Fists in the air!


I’ve always been a sucker for people’s demos!  Fists in the air, strained, tired voices singing or chanting Bayan Ko, or Down With . . . , and people as far as you can see!  This is energizing and inspiring; more so perhaps if you know that the demonstrators are putting themselves at risk.  Remember the Time Magazine’s stunning picture of hundreds of red robed Burmese monks marching through the streets of Yangoon, before the shooting started!  Talk to students and faculty who lived and worked in Manila from 1983 to 1986 where every day might become a marching day, and a march might be brutally assaulted by the military.

Gloria Steinem writes of how whole political contexts change when even one person meets the eyes of the oppressor and says “NO”.  There it is. Once authority has been questioned, the line is breached, the dam is broken.  (Think WonderWoman being told no one can break through the German line to reach the starving villagers:  “I’ll do it”, she says, and then she does, and the troops surge through.)

And now remember how discouraged you were when you heard that Donald Trump had decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Accord on Climate. But what has happened since?  Cities and states all over the U.S. have taken matters into their own hands and declared that they will uphold the commitments under the accord:  Washington State, New York,  Hawaii, California, Vermont, Virginia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island.  The business community, too, has come out strongly for support of the accord – big banks and energy corporations, including Exxon, which used to be under Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State.  It is very unusual for businesses to take a stand in opposition to a Republican president, especially a man of Trump’s rather vindictive character!  But they have looked him in the eye and said “No.”

President Obama, in speaking to Prime Minister Trudeau, said lightly “The U.S. has abdicated leadership of the Climate Change movement for the time being, but the world is already behind this movement and it isn’t going to stop.  And the U.S. is part of it.”*

All countries, all cultures can site examples of people doing the right thing.

The rhetoric surrounding the current crisis in Marawi emphasizes the radical Islamic nature of the conflict. But these are still people, so it was no surprise when a group of Marawi’s Muslims, on their own volition, conducted a group of Marawi Christians to safety outside the city. Just as people in the U.S. have flocked to airports to protect Muslim and other refugees who suddenly found themselves blocked from entry into the U.S.

When refugees surged through Europe, governments came down hard on them, but everywhere there were always people who would help: people who would prepare food, collect and give out blankets and clothing, sometimes even invite refugees into their houses.  There have been, in fact, villages which have invited refugees to settle – and have been delighted to have them.
So although world news, especially U.S. news, may hit a depressing new low nearly every day, the world isn’t only presidents and members of congress.  And you can’t count on all people to do the right thing, but if you look around in any crisis, you will almost always find someone helping, someone doing the right thing. And once authority and laws and edicts are punctured in this way, crowds just might surge through.

* This is a very loose paraphrase of Obama’s statement.

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