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2017: Toward a Year of

Resistance and Rising Up!

By Bill Ayers (January 8, 2017)

Ive been on book tour for months, and its

not done yet. Going to Cuba this week,
then Washington DC, Ohio, Boston, NOLA,
and more. I call it the DEMAND the
IMPOSSIBLE Rainbow Queer Insurgent
Road Trip Toward a Future Worth Having.
Its been heartening these last months to
gather together with people in city after
city across the country, folks who came out
in large numbersnot so much for the
book, but driven by the felt-need to
assemble in an available public space, to
face one another without masks, and to
consider the fundamental questions once
againand with accelerating urgency: who
are we? Where are we going? What time is
it on the clock of the world? What is to be
done? Theres a common and compelling
feeling from north to south, from east and
west that we must somehow muster and
unite the disparate forces for peace and
justice and liberation into an unstoppable
mass forcea love army. Uprising!
Theres a wonderful bumper sticker I see
now and then, sometimes in the form of a
banner or a poster: If youre not pissed
off, it reads, youre not paying attention.
Its true. Opening our eyes, paying
attention, staying alertwhen we see the
horrors and the injustices, it ignites
unnecessary suffering in all directions, it
stirs a sense of outrage and urgency. That

insufficient. Anger alone cannot create the
society we need and deserve; fury by itself
will not take us to the place we need to be.
So there needs to be another bumper
sticker, right next to that first one: If youre
only pissed offif youre not guided by
deep feelings of love and empathyyoull
be lost in the wilderness.
Anger and love. Rage and generosity. Fury
and tenderness.
Humanityand the possibility of a humane
futureasks us to get it right.
Its our duty to fight; its our responsibility
to win.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of
times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the
age of foolishness, it was the epoch of
belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was
the season of Light, it was the season of
Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was
the winter of despair. ~~~Charles Dickens
The US empire is in steady and irreversible
decline, but its unlikely to exit the world
stage, or to relinquish its self-designated
role as the worlds only superpower easily
or painlesslythis is where we begin to
name this political moment, honestly and
unsparingly, a moment unique in history.
The end of every previous empire
Ottoman, British, French, Portuguese,
Belgian, Germanwas accompanied by war
and mass slaughter at escalating scales.
The US is in decline, true, but its also the
greatest military power ever assembled on
earth with vast arsenals of weapons of mass
destruction capable of wreckageeven

exterminationnever before seen. This is a

precarious, dangerous, and terrifying time.
The decline of empire coexists with
criminalization of whole communities and
the identification of ill-defined enemies
illegal immigrants, border violators,
Muslims, Arabs, foreigners, queers, Black
people, independent women, terroristsas
a unifying cause; the ramping up and
cohering of white supremacist forces; the
mobilization of secretly financed popular
movements in the streets based on bigotry,
intolerance, and the threat of violence
against vulnerable populations and
sacrificial scapegoats; the suppression of
dissent; military expansion and a state of
permanent war; militarized police forces
acting as aggressive occupying armies in
surveillance and ritual searches of everyday
citizens and residents; arrogant scorn and
disdain for the arts, for intellectual life, and
for reason and evidence; and widening
disparities between the haves and the
have-nots, and the fatal entangling of
corporations with government as the
public square is decimated.
These and other examples of extreme
social disintegration are all visible right
here in front of our eyes. They arein brief
an outline of the Trump/Pence political
campaign of 2016, and the parameters of
the regimes program for 2017.
Make no mistake: its a blueprint for a form
of friendly-looking and familiar fascism
autocratic despotism with an American

The predicament we find ourselves in is no

sudden reversal, no shocking disconnect
from the path the countrys been pursuing
for years, and, in fact, weve been on this
decades now. A deliberate bipartisan effort
has brought us to the point of permanent
war, mass incarceration, a hollowed out
privatization, dismantling social safety nets,
crushing unions, liquidating jobsthe
relentless attack on public education, the
devastation of independent media, the
eclipse of the public, and more. There are
variations to be sure, and they sometimes
matter, but too often these amount to a
distinction without a difference. The
Republicans offer racist dog-whistles and
overt white supremacist policies, for
example; the Democrats respond with
multiculturalism, but they do not offer what
we need and deserve: a program of racial,
economic, and global justice.
This is why no one should rely on the
Democratic Party to lead the opposition
the Party is ill-prepared, disinclined, and
too wrapped up in every policy and
program that got us here.
But the real, authentic opposition is not
starting from scratchBlack Lives Matter,
the latest iteration of the centuries-old
Black Freedom Movement, has been a
leading voice and a powerful force on the
ground for progress and against white
supremacist power for years now, exposing
the never-ending serial shootings of Black
programs for comprehensive revitalization;
undocumented and unafraid youth have

been rising and winning; Standing Rock is

here, fighting for environmental justice and
Indigenous rights; women are not going
back to the Middle Ages; were
queer/were here is on the move; and on
and on.

Our responsibility is to organize, to act, and

to transform both ourselves and our world.

Millions of people are enraged and

energized right now; many have acted up
and spoken out spontaneously; many more
have organized and vowed to resist. And
be clear: the best preparation for a
determined and serious struggle in the
long run is to throw ourselves into the fight
to stop the Trump/Pence putsch right now.
Come to Washington, take to the streets,
refuse to normalize or accommodate to

Heres a start:

And most important, remember that social

movements make social change possible,
and social movements always involve
building fire from below.
Whenever I find myself growing grim
about the mouth; whenever it is a damp,
drizzly November in my soul; whenever I
find myself involuntarily pausing before
coffin warehouses, and bringing up the
rear of every funeral I meet; and especially
wheneverit requires a strong moral
principle to prevent me from deliberately
stepping into the street, and methodically
knocking peoples hats offthen, I account
it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
This is my substitute for pistol and ball.
~~~Herman Melville
Lets get to sea as soon as we canthe sea
of organizing and mass mobilization.

Even though theres no ready recipe to

follow, in a situation like this one, everyone
can dive in and find important work to do.

GATHER! We can only build a more

powerful movement from the bottom up.
Call a meeting of your fellow workers, your
neighbors, your faith community, the folks
in your building or on your block; begin
with questions: Where are we, and where
should we be heading? What can we do
together? Dont get too lost in petitioning
powerbuild your own agency, your own
collective power.
FORGE UNITY! We have to re-frame the
conversations, and we need to learn to
organizations, and histories. We may differ
among ourselves on strategy and tactics,
but we can learn to unite on fundamental
matters of principle. We need to go to the
root, find the common ground, and
discover and articulate the ethical and
moral base of our common struggle.
connect economic justice with racial justice
and global justice. We can find joy and
purpose in living a life of resistance in
these troubled times. We can also find
ways to live our lives together in beloved
community, against materialism, war,
violence, and hierarchy. We must join
together solidly, and work to forge an
unbreakable collaboration.


spaces to protect the vulnerable, to resist,
and to defend the organizers and the
activists. Lay down moral markers
that illuminate the threats to our humanity
and our collective survival. Live the
EDUCATE! We need to educate ourselves
and engage in authentic dialogue with
friends and strangers alikeeach of us
committed to listening with the possibility
of being heard, and speaking with the
possibility of being changed. Form a
reading group and share important books
and articles, or a movie-going group, or a
pot-luck conversation once a month.
challenge is to crack the pretense of
normalcy in this political moment, to break
the conspiracy of silence by which both
establishment political parties, the bought
media, and the political class mute public
debate. Deep and radical change requires
the mobilization of an engaged social
movement, and the cooperation of an
enlightened political leadership emerging
from (or empowered by) that movement.
When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted, when all
the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will
money.~~~Cree Prophecy
To be shocked at the outcome of the
presidential election is understandable; to
be shocked and disbelieving weeks later
indicates a lack of understanding about the
nature of the country we live in, its terrible

unresolved history and its living white

supremacist base. To gain our balance,
Bernardine and I have been channeling
some of our favorite foremothers and
forefathers. Ella Baker was an organizer
and a fighter her whole life; she was the
mother of SNCC and a major force in the
Civil Rights Movement, and she lived long
enough to see many of the gains
challenged and set back with the Southern
strategy and the rise of the right. Frederick
Douglass was born into slavery, freed
himself and became a leader of the
Abolitionist movement and an architect of
Black Reconstruction, and he lived long
enough to witness the Hayes Compromise
and the unleashing of white terrorism and
the rise of the KKK. What did these great
freedom fighters do in the gathering dread
and darkness? They got up, dusted
themselves off, and set out to organize and
fight back. We can do nothing less.
Another world is surely cominggreater
democracy, and peace are within our
reach, but nuclear war, work camps and
slavery, the crushing of dissent and the
shredding of civil liberties are also real
possibilities. There are still choices and
options, and nothing is guaranteed. Where
do we go from here? Chaos or community?
Barbarism or socialism?
Lets get busy!
History is literally present in all that we do.
It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to
history that we owe our frames of reference,
our identities, and our aspirations. And it is
with great pain and terror that one begins
to assess the history which has placed one

where one is, and formed ones point of

view. In great pain and terror, because,
thereafter, one enters into battle with that
historical creation, oneself, and attempts to
recreate oneself according to a principle
more humane and more liberating; one
begins the attempt to achieve a level of
personal maturity and freedom which robs
history of its tyrannical power, and also
changes history. James Baldwin
William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education
and Senior Bill Ayers University Scholar at the
University of Illinois at Chicago (retired), member of
the executive committee of the Faculty Senate and
founder of both the Small Schools Workshop and
the Center for Youth and Society, taught courses in
interpretive and qualitative research, oral history,
creative non-fiction, urban school change, and
teaching and the modern predicament. A graduate
of the University of Michigan, the Bank Street
College of Education, Bennington College, and
Teachers College, Columbia University, Ayers has
written extensively about social justice, democracy
and education, the cultural contexts of schooling,
and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical,
and political enterprise. He is a past vice-president
of the curriculum studies division of the American
Educational Research Association.