I was a teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s when opposition to the Vietnam war and support for civil rights and women’s liberation was at its height. During those years, music created activist battle cries like “Hell no, I won’t go,” “I am woman, hear me roar,” and “I’m Black and I’m Proud.”
Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not hearing music that drives political and social opposition today. Or maybe as a young person, the music drove my passions more than an in-depth article from the New York Times does today.
Whatever the reason, I just don’t find the resistance of today as compelling. Pink hats are cute and massed together make great photographs, but I miss the battle cries, the drum beats of insistence that we aren’t just resisting changes that are antithetical to our closely held values, but that we will fight with all our might to protect those values. “Freedom, O freedom, that’s what we fight for.”
The call to “resist” seems particularly weak to me. Resist is a refusal to be moved. I understand that it’s a call to not accept normalization of racism and misogyny; not to brush off the daily infringements on equity and justice; not to become inured to all the unwelcome changes going on around us. Of course, we must resist those changes that undermine the foundations of religious freedom, voting rights, and democratic values upon which this nation was built. But is resistance enough?
I’ve written letters in support of the UNC Center for Civil Rights; I’ve called elected officials in opposition to unqualified cabinet members; I’ve attended rallies in support of immigrants; I’ve signed petitions. I’ve been very systematic in my efforts to act upon my beliefs rather than just voicing my opinions. I’ve resisted so much that it’s wearing me down.
There’s just too much to resist. There’s the gentrification of Chapel Hill/Carrboro, the corporatization of the UNC system, a state legislature that is trying to hamstring the governor, the systematic undermining of women’s rights, and a federal government that appears to be populated by individuals who want to do away with government all together. Our public schools are under attack; our environment is in jeopardy; our health care is at risk.
“There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one, For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one.”
Resistance was just so much more creative in the ’60s and ’70s. There were fewer newspapers and television channels. There was no Internet. There was no fake news or Twitter. Resistance required bold action in the absence of social media. In 1965, 200 faculty at the University of Michigan conducted the first teach-in against the Vietnam War. In 1969, J. Morris Anderson created the first Miss Black America Pageant, while at the (white) Miss America Pageant, feminists were burning their bras. Those were protests, not just resistance.
Obviously, I’m looking back at my youth with nostalgia, ignoring the fact that those were frightening times. Malcolm X was murdered the same year that the first teach-ins were held. While the feminists were making their stand for equality, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I don’t want those days back. I’m more comfortable these days writing letters and making phone calls, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s accomplishing anything. But then again, I’m not a refugee or an immigrant being denied safety. I’m not a Muslim being threatened because of my religion. The personal is political.
I am writing this on March 8, International Women’s Day. I will not be working today; I will resist the growing threats to women’s equality by standing in solidarity with women around the world who receive lower wages, who are more vulnerable to discrimination and job insecurity, who are victims of sexual harassment and other forms of humiliation and violence. Later this month, I will join in the March for Science. It may not feel like much in comparison to my memories of the 70s, but we’ve just gotta keep the faith that “a change is gonna come.”
You can reach Terri Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.