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An Open Letter to the Resistance

If you want to beat Trump, you have to fight the system that produced him

I get it, you don’t like Trump. And that’s why you joined an organization like Indivisible. You call your representatives, even though you rarely did that before. You put #TheResistance in your social media profile, and make posts about politics—you never did that before—and maybe even talk about politics IRL.

You went to the Women’s March. You’ve gone to a meetup where everyone talked about the terrifying political reality—the temporary, but certainly dangerous age of Trump.

Maybe you’re still with her. Maybe you’re still really, really with her. And maybe you like Bernie Sanders, too, or maybe you hate him. Maybe you’re indifferent to that. After all, it’s Trump who is the problem, you say, and Sanders has been fighting him all along.

You have good intentions. You truly want this to be a good place for everyone. I believe you.

Then there’s something you need to know. Something you need to really understand—if perhaps you don’t already.

We were facing a crisis before Trump. In this country, and around the world. To be the resistance, you must know this.

Because if you don’t know the problem, you can’t fight it. If it were really true that “America is already great,” Trump never would have had much of an audience. He would never have gained steam in a presidential election. And certainly, he wouldn’t have won the election, by beating the powerful Clinton political machine.

You think this country is racist? You’re right. Sexist? Definitely. Not everyone, of course. But systemically, it’s true.

But you can’t possibly, honestly believe these are new, can you? Or that it’s only Donald Trump, or just “Trump voters?” You see, Trump is not the problem. Yes, he is—but even more, what created him is the problem. And what created him was this very society we live in, the society in which you share many of the same beliefs, habits, and institutions.

Did you know that Obama wasn’t a great president? Was that statement a shock to you? Respectability and eloquence do not a good president make. Barack Obama’s administration was regressive for a mass of Americans, and much of the world outside our nation. To be the resistance, you must take a moment to heed intellectuals like Cornel West when they say this is true.

But this isn’t about Obama. He was just an example, which I used because so much of the resistance automatically holds him in high esteem. Many of the same criticisms about Obama could be made about Hillary Clinton. Based on her history, her donors, and sober analysis of her 2016 candidacy, she would have continued most of what came before, and failed to challenge structural issues. What came before was the environment that produced Trump. The structures of the status quo would have festered beneath the surface of Clinton’s presidency, only to rise again in her wake.

But this is not just about Clinton, either, or any one person. Politics must be seen in a whole new light. If you believe in resistance, you will have to understand that No is Not Enough. We need a bold vision to transform this country and our world. Incrementalism and blind loyalty are not the resistance we need. So, you will need to criticize the Democratic Party, and hold them to the fire—because they have proven ineffective against Trump. And they were what helped produced him in the first place.

But this isn’t just about the Democratic Party. To be the resistance, you’ll have to check on everyone who is powerful. Because no one simply deserves power over the rest of us, and just because someone says they’re on your side doesn’t make them good. It doesn’t make them right. It doesn’t mean they’re doing the thing that they should.

You will need to build political power in the streets. Not just through family-friendly marches, but direct action and civil disobedience. And you will need to support, in whatever way you can, those who are risking themselves in this way.

After all, if the Trump administration is so bad, and so threatening, they must be subverted. It is our duty.

You will need to organize your communities, and the workplace. You cannot rely on the federal government. Not now. But also, not ever. We will have to take action on the local level to build the world we need.

You will need to recognize that voting is not enough. We need more choices than that, more democracy than that. Democracy is a verb, and the ballot box is not enough. The whole of society must be democratized.

You’ll have to go to town halls, support people running for office, and run for office yourselves. You will have to become the government—not just cast a ballot for them.

You’ll need to make it your life mission—not just now, but for the rest of your life—to agitate, educate, and organize. That’s what it really means to be political.

In some way, you’ll have to be the resistance forever. That is the only way to really resist. It is the only way to have a democratic society. It is the only way to make sure Trump is never allowed to happen again—and to move beyond the circumstances that allowed Trump.

Look, don’t hate me for this. I’m just the messenger. The system is the problem. And if you don’t realize that, then your resistance is just a band-aid. And not a very sticky one. Trump will prevail, and worse will take his place.

Written by Sammy Kayes

Sammy Kayes

Sammy Kayes is an educator and activist in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @left_judo.

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An Open Letter to the Resistance