The Resistance Defined 2017 and is Showing Us The Way Forward

Rep. Pramila Jayapal

U.S. Representative, Washington’s 7th District

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It is January 2, 2018 and I am filled with gratitude ― for all of you who have worked so hard and put yourselves on the line for what we all want. I am grateful to the Dreamers, the immigrants and the workers, to the womxn who marched and the black and brown activists across the country who stood up in the most painful of circumstances. I’m grateful for the teachers who teach out of pure love and the educators in our homes, workplaces and communities. I’m grateful to our young people who refuse to be told they are too idealistic and are constantly challenging us to evolve. I’m grateful to those who love who they want to love and demand that love be recognized, and I’m grateful to those who challenge gender identity and stretch all of us in the best of ways.

I’m grateful to the business leaders who know that there is more to running a business than profit for shareholders and growth for growth’s sake, and to the innovators and creators who constantly find bits of light from dark corners waiting to be illuminated. I’m grateful to our judges and our courts who have been a ballast of sorts this past year. I’m grateful to the human rights and economic justice warriors in countries around the world who understand that ours is a global struggle for peace and justice, not an us-versus-them isolationist’s mission. I’m grateful to those who have resisted and those who have loved, to those who have cried and then gotten back on their feet because they knew there was no other choice.

I’m grateful to the grandparents, the elders and the wise ones ― and to those who take care of them. I’m grateful for our First Nations people who continue to be deeply generous despite hundreds of years of trauma foisted upon them, and who still challenge us to make the connections between earth and livelihood, inspiring movements for life. I’m grateful for the oceans, rivers, streams, mountains and forests that envelop us with love, beauty and serenity, generously giving us the resources we need and showering us with new energy to breathe.

I am grateful for my family, friends and all those who send constant love and support ― you are my energy and my hope. You teach me, love me even when I’m wrong, and let me ride the challenges and come out whole. I’m grateful for music, art and creativity; for books and literature; for travel and deeper understanding of the world. I’m grateful to the unsung heroes and heroines that we don’t even know about, people who are saving the world one small piece at a time. I’m grateful that human beings have the capacity for rebirth and resilience, for compassion and for vision.

I want for 2018 to be filled with justice, peace and love. There is so much mean-spiritedness and hate in the world, and it is easy to get wrapped up in our anger ― at the world, at injustice and at those who hate. Anger has its place. In organizing, it is gold to tap into anger. But anger alone can never take us where we need to go if it is not at the same time transformed into determination for a different way. We have to bring forth the passion for what we truly believe in ― justice, peace and love ― and follow that course.

We have to be firm and resolute about who we are and stay big-hearted and generous, even in the worst of situations. We have to call people in just as we call them out, give them a place to stand in the circle of hope. We have to recognize pain for what it is ― it is not the purview of any one group, everyone feels it and it is real. The hierarchy of oppression helps no-one and keeps us divided, but seeing our struggles as connected and giving voice to each other keeps us united. We have to remember that disagreeing with people is fine; it is dehumanizing people that is not and when that happens, we have to be ready to speak up. Compromise for compromise sake is never good, unless it is grounded in principles. Principled compromise is always good, and for that we must know what the core value is and work to get there together.

We are best when we allow ourselves to touch our own and each other’s hearts in the work we do, whatever it may be. We can never be afraid to stand up for what is right, no matter what others may say. And sometimes if that means taking a lonely road, if what we are standing for is true, then perhaps moonlight or sunshine will light our way and make it less lonely. Perhaps birds will join us on that path, and slowly, others will too.

Standing up for things when everyone else already is doing so is not really courageous. Real courage comes when we stand for things that aren’t popular yet, and make them so. Real courage is saying things that others may not want to hear ― perhaps that we ourselves don’t want to hear ― but doing it in a way that people CAN hear. In Emily Dickinson’s words, “Tell the truth but tell it slant.” We are best when we remember that human beings can change ― all of us! ― and that there are few people who are only good or only bad. Give us the wisdom and compassion to allow for nuance, holding two seemingly contradictory truths at once.

We have work to do this year. To put forward that vision of what we know is right: healthcare for all, education for all, good-paying jobs that give us all dignity of self, environmental justice, workers rights, immigration reform, criminal justice reform, civil rights, democracy reform, equal treatment for all regardless of any identification, living wages and retirement security.

Really, what this is all about is investing in us, regular folks, people who wake up every day and go about their work ― whether in their homes, or offices, or forests or small towns, steel mills or coal mines, rural or urban. It’s about leveling the playing field and giving people the respect they deserve to know that they have a fair shot, that they’ll be able to put food on the table, have a roof over their heads, send their kids to get a good education and retire with some security. That they won’t be one health care crisis away from bankruptcy, and that they will know that if their car breaks down, they can fix it instead of losing their job because they couldn’t get to work. It’s about respecting who we each are and what we bring. It’s about confronting racism and sexism and the refusals to recognize everyone’s value that stops the playing fields from being level. It’s about recognizing the reality of the black mothers and fathers who worry that their sons and daughters may not come home. It’s about every member of the trans community being able to live freely without fear of prejudice and violence. It’s about finding real economic solutions for white rural families who feel forgotten and left behind.

It’s about dignity and respect and love ― even when someone is different from what we know. That’s some of what we’re fighting for, that’s our proposition agenda that we need to put front and center even as we launch our resistance.

So, this year, I wish for all of us that deep sense of knowing at this consequential time in our history that we are doing everything we can to protect our democracy, to make it real for people here and around the world, to stand for peace and shun war, to place our trust and faith in the many and not the few, and to love as much as we possibly can. To resistance, to opposition and to believing that another world IS possible and we are the ones to make it so. Happy New Year!