the ashes, once the raging fires have been put out. I see the seeds of this already being planted, in a new openness to intersectional feminism, anti-racism, socialism, etc. One thing I’m afraid of is that rather than opening up space to create a radical new society of justice and peace, we’ll instead be willing to settle for anything as long as it is not so terrible as it is now.

It scares me to see people sharing Dick Cheney or George W. Bush quotes with some sense of nostalgia for the ‘old evil’. In many ways, it is historical amnesia and distortion that got us here. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that the old guard is preferable to the new — in fact, they laid the groundwork for this despot. They are his forebears, and his sins should not be separated from theirs.

It also worries me to see people allowing corporations to manipulate the moment for commercial gain, both for Trump and “against”. Just because Lyft or Starbucks or Apple or Facebook make statements against the current administration, let’s not forget that these corporations perpetuate neoliberal capitalism ravenously at the expense of human dignity and equality around the world. We may admire individual decisions that PEOPLE working for these companies make, but please let us not begin to admire the corporations themselves, thereby granting them the personhood that so diminishes our own.

A corporation cannot be “moral” or “decent” – it exists only to profit. Only once we return respect and value to people, to workers, to capital-L Labor, we can escape the de-humanizing position of being mere consumers, only as good as our purchasing power.

All that said, it’s clear that Trump cares desperately about his ego, but even more so about his wallet. Boycotts will work not because they hurt his feelings, but his interests. So in addition to deleting your Uber account, I hope you’ll also check out this list of companies led by Trump supporters: http://www.bet.com/lifestyle/2016/11/22/11-companies-that-support-donald-trump.html?cid=facebook

On a personal note, it’s incredibly difficult for me to be so far from home while all of this is happening. I wish I were there with you on the ground, sharing the same shock and the same resolve to fight.

Living here in East Africa, my reference points are now mixed with influences from this context, where the struggle against colonialism and imperialism has been strong and unyielding. On the day of Trump’s inauguration, I went to Tanzania’s National Museum and House of Culture for an exhibition about the legacy of the Maji Maji War (1905-07). If you look on Wikipedia or other sources written from the Western perspective, Maji Maji is called an “uprising” or a “rebellion”, but here it is seen for what it truly was — a war of anti-colonial resistance against the Germans that lasted more than two years, involved thousands of freedom fighters from various ethnicities and tribes, and covered more than 10,000 square miles. Kinjeketile was a spiritual leader who helped begin the resistance, and offered fighters “maji” (water) that was meant to make the fighters invincible to the German’s bullets. He was executed by the Germans, who then killed tens of thousands more through military means and an additional 100,000-300,000 by intentionally creating famine by destroying crops and food stores because they realised genocide was the only effective way of defeating the movement.

But the point of this artistic resistance was not to re-traumatize, rather to re-claim the strength and resilience and almost unfathomable bravery of those who fought. One of the artists, Amani Abeid, offered up clay pots with their own maji and, at the bottom peering up, portraits of Maji Maji warriors telling us not to be afraid as we enter our own battle.

Here is what I jotted down that night at 3am, unable to sleep and thinking just as much of the U.S. as I was of Tanzania.

Inside the Story

We speak of historical amnesia and distortion.
We feel dread and grief.
We see how past is always present.
We dream of protection and realize
that while we may have only water,
it will suffice to shield us
from fear and self-doubt in our resistance.

We are fragile, invincible things.
Our vigilance is tantamount to our freedom,
but our dignity is not contingent.

These truths have never been self-evident,
so we must fight to make them real:
injustice is not inevitable,
oppression is not natural,
and defeat is never irreversible.

Much has been taken,
but much will be found in the days to come,
and nothing can be taken for granted.

We are still here.
The struggle continues.
Hold on tight.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. saratbaker says:

    Thank you for this, especially the insight that Bush and Cheney established the foundations for this coup. For that is what it is, a coup by Steve Bannon and Putin. Far-right Republicans gutted the Voting Rights Act, have supported voter suppression and have been laying the groundwork for this for a long time. You are right, we must resist with all our might, as the Maji Maji did. You would be heartened to be here and to see the tremendous energy.

  2. jtiegs says:

    Thank you for this perspective from across the globe and across history.

  3. jtiegs says:

    I neglected this in the previous reply: I would love for you to fill me in more if I am incorrect, but many of the companies on that list of Trump supporters seem inferred. Amazon has since supported Washington state’s lawsuit against Trump, Miller had one employee (yes, one very high up) support him and has made statements about being politically neutral.
    Just to warn people to do your research before you outright boycott someone.

    1. Rebecca Corey says:

      Thanks, Jess, very good point!! Let me know if you see a list that’s been updated/more thoroughly researched.

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