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Christopher Joseph is a poet and political writer and activist from Providence, RI.

3 responses to “All methods of anti-Trump protests must be respected”

  1. Greg Gerritt

    Right on. We all need to protest in different ways, and all ways are needed at this time. Find what works for you.

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  2. Randall Rose

    Let’s be honest. In fighting Trump, as in any battle, some acts are counterproductive. So let’s debate what helps and what doesn’t. Our opponents try to make the decisions that are smart for them on how to advance their goals — when they have debates over which tactics are effective for them and which aren’t, those debates help make them strong. The same thing applies to our side too.

    That’s not the same as saying “only my way is good”. Myself, I don’t know what’s the best tactic. I think it’s good for people to propose and try new tactics, because we don’t always know in advance what will work — but that needs to be balanced by listening to others’ insights about what will work and what won’t. I’m not so weak that I feel threatened if someone says my tactics are completely wrong; I’m strong enough to listen when that happens, and others should be too. Each of us will be wrong sometimes, and we’re more powerful as we learn from each other.

    I respect Chris, but I don’t think he’s right when he contrasts those who use nonviolence with those who he calls “further to the left”. Nonviolence isn’t what divides people on the left-right spectrum, and I think those who present things that way have misled Chris and others. There are some far-left people who use nonviolence and some who don’t, just as there are some moderates who use nonviolence and some who don’t. Nonviolence vs. violence is a disagreement about what strategy is best, but it isn’t necessarily a disagreement about goals. The left-to-right political spectrum is frequently an oversimplification, but if you want to divide people into different positions on that spectrum, don’t do it just because they have different strategies for achieving their goals. As long as our goals are basically the same, we should see ourselves as people who are trying to collaborate with a shared purpose, not as divided into who’s more left and less left.

    Friendly debate about tactics didn’t go far enough when people first started to resist Hitler. As the Nazi Party rose, some people tried to shut it down by force, which of course was ineffective and was a great excuse for more violence by the Nazis. Many people who weren’t initially Nazi backers felt threatened by the left, and decided it was better to have Hitler’s party in power. Clearly, badly chosen tactics can alienate people and lead to worse repression. Some anti-Nazis thought that provoking repression by Hitler would lead in the long run to a socialist future — it didn’t work out that way.

    I think violence is sometimes the best tactic, and I’m glad to debate about that. But I also know that commonly violence is chosen not because it’s really the best tactic but because it’s emotionally satisfying and makes people feel powerful. People deceive themselves into thinking that they’ve got a good strategic case and a thorough moral justification for using violence, when they’re really doing it for worse reasons. Nonviolence is advocated for bad reasons sometimes, too. One test of our community’s strength is how we can let people debate tactics, and look carefully at the pros and cons, without letting anyone use this debate to sideline their rivals within the movement or to gain extra power for themselves.

    And in the end, this isn’t only a debate about strategy. What’s right and wrong should be part of it too, especially when resisting Trump. I don’t ever forget that one reason why Trump and his allies took power is because a lot of progressives and people on the left ended up not really doing that much for a lot of working people, and found ways to enhance their own position and their self-image instead. I know that some good people, people who could be our allies, have been drawn into supporting Trump partly because of that. We could have done a better job of listening to their concerns and working out better solutions that respect their needs and insights, but instead they often recognize that we’re self-interested at times and too unwilling to listen. The need to resist Trump doesn’t excuse us in making mistakes like that. I’m not going to attack Trump supporters as a way of forgetting about that, because that would just drive them more towards Trumpism. So as we debate tactics, I am also going to try keeping in mind the real concerns of those who have been forgotten and neglected on the left and the right, because I want a society where they all have a voice.

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    1. cailin rua

      FWIW, Randall, I thought the kink of support the people who assaulted Richard Spencer have been given very disturbing. It’s nonsensical retributive “justice” which is a product of the same kind of base emotions one sees at a Trump rally. As far as the property crimes are concerned, I find them not nearly as disturbing, especially considering the fact no one knows who and how many have infiltrated the various protest events that have occurred since Ferguson. I’m thinking of the hipster who was reported on out at the DAPL protests who was discovered with an assault rifle.

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