Despair is What “They” Want You To Feel

“If you’re tempted to feel powerless and passive, remember that the bogeyman we call “they” wants you to feel that way. And then don’t.”

So goes my favorite line in an article I recently read called “Hope: The care and feeding of”, by Rebecca Solnit. It’s a good article. You should read it. And you should definitely read it if you are feeling a bit defeated. As the quote at the top says, despair, hopelessness, powerlessness, passiveness- these are the things that our opponents (because we do have opponents) want us to feel. When we let “them” determine the terms of the battle, and what defines winning and what defines losing, we won’t feel too great. But if we take the time to celebrate our victories and finish every day counting all the things we accomplished- be it a positive conversation or a 200-person rally- then we will win. (Another way to think about this: Being positive and pro-active pisses “them” off. Haven’t you seen our comment boards lately?)

And we do have victories. The Illinois DREAM Act was recently signed into law. So was the Maryland DREAM Act. Huge coming out events and acts of civil disobedience have empowered dozens of participants and hundreds of onlookers in Georgia, California, and Indiana. For the first time ever, undocumented youth were plaintiffs in a suit against anti-immigrant legislation (Georgia). Cities and states are dropping out of the Orwellian “Secure Communities” programs: Illinois, New York, the city of Providence in Rhode Island, Washington state, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania, and the city of San Francisco in California (Special note: Who wants to do a I Support Pulling Out campaign? Yes? Yes? Oh… wait…). 26 states have rejected SB1070 legislation since it was passed in Arizona. Texas legislators were too busy going on vacation in the Bahamas to pass anti-immigrant legislation, and presidential aspirant Rick Perry failed to pass his “emergency” legislation against sanctuary cities. California activists are determined to pass the real California DREAM Act, and they’re well on their way. The Department of Justice is suing Alabama for the harshest anti-immigrant legislation in the country.   And finally, for what it’s worth, we have won many more Education Not Deportation cases than we have lost.

There’s also the day-to-day victories. You came out as undocumented to your friend, or to your teacher. You support the rights of immigrant youth, and you managed to convince a friend of yours (with a combination of facts and an appeal to their compassion) that they should be supporters too. You made a phone call to ICE to stop a deportation- one of hundreds of phone calls. You finished a scholarship application. You inspired somebody else to join your local activist group. My favorite, perhaps, was when an activist in Los Angeles started alerting people that there were uniformed police at Union Station in Los Angeles harassing people over their status- and our networks sprung into action, disseminating the information over Twitter and Facebook in a matter of minutes.

All these things are victories. When you go to sleep at the end of a very, very long day- count them.

The most important victory is this: We are still here. We are still fighting. And we will not go away.


One thought on “Despair is What “They” Want You To Feel

  1. Very posi and reaffirming article. Sometimes people need to remember, “it’s gonna be okay, keep hustling, I’ll be here with ya”. Unfortunately, a good amount of the times, disappointment and becoming disillusioned follow when someone ‘hopes’, but you can’t give up – and i know that advice can seem pretty cheesy/hollow when times look they’re bleakest. We have to remember that were paving the way, breaking new terrain for others to help us carry our common fight for survival, rights, love.

    Funny you should mention Rebecca Solnit, I just recently bought her older book, “Hope in the Dark” (which I recommend, good read!) anyways, in the chapter where she talks about the Zapatistas in Mexico and their effort to show the world that this particular group of people – simply – were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore. Marcos talks about the EZLN’s effort to fight for a space where dignity and hopes will be respected: “Because that is the dream which animates us as indigenous, as Mexicans and, above all, as human beings. With our struggle, we are reading the future which as already been sown yesterday, which is being cultivated today, and which can only be reaped if one fights, if, that is, one dreams”.    Peace yall.

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