Resistance Far From Futile

Like so many who believe the election of Donald Trump to be dangerous and harmful I have been going through the various stages of grief coupled with a lot of worry and fear.

As a life-long environmental and social activist it’s easy to focus on the pain. The specter of increased assault on our Earth hurts, a lot. So does the ramped up trampling of Native American rights in pursuit of even more fossil fuel. And the incredible discrimination against Muslims, Mexicans and others.

The Eco-warrior in me wants to fight, to hit back. But the Spiritual-warrior cautions.

It is so common for activist movements to take up the language, rhetoric and tone of war. And yet rarely, in either left leaning or right leaning causes, has that really worked. Just consider the War on Poverty, War on Drugs, War on Terrorism. How are any of those battlefields working for us?

Just consider, Trump’s “War on the Media” is currently actually increasing ratings for cable news networks! I know I am watching more of the dubious stuff as I try to keep up with developments and refuse to be informed solely by the Twitterin’ Chief. Although given what I learned first hand about the dishonesty, intentional or otherwise, put forward in sensationalist “Breaking News” I won’t allow myself to get sucked in (even though it can be tempting!).

These are definitely serious times that demand serious responses. Part of that will certainly be standing up to misguided, dangerous and just plain ugly behavior and rhetoric. But while I think standing against is important, it’s also essential we make the firm commitment and do the work to stand for something better.

Recently I posted a response from an Iranian friend of mine when I reached out to tell him I was thinking of him in the hours after the Muslim travel ban. His words really moved me (still do). I share them again here because I think they express both resistance and standing for.

Here is some of what he wrote:

Our new President has become our teacher, perhaps not the kind we sought or were waiting for but nevertheless he is teaching us with every action he has taken and every order he signed in the past week. He is teaching us we need to be more engaged and involved if we want our country to live up to its constitution and to our core values; that fearmongering works and discrimination and racism is well and alive; that a democracy can only be democratic if its citizenry is engaged and informed; that you can completely derail an established system of government by misinformation and alternative facts.

We have also shown that we are excellent students and learn quickly. We demonstrated that people power overcomes hatred and bigotry; that there are so many people in this country who care enough to come together to have their voices heard and support those who are suffering; that hundreds of attorneys have set up shop across the country in numerous airports and are offering their services pro bono to those in need; that love and compassion are greater than any executive order and humanity cannot survive without them. ……..

While we go through the harsh winter of this political season, we also know that spring will come sooner or later. We’ll work together to plow the snow off the streets and sidewalks so we can still move and function even in the midst of winter.”

 

I know that putting more violence and hatred into the world will not achieve the peace and healing we activists want. Our resistance movement has an opportunity to lead our country through this learning moment in a way that increases kindness, compassion and healing. To do so, the focus must be on evolving and elevating ourselves, our neighbors, our culture rather than tearing down the other.

One thing that will help us have the spiritual discipline to stand up while staying above the ugliness is to celebrate successes every chance we get. It is so easy to get overwhelmed and depressed by always focusing on the problems we’re tackling and the never-ending work to be done. But this only disempowers us.

I was recently blown away when I took a look at all the successes the resistance movement has had in recent weeks.

  • First was the incredible, unprecedented mobilization for peace that we saw in the Women’s marches all across the country and world. It was the largest civil action in U.S. history!
  • This is mow mushrooming into an unprecedented level of progressive action movements including Indivisible, Pussy Hat Movement, Movement Match and Movement2017 among others.
  • People standing up for Veterans forced the Trump Administration to back off a hiring freeze on open federal positions at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
  • People standing up for justice and fairness sent the American Civil Liberties Union a record-breaking $24 million in one weekend to support ACLU efforts.
  • People standing up for environmental protection and climate action forced Trump to back down on his plan to scrub all climate change information from the Environmental Protection Agency website. Climate change information is once again posted on the site.
  • The GrabYourWallet campaign to boycott companies selling Trump products is gaining steam. Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, Shoes.com are just some of the companies that dropped Trump brands.
  • Other companies are providing powerful leadership. Kellogg’s stopped advertising with Breitbart News, and Lyft pledged $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years.
  • And then there’s the tremendous victory in halting Trump’s Muslim ban. First Microsoft, Amazon and Expedia took the ban to court. Then, last week a federal judge in Washington State temporarily blocked the ban and just yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that block by a bi-partisan unanimous vote.

Powerful stuff! In order to build momentum for ongoing, effective action we will need to celebrate successes. We will also need to take care of ourselves and one another. I recently heard Marianne Williamson address a crowd of regular meditators about how they can take action during these challenging times. She said, “Even people who sit must stand!” I loved it! And yet, it got me thinking about how many activists don’t take very good care of themselves. So I am flipping it and saying those of us who stand must also sit sometimes!

In order to stay healthy and keep our Resiliency Muscles strong we will need to find quiet time and rest. We will need to play and laugh. If you’re one of those who feel such things aren’t productive I’d urge you to reconsider. Burn-out and depression are occupational hazards for committed activists young and old. And right now we just can’t have that! Take care of your inner environment so that you can do your very best work on behalf of our outer environment.

So here’s to you activists. And to the long haul, the arc toward justice and a long, prolonged, multi-hued and faceted victory march.

Cylvia Hayes

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A Surprising Project About Trump

reasons to believe-FINAL.inddWanted to share with you a fun project I’ve been involved with. Believe it or not it’s a book exploring evidence that Donald Trump will be a great President! Stay with me ….. !

In this book, Dr. Ann Alystiam reveals the qualifications and evidence suggesting that Donald Trump will be a great President. She documents Trump’s genuine promises and strong commitments to:

  • Bettering the Lives of Working-class People
  • Supporting People Who Aren’t Wealthy, White and Straight
  • Treating Women With Respect
  • Protecting our Environment and Livability of our Planet

The book is an exceptionally easy read and concludes with a surprisingly hopeful epilogue. Whatever you do don’t miss the epilogue!

A great gift to bring some humor and healing into the New Year and new political reality.

I know those of you who know me will find this a huge surprise but just check out the book description when it comes out in the next day or two. It’s not what you might be thinking!

#cylviahayes

Taking Back Our Politics with Our Hearts

Wow, I amdemocracy-keep-calm just stunned by the ugliness of the presidential campaign and the awful, low level of our civic conversation — so much fear and attack and “Us versus Them”. This campaign does not reflect the best of what America could be and it doesn’t reflect what I want to be part of.

It just flies in the face of the fact that we are actually all in this together and if we really want our country to be as great as it has the potential to be we have to reconnect with that truth.

I just read a piece on how to heal the heart of our democracy that I thought I’d share with you because it struck a cord and offers some deeper insight into how we move beyond the current ugliness by reconnecting with our deeper selves.

The article can be found here.

I would love to know what you think about this.

Cylvia Hayes #cylviahayes

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Gold Medal Reinvention

Olympic Refugee TeamI am utterly inspired by the Olympic Refugee Team! These ten athletes fled horrifying conditions and undertook life-threatening journeys to find better lives for themselves. And in the midst of those terrifying and exhausting circumstances they decided that their reinvention would be more than escaping harm, they would put in the killer hard work to become Olympic athletes!

I recently wrote that self-reinvention isn’t for wimps and wow, these folks take that point right over the top!

They each have incredible stories. The seventeen-year-old swimmer who crossed from Turkey into Greece in an inflatable boat and when the motor died, she got out and swam, pulling the boat filled with people to safety. The young man who fled to avoid being forced to become a child soldier. Extraordinary.

They haven’t won any medals, at least not yet, but they have won my heart, and countless others as well. I still can’t hold back tears when I watch the footage of them marching into the stadium during the opening ceremonies and the entire place giving a standing ovation in honor of their courage in overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to be there.   It was a breathtakingly beautiful human moment.

Their journeys say a lot about self-reinvention:

  • No matter how terrifying it is to leap into the unknown sometimes the most dangerous thing is staying where we are.
  • Our human spirit can do so much more than we usually realize.
  • There is huge power in huge dreams! Can you imagine the sheer audacity it took for these people to say, “yeah I’m a refugee without a dime to my name, but I’m also a talented athlete and I am going to compete in the Olympics?!!

I have loved witnessing these extraordinary people and their incredible accomplishments as I am navigating my own self-reinvention.

Most of us won’t have to face the horrors of fleeing our homeland and risking our lives in jungles, deserts and the open sea, but we will face times when life throws a curve and we have to reinvent.

I am committed to taking a page from the playbook of these extraordinary refugees turned Olympic athletes and set big audacious goals for my next chapter!

What about you? Are you facing a challenge, or change, a reinvention? Are you ready to hold a go-for-gold attitude when stepping into that big, scary unknown of what next?!

There’s a wonderfully inspiring short video about these athletes. In it one amazing young man says, “Yes, we are refugees but we are also human being just like you, see?” They’ve done something great. So can you. No matter the odds … your next steps can be toward something great!

Cylvia Hayes

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The Delta 5: Ordinary People Taking Extraordinary Actions

On July 24, 2014 at 2am a train carrying 100 cars of highly explosive crude oil went off the tracks under the Magnolia Bridge in Seattle. Each tanker car held 28,000 gallons of oil. Fortunately the train was moving very slowly and none of the oil spilled or exploded.

All of this took place within a mile of where Abby Brockway’s daughter goes to school. For Brockway, that was a defining moment, “After that day, I realized that I couldn’t wait any longer – I needed to take action.”

Two months later Brockway and four others — Michael LaPointe, Patrick Mazza, Jackie Minchew, Elizabeth Spoerri — erected an 18 foot tall metal tripod over Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway tracks at the Delta Rail Yard in Everett, Washington in protest of oil trains and inaction on climate change. Petite Brockway climbed to the very top of the tall structure and the other four locked themselves to the foot of the poles. Eight hours later, with the help of a fire department ladder truck and the jaws-of-life, they were arrested and charged with criminal trespass and blocking a train. They were dubbed the Delta 5.

In January, I travelled to a small courthouse tucked between strip malls north of Seattle to attend the Delta 5 trial. For four days the typically quiet courtroom was overflowing with observers, supporters, reporters and television cameras. It was so packed that many times many of us had to sit on the floor. From the beginning I sensed I was witnessing something historic.

This was to be the first time the necessity defense was argued in a U.S. climate or fossil fuel-connected civil disobedience trial, and only the second climate necessity trial in the world. The necessity defense makes the case that any crimes committed were necessary to avert greater harms from climate change and fossil fuel pollution. After hearing the entire necessity defense arguments, Judge Anthony Howard determined that the defendants had met most but not all of the requirements to have the jury consider it and instructed jurors to make their decision based solely on the legal definitions of criminal trespassing and intentionally blocking a train.

The jury eventually delivered a surprising decision, finding the defendants guilty of second degree criminal trespass but not of intentionally obstructing a train. Ironically, the railroad said that the specific train the Delta 5 had blocked was not scheduled to leave until later that night.

The final two hours of the trial delivered extraordinary moments. One took place during a break after the jury had delivered their decision. The Delta 5 and their legal team were huddling in a narrow hallway outside the courtroom. Three of the jurors joined the group. As reporters and photographers crowded around the jurors and defendants addressed one another.

The jurors expressed remorse for ruling guilty on any charge. Sixty-one year old truck driver Joe Lundheim wiped away tears when Abby Brockway said, “I’m actually really pleased with what you delivered to us, because we have options now and there’s more we can do with this, and this was probably the best verdict that could have been returned to us.”

Lundheim went on to say, “That was huge in itself, that you guys were able to bring this matter to a jury trial. … There’s this very narrow window of time when traffic is going to exponentially increase on this toxic product coming through our neighborhoods to make a buck—while a buck is able to be made—before it closes … And I know this because I’ve been listening to this stuff all week long, so thank you for that.”

“We don’t want to be the corridor,” juror Sue McGowan added. The jurors and defendants hugged and then, through a big smile Delta 5 defendant LaPointe said loudly, “May I say welcome to the movement?” The crowd erupted into laughter and applause.

Shortly after Judge Howard delivered extraordinary closing comments:

Frankly the court is convinced that the defendants are far from the problem and are part of the solution to the problem of climate change . . . they are tireless advocates that we need in this society to prevent the kind of catastrophic effects that we see coming and our politicians are ineffectually addressing. People in the courtroom learned much, including the guy in the black robe.

The defendants were sentenced to 90 days jail with credit for one day already served and 89 suspended provided they did not violate a two-year probation period.

There will be more to come. At least three of the Delta 5 defendants have filed an appeal. Their goal is to have the necessity defense considered by a jury.

When I asked Patrick Mazza why he had decided to complicate his life by crossing the line to direct action civil disobedience he said,

My day on the rails was the day before my daughter’s 18th birthday, the last day before she became a full adult. By the time she’s my age it will certainly be hotter, more storm tossed and troubled. She knows it too. A few years back I was sitting on the porch late on a sunny afternoon, she came up and asked, ‘Dad, is there hope for the world?’ That’s the kind of question for which a parent needs a positive answer. When I sat down on the railroad track, I did my best to supply one.The