Picturing Resistance

I would not have expected to find a manifesto for resistance to Donald Trump on Rooflines, a wonky publication of the National Housing Institute.

But there it was. With a reference to Gandhi, no less.

“Public opinion alone can keep a society pure and healthy.” – Gandhi

Gandhi believed in people—all people. He believed that everyday people both in India and England would reject colonialism if they really understood it. Gandhi’s civil disobedience, built on this faith, was carefully calculated to hold up a mirror to show people (on both sides) the true face of British colonialism. Rather than confront the superior British military, Ghandi won independence by changing public opinion.

Seen from Gandhi’s point of view, Donald Trump is a gift.

The critical problem the author identifies is a lack of public awareness. When large numbers of Americans don’t see injustices and corruption, when we are unaware of the fault-lines in our society, the result is apathy. History confirms the insight: it wasn’t until television brought images of vicious dogs being loosed upon peaceful demonstrators that public opinion coalesced behind civil rights; it wasn’t until that same television brought the Viet Nam war into American living rooms that support for the war decisively turned. It wasn’t until ubiquitous cell-phone cameras documented police misconduct that calls for better training and appropriate disciplinary action became too numerous to ignore.

Trump is the face that America has been hiding since the 1970s. It is almost impossible to fight an invisible enemy, but with the enemy out in the open, we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to pick the kinds of fights that permanently change people’s hearts and minds and fundamentally alter what is politically possible…A majority of American adults (96 percent) believe in equal rights for women, and 87 percent have a personal relationship with someone who is gay. I don’t believe that the vast majority of Americans will let people be pushed back into the closet—if they manage to notice it happening. Given a clear choice, they won’t allow Muslims to be targeted or immigrant families divided.

The post makes the obvious point that as long as the people who voted for Trump continue to support him, Congress won’t stop him. The only strategy that will work is a strategy that will change public opinion–and that will require a unified effort by the various groups now working to protect everything from the environment to reproductive rights to fair housing laws.

If we fight for our separate issues separately, we have no chance of penetrating anyone’s media bubble or changing anyone’s mind. But if we stand together we can draw clear lines in the sand that highlight (sometimes symbolically) the choice we are facing about what kind of country to be. And if we draw the lines in the right places, when Trump crosses them, the American people will stand with us—and they will remember that choice for generations.

I would add two observations: first, those of us who are opposed to–and terrified by–Trump and Ryan and McConnell begin with a solid lead in that all-important public opinion. Thanks to the archaic Electoral College, Trump will be President, but Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes. The majority of people who are already engaged with the system, the people who have been paying attention, are with us. Our task is to engage those who have been passive, inattentive and oblivious.

Second, history and political psychology (and more recently social media) teach us how to engage those people. It isn’t through graphs, or philosophical arguments, or blogs like the one I’ve quoted. It isn’t even through exposes of Trump’s conflicts of interest, sexual assault history and corrupt practices. It isn’t through blogs like mine. It’s through stories. Pictures. Videos. The effects of Trumpism on our neighbors and friends. We need to support good journalism that tells those human stories, that brings individual examples of injustice and self-dealing out of obscurity and into the light.

We need a constant stream of stories illuminating the human toll of Trump’s appeal to the racist, mysogynistic, xenophobic underside of American society, stories illustrating the effects of policies that ravage the environment, benefit the plutocrats and crush the hardworking poor.

Sometimes, you have to paint a picture. This is one of those times.


  1. This is an excellent idea. A real path forward for those who want to keep democracy alive. I would add that one way for all to participate is to acknowledge, back up, and support news reporting that shows the truth about the far tight’s policies and their effects. I am going to keep a list of phone numbers for all of the local news outlets handy and use it to complement any and all reporters who shine a light on the reality of Trump’s world.

  2. The stumbling block in your analysis is the fact that the people who need to get the message don’t look at the media sources that are likely to print or broadcast them. As far as I can tell, the television in my sister’s house only receives signals from Fox News.

  3. Maybe breaking news reports during those mindless reality shows? The people I know who voted for this Plague don’t seek reputable news sources. Oh, there’s lots of work to do…

  4. ‘Seen from Gandhi’s point of view, Donald Trump is a gift.’

    Amen, amen, amen. Such a great challenge.

    However I can see why the white liberals are upset, think of the words and time they wasted defining the difference between what is ‘right’ and how ‘wrong’ our current administration was.

    ‘Thinking is such a thankless job’. (As per Hanna Arendt)

  5. Sheila; this may be the most profound and the most important blog since both election days. Speaking from over 60 years of personal experience and disappointment trying to reach people using what Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to teach using non-violence and being met with hostility or total alienation by family and friends, I still try.

    “When large numbers of Americans don’t see injustices and corruption, when we are unaware of the fault-lines in our society, the result is apathy.”

    “Trump is the face that America has been hiding since the 1970s.”

    That face has not been hidden within families or groups of friends who dealt with those truths by turning way; they now have a united front and full control of all three bodies our government. We must learn from European history and the German Holocaust; starting with the difference between “good” Americans who look away from and deny injustice now rules and Good Americans who refuse to give up the fight.

    “Picturing Resistance”…we must be willing to have our faces and names shown and known as we resist non-violently and by organizing our resistance.

  6. Oh such a good guide but as one comment hit the nail on the head “there is a lot of work to do”.

  7. It will take some time,but your absolutely right Sheila. Thank you for pointing this out. What a great article. Keep them coming.

  8. I have no job to lose, my family is grown and fighting on their own turf for what is right and good, not just for themselves, but for us all. My life’s partner is pretty passive and disengaged but even he is appalled at the prospect of Trumpence. I have a short time to make a difference but intend to keep resisting in small ways. Their threats can only do so much to me personally. I hope others feel the same and find ways to resist as well.

    I have to add the pictures coming from North Dakota of peaceful unarmed protestors being attacked under cover of darkness by the militarized police and real military for the success (at least, temporarily) of the pipeline halt.

    Calling out the press for the good stories should be accompanied by the same vehemence and persistent responses to misinformation and distortion of truth by the local press. TV and newspaper journalists are forced to present the fluff that advertisers seem to want to sell their legal services, cars, and drugs. Supporting the trust seekers becomes problematic when the platforms are only interested in profits and have forgotten that their customers may well lose the ability to buy their product in the end.

    There is a wonderful passage from a novel, “News of the World” describing a poster on the wall of a printer’s office:
    “…Refuge of all arts against the ravages of time
    From this place words may fly abroad
    Friend you stand on sacred ground

    Once we find a source of truth, we must defend it as best we can, whether by financial support if we have the resources to do so, or by boycott of products sold by the shills of fluff and rumor, or by how we live our lives day to day, working for a justice and the common good.

    Grief has given way to anger and now to resolve to resist in any way possible.

  9. I wish I believed it, but I don’t. Not any longer. Now, I believe a very large number of Americans will be perfectly satisfied, no matter how bad things are for them or for others, just so long as some group of “other,” some identifiable minority that isn’t them, has it worse than they do. So long as some “other” is poorer, more downtrodden, less powerful, more marginalized, more deprived of basic rights, they will feel powerful and successful. Don’t take my word for it. Bob Dylan told us about it in 1963:

    A South politician preaches to the poor white man
    “You got more than the blacks, don’t complain
    You’re better than them, you been born with white skin, ” they explain
    And the Negro’s name
    Is used, it is plain
    For the politician’s gain
    As he rises to fame
    And the poor white remains
    On the caboose of the train
    But it ain’t him to blame
    He’s only a pawn in their game

  10. Trumpist-like industry deregulation is what has left our country, and especially the rust-belt, with a destructive opioid-addiction epidemic created by a corrupt crony-capitalist cabal of regulators, drug companies and physicians. Unfortunately it was launched during the Clinton administration, exacerbated by Bush 43’s and woefully under-addressed by Obama’s but it should serve as a tragic and telling story of what happens when the foxes are put in charge of the chicken coops.

  11. I agree with all Sheila has written today, especially the idea of painting pictures for those who voted for Trump since they don’t readily respond to written and spoken words. I think, however, that we should not abandon the written word for however many we can peel off from the Trump minority and especially for those who think as we do who may be ready to throw in the towel and let this rank amateur have his way with his machete rather than a scapel through decades of carefully constucted and delicate diplomatic understandings with China, Russia and other countries who do not have our best interests at heart.
    Already the nuclear swords have started rattling with Putin’s takeover of Crimea, his Ukranian intervention and his threatened deployment of nuclear weapons near our NATO allies’ borders – and now while we are burdened with a president-elect who tweets about his hurt feelings and his admiration for what a “strong leader” Putin is. Thanks, Don; encourage the dictator.
    Gandhi (and by extension Sheila) are right; we have to focus public opinion on this real estate promoter who bullied and insulted his way into the job of chief executive of the United States, watch him like a hawk, and call him to account for every decision he makes since, after all, he is going to be making decisions for us and in our name. Unlike his me-me-me narcissistic view of everything, this is more of an us-us-us situation since we bear both the financial and peace and war decisions he makes for us and in our name.
    If you want to get into conspiracy theory, you can see something more sinister in Trump’s conduct. Perhaps there is a method to his madness. Perhaps he wants to stoke an environment of fear (as Bush and Cheney did) so that he can ride in from the west on his white horse (a la Sir Walter Scott’s idylls) and save us from extinction, and it may work (since a populace is more easily manipulated when living under a cloud of fear).
    I for one reject any such intimidation or manipulation by fear. It may have worked with Hitler’s stoking of fear of Jews and communists in order to obscure his dictatorial tactics and Bush and Cheney’s lies about WMDs, but history (and Shelia and Gandhi) tell us that an informed and energetic public can greatly affect political decisions, so I conclude that it is not just Democrats and some Republicans we have elected to resist some, most or all of Trump’s plans to privatize America. Rather it is the duty of all of us as citizens as well – so let’s persevere.

  12. As Sheila wrote, “The critical problem the author identifies is a lack of public awareness. When large numbers of Americans don’t see injustices and corruption, when we are unaware of the fault-lines in our society, the result is apathy.”

    It’s likely those who read this blog are a reasonably polite group of folks who, in turn, frequent those places where other reasonably polite folks gather to work and to socialize; thereby, we tend to speak in the abstract as we seldom personally encounter the random displays of incredible ignorance that occur with growing regularity.

    A cringe-worthy example of this incredible ignorance was captured on a cell phone camera in the Jefferson Mall’s JC Penney store in Louisville, KY, on December 20. Fortunately, the video clip has gone viral on the Internet, has been picked up by the major television networks, and has been covered by major newspapers across the nation. Both the polite and the ignorant are viewing it. The polite are appalled, and the ignorant are looking in a mirror.

    The good news resulting from this awareness is that JC Penney is reimbursing the two victims for their purchases, the Jefferson Mall has permanently banned the incredibly ignorant female shopper, and the Mayor of Louisville has opened a discussion about civil behavior.


  13. I personally agree that this is one Sheila’s most important posts.

    These are the times when good people everywhere grit their teeth, move through the threat, and focus on the opportunity.

    The opportunity is that the post honest only me world is laid bare and exposed to everyone. There is no way to deny or avoid it.

    The proponents of it are the reigning aristocracy now, but their ultimate failure is a given because their guiding philosophy simply doesn’t work. Not at home, not overseas.

    We need only to keep the truth alive and kicking so that, as misogyny fails, the reason for truth survives the mountain of propaganda that they who brought us back to the royalty that we thought that all of our wars had dismissed, erupts.

    Propaganda vs truth. Truth has always won.

  14. As a long time Socialist we have lost the battle of pardon the word marketing. It seems that ever since Marx wrote his manifesto, this has been the template for the left in varying degrees. The left has used a scientific approach in many instances. The articles and publications turn into long-winded rhetoric with numerous footnotes, graphs, spreadsheets and quotes, linked to some studies. The expected reading audience is supposed to be swayed by this mountain of data and words.

    The Right has been far more successful in their messaging, short bullet point marketing, endlessly repeated – Death Taxes, onerous regulations, market based solutions, Make America Great, etc. The Right has also not encumbered by proving any of this.

    A large part of Bernie Sanders appeal was his direct messaging as an example when he said the business plan of Wall Street is fraud. It was simple and direct. Most people understood this to varying degrees, as their jobs disappeared, retirement accounts shrank and the numerous fore closures.

    The FOX News people repeat over and over again how since Trump was elected the Dow has soared. (Bullet point marketing) That’s fine but the question behind this should be: How has this benefited the Working Class or Main Street??? We have seen these bubbles before.

    Perhaps a retort to the Trumpets should be in a few months- Is America Grate Agin??? Keep the misspellings.

  15. I live in North Carolina. I can’t even claim to live in a democracy anymore. My vote hasn’t counted for anything in years. This resistance has to be a bottom’s up thing. Challenge every election. Get in the fight for dog-catcher if that’s an elective position. Don’t let any right winger run uncontested – find somebody, frankly almost anybody. Make them sweat. Make them answer to Trump’s baloney. Get them on the record.


  16. Louie wrote something really important. He’s on to something. The Left’s growing tendency to write and to speak in “…long-winded rhetoric with numerous footnotes, graphs, spreadsheets and quotes, linked to some studies” is missing the very audience they’re hoping to reach as “…this mountain of data and words” is neither simple nor direct.

    Write and speak so the man on the street corner can understand the message. The KISS acronym for “Keep it simple, stupid” states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided. Bernie Sanders knows this. The Republicans know this.

  17. Trump’s “keep it simple, stupid” is now a full blown request for a nuclear arms war! Can – WILL – even the alt-right stop this? Do they want to stop this? What is the Left’s “long-winded Rhetoric” response to this latest step-forward from Trump – with both tiny hands waving the air?

  18. Trump’s troops fell for lies, not mere simplicity. Lies are inherently simple and always make gray into black and white.

    What we have to avoid is fighting fire with fire. We are fighting lies with truth.

    There are many ways to frame the message to suit different audiences but the difference between good and evil, sustainable and temporary, freedom and power must be kept crystal clear.

    The post honesty me only meme has to be shown for what it is. A failure not a success.

  19. BSH: while I didn’t totally absorb the entire article, I did see enough to know that much information was given but there were no solutions provided. The Technocrats cannot “walk back” nuclear technology to keep it out of Trump’s hands; the GOP cannot “walk back” the election results they provided with their support and their votes. We, the liberals and the lefties cannot “walk back” our belief we could easily beat Trump. Will we, as America, survive the coming four years to have the opportunity to vote Trump out of office? They have circled their wagons and we are in the center; our only weapons seem to be our raised voices as we whine, cry, piss and moan over our losses. People on this blog and other web sites and in the media tell us to take action but they, too, do not provide the solution giving us the source or the route for action. On one of my comments yesterday I posted the actions I have taken personally for years; didn’t include that I have alienated friends and family since 1953 fighting racism, bigotry and homophobia.

    September 11, 2001, was allowed to happen on our homeland because our leaders for decades didn’t believe any other country had the audacity to attack us on our homeland – yet they did. We laughed at our homegrown terrorists who had the audacity -and the money – to put Donald Trump up as presidential nominee to again attack us on our homeland, in our polling places. It is their turn to laugh but they are joined by our enemy nations and the laughter is ringing around the world.

    Chuck Thurston; North Carolina is not the only part of this country where democracy has died an ugly death. it just hasn’t been posted on Facebook yet.

  20. Finally it has been said out loud by a member of the Democratic Establishment!!!!!

    – Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid tore into the Democratic National Committee (DNC), calling it a “worthless” organization that doesn’t do enough to help state parties.

    “I believe one of the failures of Democratic Party has been the Democratic National Committee, the DNC, has been worthless,” Reid told Nevada Public Radio in an interview published Wednesday.

    “They do nothing to help state parties. That should be the main goal they have. I developed everything in Nevada on my own. Their help was relatively meaningless.”

    Reid said he hopes the DNC picks a chair who is “full-time,” unlike “that congresswoman from Florida,” refusing to say the name of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
    Nice that Harry said this too bad he did not say this a year ago, when it could have mattered. The Indiana Democratic Party has a commitment to political incest, which is why we had Evan Bayh and John Gregg as choices. No new fresh faces, no bench strength just the same old club.

  21. You are so right Sheila – it takes those of us who are willing to make a difference to do so. Especially for but not limited to those who don’t subscribe to newspapers and periodicals, we must educate. Parroting insults doesn’t convince Trump supporters to abandon him, but there are many folks who voted for him who would have preferred another Republican candidate for President or who just didn’t like Hillary. They are discovering ALREADY that her emails were not nearly as important as Trump promoting nuclear escalation.

    You are correct that when the public abandons him, so will Members of Congress in both parties. Let the education and persuasion begin.

  22. Nancy Papas; regarding your last paragraph, we must hope that members of Congress in both parties abandon and override his decisions before it is too late. He hasn’t been inaugurated yet and look at the serious trouble he has caused this entire country…and the GOP and Congress sit silent as his supporters on “Thank You” tours cheer him on. Harry Reid should have spoken up when Wasserman-Schultz began her games and ended her loyalty to the Democratic party. This is not a situation where “better late than never” makes a difference.

  23. I would have thought the Access Hollywood video would have been enough to stop any chance of that loser winning the election, but I was wrong. Whenever anyone interviews his lying spokeswitch, legitimate journalists should all agree that the first question should be whether the President-Elect ever grabbed her puxxy. If everyone did this, Trump would be stuck with Fox News as his only outlet, but it would send the message about why he and his family are so hated, and this is before he even takes office. A concerted approach would put his judgment, character and lack of legitimacy into focus. Yes, he did say that, and no, it wasn’t to impress little Billy Bush, either. If the spokeswitch ever answers, which she won’t because her sole skill is the pivot, but the next question should be: “Why, are you too ugly?” Rachel Maddow’s interview last night with lying Kellyanne made clear that they simply won’t answer substantive questions no matter how hard they are pressed to stay on point, so I say let them have it. The point is: he isn’t qualified to be President. He doesn’t belong in the ranks of Lincoln, FDR, JFK or anyone else. He shouldn’t be treated like he does, either.

    Have you thought about some of the awe-inspiring things other Presidents have said and how they apply today? My thoughts:

    Lincoln: “Four score and seven years ago our forefathers brought on this continent a new nation–conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether this nation, or any other nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” Yeah, Abe, I’m wondering about that now myself. Before Election Day, I had no doubt. Now, I do.

    FDR: “All we have to fear is fear itself.” Frank: I sort of disagree. I fear nuclear war, economic meltdown, collapse of our social safety network, tax money diverted to privateers, gutting of public education, loss of health insurance for millions….the list goes on. I didn’t used to, but I do now.

    JFK: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Jack: I have asked myself this question, and I know what I need to do: never stop complaining, protesting, pushing back, pointing out the illegitimacy of this realty TV star trying to be Presidential.

    Trump: “I grab them by their puxxy and they let me do it.” He’s grabbing all of us by our collective puxxies, but we’re not going to let him get away with it.

    I guess reality is setting in, and Auntie Em isn’t going to be waking me up anytime soon. Honest to God, what does it take to wake people up enough to take to the streets in protest that this person is totally unacceptable? On that note: Sheila, if you receive word of the location and time for an Indianapolis Inauguration day anti-Trump protest, please pass it along. I will attend.

    Also: Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

  24. My contribution so far has been to keep a list on FB of racist or otherwise abhorrent acts committed by local Trump supporters. I vetted the list by requiring that these acts had happened to people I knew or to people my friends actually knew. (Fortunately, I haven’t had to add anything lately.) I received push-back from some of my right wing FB friends, however, because they wanted us all to come together and “heal” but I wasn’t cooperating. I was being “negative” when they wanted to come together with love. To hell with that. You don’t come together to “heal” when the damage has only begun and promises to continue into the indefinite future. To expect acquiescence in such a situation – as in “hold your hand still while I beat it with a hammer” – is emotional abuse. Something that Trump is excels in, in fact. Besides being accused of being negative, I was also asked how I could be so sure that these acts weren’t committed by Hillary’s supporters. Puh-leeze. Yes, Trump has given his supporters an answer for everything.

  25. Excellent column–and I agree. To quote you, though, “it’s more complicated than that.” The media–all forms of it–is partly responsible for this debacle of an election because for some time now, the media has been intent on creating news rather than reporting it. Trump was allowed to control almost every situation, and he’s STILL in control–avoiding the legitimate press and communicating by tweeting–and many tweets are outright lies for which no one holds him accountable.
    The Fourth Estate used to be a powerful force in this country, but recently there’s been more pandering to the candidates and the issues than real reporting aiming to find and tell the truth. That, too, rmust change.

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