Saying “Yes, and” to the Future

Beloved Resistance,

First, I truly do love you. In these scary times, it is the words and acts of the resistance that give me hope and keep me going. I truly do not know where I would be without you. Because I love you, I need to talk with you about a troubling tendency I’ve seen lately.

We are all, regrettably, getting accustomed to the toxic symbiosis between the 45th president, the Republican party, and our homegrown nazis which some know as the “alt-right.” When journalists make progress on exploring the connections between 45, his cabinet, and Russia then 45 is allowed by his handlers to send a series of unhinged tweets. These tweets then generate a bevy of focused news coverage. It’s beneficial for the GOP and homegrown nazis to keep coverage focused on 45’s unhinged behavior because it provides a smoke screen for their attempts to roll back civil rights and social programs.

We all know that this is happening, with variations. Here’s what I’m concerned about, Beloved, I’m worried about the prevalence of “No, but” thinking in communications from the resistance. For instance, only looking at today in the very limited circle of my FB feed I’ve seen at least three people urging others not to focus on 45’s tweets or the Russian connections but instead to focus on opposing recently proposed legislation. These arguments take this general form:

Person 1: Can you believe these tweets and/or these Russian connections?

Person 2: No, those aren’t important, but you need to focus on this legislation!

As humans, we do tend towards this type of “No, but” thinking. I wonder if those of us who identify as activists tend towards it more emphasizing the causes that are near and dear to our hearts. Even though we know and experience intersectional oppression we are only human. We have limited focus and energy. We can’t do everything, and that’s okay. I often try to remind myself of this quote from Rabbi Tarfon :

It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.

There are a million other quotes along the same lines reminding us not to be too discouraged that we can’t do everything but to focus on what we can do and I hope you have one that gives you strength and comfort when you need it. The problem isn’t that we can’t, as individuals, do everything–the problem is insisting that others give priority to what we find important.

When it comes to the unholy trinity of 45, the GOP, and U.S. nazis I humbly suggest the following:

It is all important.

All of it. Any sane person should be concerned that the 45th president of the United States may have neurosyphilis, dementia, or might just be a selfish, reckless, idiot. That’s legitimately concerning because he has a lot of power and could hurt a lot of people. People who are concerned about his tweets aren’t wrong. It’s important that some part of the resistance keep an eye on them to better understand some bit of how 45 sees the world and to hold him accountable for his words, even if those words are in tweets.

The Republican’s assault on environmental protections and social programs through legislation is also important. It seems that every few days there is new legislation proposed that is designed to kill people while maximizing corporate profits. We need people who have a solid grasp of legislation and legislative process to keep alerting us to the dangers they see.

I almost don’t even want to mention the fucking nazis represented by Bannon and Co. because so many other people have written so eloquently about it and because my brain can’t get past the point of screaming “Nazis=Bad” over and over again. Nazis are terrorists and I can’t believe we have one in the White House. Obviously, keeping an eye on Bannon and his cronies is important.

It’s all important and we need to keep an eye on all of it. I urge The Resistance to embrace “Yes, and” thinking. There is room and need for keeping track of all of these issues and more. We can be a movement of people that looks like this:

Person 1: Can you believe these tweets and/or these Russian connections?

Person 2: Yes, those are important, and so is this proposed legislation. I’m glad we’re working together on these incredibly complex and connected issues.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am the youngest child and prone to the can’t-we-all-just-get-along syndrome, but that’s not what I’m asking for here. We already have common ground. What I’m asking for are fewer think pieces saying “The REAL issue facing the resistance is this!” What I’m hoping for are more think pieces saying, “While working on this very important issue of the resistance this is how we can help our friends working on this issue of the resistance.”

To conclude, I’ve been rewatching “Parks and Recreation” lately. In fact, it’s on in the background as I write this. Yes, there’s a little bit of escapism, but it’s also a vision for how people with vastly different attitudes, skill sets, and values can come together and make a better community by putting each other first as friends. That’s the sentimental way of saying that we’ve been here before, we’ve seen divide and conquer stop great movements in their tracks and if there’s one thing we can definitely all agree on it’s this:

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NOT. THIS. TIME. MOTHERFUCKERS.

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4 thoughts on “Saying “Yes, and” to the Future

  1. This, all of this. I’m minded of that commercial where the choice is either/or when a little girl asks why can’t it be both? This divisiveness over each and issue scrambling to be *the* issue du jour lets no issue get the attention it needs to be resolved. Excellent post.

    1. Thank you for your comment! Realistically, I know I’m not alone in feeling this way but it’s nice to connect with someone who is feeling the same.

  2. I often tell myself that I will start reading more rabbinical work as soon as I have time 🙂 Thank you for the encouragement! I have a new piece (well, really an old piece I’ve reworked) that I’ll be posting tomorrow. It’s a little more in line with my research interests than this piece was and I hope you’ll like it.

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