“To every thing there is a season,” says the biblical sage Ecclesiastes,
A time to gain, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away . . .
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak,”
and I would add,
A time to endure, and a time to resist.
As I write, in early 2017, in the United States, such a time of resistance is upon us.
This new collection (now available in paperback and on Kindle) is for those who have been through “a time to lose” — losses that, as I write, are far from over. Some of these losses will have to be endured for a time, perhaps a long time.
Yet if so, they are not to be endured in passive, compliant silence.
These losses will afflict some more, with the weight of an enslaved history on one side, and official bullets on the other. Yet even among those most advantaged, none will escape: the very air that all breathe, the water necessary for all life, are at risk, as well as justice, and what we have known of freedom.
Likewise the ways of resistance are manifold, and guides and programs and checklists for the new waves of resistance strategy are proliferating.
This collection is not meant to add to that burgeoning strategy shelf. After all, no program can fully encompass the resistance. Its scale can include monumental gatherings of hundreds of thousands — even millions. It is also carried on in quiet, solitary acts of defiance. Often these are no more than calm, insistent truth-telling, now an increasingly radical act as lies are embedded in the heart not only of government, but enshrined in the high seats of what is called religion, especially American white Christianity.
Amid this great variety, there are two resources which the resistance handbooks mention, but cannot turn into a formula, namely creativity and imagination. These are weapons more of the weak than the strong, and buckets of money are not enough to quell or substitute for them.
Nor can their impact be reliably predicted, or programmed. Who knew in the spring of 2011 that the single word “Occupy” would soon make the the pillars of great wealth tremble? And who could have foreseen that pink knitted caps with floppy pointed ears would be the symbol that shook an arriving, arrogant regime?
Imagination and creativity are, in my view, better conveyed by images, by verse, and best of all by story.
Among the oldest stories in Western culture is one of resistance to oppression and a quest for liberation.
For my part, I have written stories for almost forty years. Most have been set in my religious community, that of the Quakers, and many relate to our own rich and complex history. They were not written with a plan in mind, beyond the intent to tell pieces of truth in ways that could capture the attention of readers. Yet going back over them as the clouds gathered for this difficult time, I saw that many are in fact about, or involve, resistance.
It may be resistance to slavery; to any of several wars; unjust imprisonment; spy conspiracies; and more.
And several of the stories also involve ghosts. I don’t know whether I believe in ghosts. But I more than believe that my American life has unfolded in a haunted society; and my encounters with some of its many specters are reflected here.
Among those encounters, possibly the most welcome one has been with the shade of Quaker Lucretia Mott, a great 19th century Friend. She survived and resisted the ravages of war, personal loss, struggles with her own co-religionists on the one hand, and proslavery mobs on the other.
And through it all, it could truly have been said of her, that as an advocate for the rights and full humanity of all, but especially women, “She has persisted.”
One of her most ringing affirmations echoes repeatedly now, with special resonance:
“I have no idea,” she declared, “of submitting tamely to injustice . . . . I will oppose it with all the moral powers with which I am endowed. I am no advocate of passivity.”
Neither are these stories.
They offer examples of imagination, creativity, and courage. If they provide any readers with encouragement and a spur to find and express those elements now, in this season of trial, this collection will have been a success.
Our Society. Our Future: Resist!
Available here, and at Amazon & on Kindle.