Point Austin: It Ain’t Just About Trump

This week’s marches begin a long and difficult resistance

Point Austin

Albeit with a bum knee that might hobble my giddyup, I intend to march this week with my friends, allies, and community, publicly united in opposition to the incoming presidential regime of Donald Trump. Trump has made it obvious, repeatedly and abundantly, that he neither understands nor respects the Constitution that established the office he will illegitimately hold, and that he intends to continue violating all the democratic norms and traditions of the country he purports to lead. That leaves the rest of us, citizens all, to do what we can to uphold those values and traditions, and to try our best to establish a counterweight to the reactionary wave now being solidified on Capitol Hill.

We even have our choice of major rallies this week: the first, Friday evening, is the One Resistance march (www.oneresistance.com), sponsored by 50 or so advocacy organizations (ranging from ADAPT of Texas to Workers Defense Action Fund), in defense of civil rights, immigrants' rights, reproductive rights, the environment, jobs, and justice. That one will begin at Auditorium Shores at 5pm, head to the Capitol and return to Auditorium Shores for the rally proper. Saturday at noon is the local version (www.marchonaustin.com) of the national Women's March on Washington (www.womensmarch.com). Folks are advised to arrive early; the march will move down to Sixth Street and back to the Capitol, with rally speakers including Wendy Davis and Senfronia Thompson, and music from Gina Chavez and Tameca Jones (see "Civics 101," Jan. 20).

We all might share some skepticism about the ultimate effect of such actions, but it's important to recall that the central goal is not to persuade Trump or his regime to reverse their announced agenda – only a few officials at the margins will heed the public engagement. We're trying to rebuild a common political culture that values human rights and solidarity above racial tribalism, sexism, and militarism – and to do that, we need to work together, publicly, for our common humanity.

Keeping Our Heads

It's ourselves and our neighbors we're primarily trying to encourage and persuade. March planners for both events stress nonviolence and public safety, and it's likely that both marches will take place without disruptive incidents (or worse). But the Huffington Post reported last week ("Counter-Sting Catches James O'Keefe Network …," Jan. 9) that the notorious right-wing provocateur was caught in the attempt to create "left-wing" disruptions at Trump's inaugural, as excuses for a conservative backlash. More likely in Austin are impatient demonstrators hoping grandiosely to "smash the state" rather than engage the community – although we've also experienced dishonest Austin Police Department infiltrators here. ("APD Occupies 'Occupy': A Half-Dozen Infiltrators?," March 1, 2013.) Marchers will need to be wary, and remain calm.

Defending the City

Last week the City Council met for a couple of "retreat" days to brainstorm 2017 strategic planning, and came up with a half-dozen fundamental values, to use as touchstones or strategic priorities when evaluating any individual city programs. A given proposal, council members concluded, should promote at least one of the following priorities: public safety, economic opportunity, mobility, health care, cultural opportunity, and/or public confidence in city government.

Those are all understandable and even admirable goals for municipal officials, but under current historical circumstances it might be necessary to keep in mind another overarching Austin priority: community self-defense. I don't mean military or militia self-defense – Lord knows we've got quite enough macho head cases and crackpot demagogues promoting "gun rights" to give headaches to law enforcers and keep the rest of us looking over our shoulders. But in both the Legislature and Congress, hired political guns are intent on reversing or suppressing any form of local, municipal progress on irreducibly local matters: property tax policy, public schools, environmental protection, immigrants' rights, women's health care and reproductive rights, community policing … etc., etc.

That suggests that every city policy also needs to be evaluated for how it might affect or influence these questions of local control; how it might defend and protect Austin citizens from the malevolent or negligent actions of state and national legislators (e.g., the current attempt to strip Medicaid recipients from access to the basic health care services provided by Planned Parenthood); how it might provide some measure of self-defense against Trumpist attempts to undermine civil rights, voting rights, real public safety … indeed all those "strategic priorities" identified by council members as essential to public life in Austin.

This week's marches are certainly expressions of a nationwide determination to fight back against Trump's declared intentions to reverse American progress on a whole range of hard-fought issues of the last several decades. As citizens, we're standing up for common values that will be under official and unofficial siege for the next four years. We will need our local government to find new ways to work effectively under those very unfavorable conditions, and to support Austinites in a much longer march that has only just begun.

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