I came home from Tucson’s Women’s March feeling uneasy. Sure, it felt good to personally “do something” to address my anger at the injustices I see around me, but something was missing that only became clear when I read David Leonhardt’s column in The New York Times Monday morning, “The Shutdown Shows the Weakness of the Resistance.”
All those women (and men) marching because of very legitimate issues of discrimination weren’t focusing on the most critical issue right in front of us — the shutdown of our government that hurts not only the 800,000 federal employees, but contractors and travelers and (even if we don’t feel it yet) — all of us.
The government that can ensure the rights of every group and identity has been hijacked and is being dismantled, and we are all just wringing our hands saying we don’t know what to do.
Of course, the march was planned long in advance, as were MLK Day celebrations. Democratic leaders were all over the country individually running for president. Media outlets were telling individual stories of the awful impact of President Trump’s temper tantrum.
But where are the people sitting-in daily at every Senate office until the shutdown is over? Where are the busloads of union workers in the streets of Washington? Where are the government workers being forced to work without pay, instead saying, “No! This is not right and must stop!”
There have been too many scattershot angry displays that split us apart, without a coordinated framework to address the fundamental issue of our time — our government has fallen into the hands of people who want to dismantle it. Positions are not filled or are filled by people who either lack the knowledge or experience to carry out their responsibilities, or worse, personally gain from dismantling the departments for which they are responsible. And now, a month has passed with critical functions not being carried out and no end in sight.
It might be illegal to strike if you are a federal worker (it’s called civil disobedience), but it’s also probably illegal to force people to work without pay (it’s called slavery)!
Nonviolent civil disobedience is what Martin Luther King Jr. showed us could change previously intractable racial policies. His belief in the power of everyday citizens to impact government policies is predicated on the importance of government in our society and the ability of our government to self-correct.
In the last year of his life, MLK came to the realization that racial injustice cannot be resolved only by civil and voting rights laws. He began to focus on the more challenging economic disparities that create the underlying power imbalance in our society.
In his memory, and in his honor, we the people — each and every one of us — must participate in taking our government back and strengthening the institutions that serve us all.
We must unite. We must resist.