Writers Of The Resistance

January 20, 2017

4b81149247ccf4548a3a29c1fcd82444It’s not exactly the Civil War all over again, with opposing homegrown armies battling one another to the death on battlegrounds like Antietam and Gettysburg. Still, with the political climate boiling and differences between factions looking intractable, a hot war isn’t as implausible as it once seemed. These days there seem to be fewer and fewer unthinkable possibilities. We don’t yet know how far President Trump will go in challenging the normal rules of society to enforce his authority. One thing is certain: he didn’t hesitate during the campaign to set his thugs on peaceful demonstrators.

Those of us with progressive beliefs are feeling beleaguered. We’re clinging to common sense in the face of a government in which facts and reason have no place. I believe there are few problems in our society that couldn’t be solved, or at least alleviated, if billionaires like Trump and his closest buddies were paying their fair share of taxes. Yet that is absolutely out of the question. To even argue the point is a waste of breath. A President who has been propelled into office on a movement depending on lies, conspiracy theories, and delusion can’t be reasoned with, and neither can his followers. He will never read reputable newspapers or listen to experts who say things he doesn’t want to hear. His only real belief is in his own greatness and his ability to do whatever he wants. The word for that is dictatorship.

With reason flying out the window, so has politics as usual. We once had two major political parties with a core of responsible leaders who saw the necessity of compromising on occasion to get things done. Now one of the parties has mastered every dirty trick in the book to keep itself in power. Thanks to innovations like Citizens United, gerrymandering, and voter suppression, and the tried-but-true Electoral College, the system is so rigged that dislodging the clowns will probably be impossible for years to come. A majority of citizens already opposes them, yet here they are in all their glory, claiming a “mandate.” Most people favor sensible gun control, Planned Parenthood, affordable health care, and clean energy, but those are looking like pipe dreams. We might as well call this system by its rightful name: Fascism.

Artists have a long history of standing up to Fascists. Art is only one weapon, but a necessary one. Political fiction has always pushed the boundaries of what seemed possible, but lately even the most innovative stories have been overtaken by events. I’ve been looking forward to the fifth season of the Netflix series “House of Cards,” but now the incredibly sleazy Underwood administration seems so tame compared to reality. Sleazy doesn’t necessarily equate to Fascist. True, Frank Underwood has murdered people who stood in his way, but he has some sensible ideas for running the country and has implemented a few policies that actually help ordinary people. He’s evil, but he’s smart enough to cover his tracks. His calculating nature and self-control tend to prove he’s not crazy. By contrast, many of Trump’s statements are utterly irrational, and he can’t seem to stop himself from uttering or tweeting them.

If the brutal election and its aftermath produce a Resistance movement, that could turn out to be a silver lining for writers. Many great stories came out of resistance to Nazism before and during World War Two. A truly creative writer could perhaps find a way to adapt one of my favorites, “Casablanca,” to the US landscape. It would involve a love triangle centered on a heroine who thinks her husband, a renowned freedom fighter, has perished in prison. She falls in love with another man, also a freedom fighter in his own more understated way, only to find out that her husband is still alive and is coming back. She must decide: which rebel does she love most?

Admittedly, it wouldn’t have quite the same punch unless there was a real war going on, with troops occupying Washington the way they did Paris. Maybe if Hillary Clinton had won the election, and Trump had instigated the violent insurrection he hinted at numerous times, that would have been the case. Or if he should lose a reelection bid four years from now, he might be unwilling to accept those results peaceably. Even in the absence of a hot war, I can envision one of my favorite scenes replicated: the singing of the Marseillaise at Rick’s café, which joyfully drowned out the German national anthem. To get the flavor of that scene, all we’d have to do is find the nearest gathering of Trumpsters, and blast it with Pete Seeger and other peace songs.

A Resistance story doesn’t necessarily involve actual combat. There are many World War Two-era stories that celebrate non-violent resistance to Nazism. A few examples include “The Book Thief” (which celebrates the reading and preservation of forbidden books during Nazi book-burning campaigns); “Rosenstrasse” (which portrays the silent protests by Christian women that resulted in getting their Jewish husbands released from prison); and “Sophie Scholl” (which depicts the White Rose student resistance movement that encouraged kids to spread leaflets and graffiti throughout Germany).

I was a bureaucrat for forty years in Federal government and quasi-government programs, and was never on the front lines of anything. So what kind of Resistance movie could I produce based on my own experiences? Many budget analysts like me are charged with producing head counts of employees in various job classifications. One of my responsibilities at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was maintaining lists of compliance safety and health officers, known as CSHOs. They were the front-line employees who performed safety and health inspections at worksites.

Now the Trump team has announced its intention to change civil service rules so that career Federal employees can be fired without cause. It can’t be a coincidence that they’ve demanded the names of Energy Department employees who have been involved in designing and implementing clean energy policies. So far, the department has denied the request. Will they be able to continue standing up to the science deniers? I envision a drama with a working title like “Barricades of the Bureaucracy.” Not exactly an action-packed thriller, it would instead be a tale of organized civil disobedience among pencil pushers.

A wide-scale resistance movement in the Federal bureaucracy could take the form of refusing to divulge the names of employees who are doing the regulatory and scientific jobs they were hired to do, such as establishing environmental protection laws and enforcing safety and health rules in hazardous workplaces. Presumably, if they can’t be identified, they can’t be fired. If their identities eventually come to light, human resources offices could refuse to do the paperwork required to terminate their employment. The prospect of firing whole departments might stump even the great and magnificent Donald Trump.

Nazi Germany was reputed to be a bureaucratic society, with the complicated administrative structure of the Third Reich existing parallel to and competitive with the Nazi Party. It seemed that everything, even genocide, had to be done by the book. Maybe it would be a good thing if the Trumpsters turned out to resemble the Nazis in that regard. We could build barricades with paperwork, and hopefully they’d smother in it.

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13 Responses to “Writers Of The Resistance”


  1. I heard an interview tonight with a scientist involved in an effort to preserve climate change info that is now gone from the White House’s website. Similar projects have been going on ever since the election — copying critical information to sites hosted here in Canada. So there is a spirit of resistance already. Who knows what forms it will take as events unfold? Too bad this isn’t confined to the realm of fiction.

    • lgould171784 Says:

      I know that there are many resourceful people who are ready and able to fight back against the forces of ignorance. I have to believe that in the end, common sense and intellect will prevail.


  2. A very good piece of writing. It made me sit up and pay attention, not that I don’t but sometimes we can become too complacent.


  3. We writers will have to keep pointing out the differences, such as the one between ‘facts’ and ‘lies,’ such as the number of people who went to the inaguration.

    We will get better and better at dealing with the spewing, but it would have been so much easier (and maybe that wasn’t good for us) not to have to become activists.

    Well, THEY turned us into people who will oppose the garbage at every turn – and there are a LOT of us.

    Keep up the Resistance!

    • lgould171784 Says:

      I’m hoping that this turn of events will prove to be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes we need to be shaken out of our complacency and reminded that democracy requires constant vigilance.


      • ‘Blessing in disguise’ and ‘silver lining’ may be nice, but I expected the role of government was to do these things without having to be prodded: healthcare, education, infrastructure, and FRAUD monitoring (government contracts awarded how?).

        It is disheartening to see the basic necessities of life going out the window, and the meter being reset to zero.

        This administration should be building on what has been achieved before, not reinventing the wheel.

      • lgould171784 Says:

        These things won’t be lost without a fight. I just finished reading a Washington Post article about the new progressive “tea party” movement, which hopes to build on the energy from the women’s marches. Time will tell if it translates into genuine political power. I’m at least a little optimistic that millennials are beginning to wake up.


      • Some of those are my kids – and worrying about jobs and money and life partners is heavy.

        I hope there is more connectivity there, but I also hope they learn to manage their trolls.

        Maybe they will do better than we do. There is a big income disparity thing that needs addressing in the world.

      • lgould171784 Says:

        Amen! But they need to be well informed before they can do anything about it. They need to see through the barrage of lies coming from Trump and his minions.


      • My kids are fine – they all voted, in different states, for Mrs. Clinton. And were outraged along with us about the results.

        They have been informed of their civic responsibilities – and the perils of demagoguery – since I homeschooled them. We had some interesting discussions about crowd behavior!

        I think Millenials are getting a bit of a bum rap – they’re facing a more complex world than we did, and it’s taking some of them longer to sort it out. At least I hope that’s what’s going on!

        They grew up taking certain things for granted, and now are going to have to fight Trump for those. But they’re also connected in a way that’s never been possible before. My daughter was already afraid of the way the Chinese government is using social media – which shows a huge awareness of propaganda tactics.

        I hope they can also figure out how to help their peers all over the world break out of repression. Otherwise it will have been a collossal waste to give them such access to the powerful tools so young.

      • lgould171784 Says:

        Sometimes my Baby Boomer arrogance shows–we tend to think of ourselves as the most politically aware and coolest generation. That said, I fear Millennials will have a tougher time than we did. Hopefully, that will make them stronger.


      • They will have the same challenges we’ve all had – and stumble around doing the best they can. I just hope we don’t go TOO far backward, and that they are pulled into building the future more than they would have been otherwise. My kids are involved.

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