The Slow-Cooked Sentence

When sleeping women wake, mountains move

Rachael Conlin Levy

I’m living 100 days in resistance to U.S. President Trump.

Since Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the term in 1933, the first 100 days has been used to measure a president’s effectiveness. I want Trump to fail. I won’t stand by as Trump seizes this moment when voters and the press are distracted by his truculent tweets to turn campaign promises into legislation.

Daily until April 10, I will work to derail his agenda. Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary in the Clinton Administration, suggests that it’d take about an hour a day to maintain this opposition. I’m going to find that tough as a newcomer to activism. So how can I guard against the expectation that my energy will run low, imagination will fail, fatigue will set in and despair rise?

I will write.

“My words are still muddled but the tap-tap-tap of my keyboard has begun to sound like the footsteps of soldiers marching toward a deeper purpose,” wrote Sonora Jha, Seattle Hugo House writer-in-residence and the author of “Foreign.”

To write and wage war.

The Trump Administration is upending my reality with falsehoods and executive orders, but I’m not without power to oppose, to respond, to write of what exists and is true. James Baldwin talks about the idea of writer as witness in a 1984 interview with Julius Lester for the New York Times. Baldwin said that when he writes as witness he writes from “whence I came, where I am. Witness to what I’ve seen and the possibilities that I think I see.”

Baldwin talks about the difference between himself and a spokeswoman like Fannie Lou Hamer, the Mississippi civil rights organizer who in 1961 was sterilized without her consent by a white doctor as a part of the state’s plan to reduce the number of poor blacks. Two years later, Hamer and others were arrested for sitting at a whites-only lunch counter, jailed and brutally beaten by fellow cellmates under the orders of police.

“A spokesman assumes that he is speaking for others. I never assumed that – I never assumed that I could. Fannie Lou Hamer, for example, could speak very eloquently for herself. What I tried to do, or to interpret and make clear was that what the Republic was doing to that woman, it was also doing to itself,” Baldwin said. “No society can smash the social contract and be exempt from the consequences, and the consequences are chaos for everybody in the society.”

To write and bear witness.

I don’t know how to do this, and Baldwin warns that the white writer has many opportunities to avoid reality. But I’ll begin where Baldwin suggests — from whence I came and where I am: a white, college-educated woman raised in a poor, white, rural community outside Reno, Nevada, now raising my children in a majority-white neighborhood in wealthy Seattle.

I will speak out, support, learn, love, read, write, donate and defend the people, land and institutions I value. I’ll document my efforts here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. I want to hear what you’re doing, for we will shore up each other. I want to be called out when I avoid reality; we will keep each other honest. I want to distill our activism into focused, habitual, potent civic engagement for that is how we will right these wrongs.

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