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“Rebellion proves . . . that it is the very movement of life and that it cannot be denied without renouncing life. Its purest outburst, on each occasion, gives birth to existence.”
—The Rebel, Albert Camus
Mean-tweeting and Russia-baiting, something calling itself The Resistance promises to hound The Donald until he flees to a golf course in Scotland, where he’s about as popular as Kings Edward I and II.
The Resistance’s brief history is an interesting one.
As far as I can tell, it broke its milk teeth on the Democrat from Vermont who sometimes poses as a socialist.
Having successfully neutered Bernie Sanders, The Resistance deployed its Plan A against Trump. Never mind that Plan A was essentially the same doomed tactic used for nearly a year by the notoriously vile Republican establishment: relentlessly deride the poster child of late capitalism until he’s shamed into dropping out of the race for the CEO spot in the biggest capitalist enterprise going, Uncle Sam and Associates, LLC.
Plan A imploded. Who woulda thunk it?
The leaders of The Resistance—apparently consulting episodes of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show—threw together its Plan B-Z in the handful of days after failing to install Wall Street’s HR Clinton into her favorite DC address.
In a panic, The Resistance’s gobsmacked standard bearer and the staff of her second losing presidential bid were grasping like third-rate TV writers for any story that might draw attention from the foreseeable train wreck they’d made inevitable. Because the “Spooky Comey and the Trump Voters Who Are All Racist Cro-Magnons and the 1% Who Voted for Green Granny Stein Did It!” pilot just didn’t get the ratings, The Resistance went with its only fallback: “Vladi Badenov and Ivanka Fatale Did It!”
The yarn The Resistance has been spinning since might just rival that spun by Sasquatch hunters, 9/11 Truthers, or Glenn Beck during his heyday.
Some members of The Resistance have become so swept up by their own story that they mockingly brandish the long-deceased USSR’s Hammer and Sickle and paint Lenin-Red the gangster-capitalist state that the US midwifed as the Iron Curtain collapsed.
The Resistance, though, can’t seem to weave in material compelling enough to get half of America too worked up by the official narrative: “In the dog days of 2016, the oligarchic Russian government may have spammed social media, may have accessed voting systems, and may have gotten hold of its former BFF’s (the Clintons’) donor lists.” Perish the thought that maybe it was an inside job. For that matter, it could’ve been the handiwork of some computer whiz kid pumped full of Doritos and Monster Energy drink while taking a break from Garry’s Mod.
I’m guessing The Resistance’s “slam dunk” evidence is in the same vault where the CIA keeps Barack Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate and Saddam Hussein’s WMD stockpiles. I’ll hold my breath until I see it—preferably before the US delivers via drone humanitarian intervention to Russians and, while it’s at it, to Venezuelans, North Koreans, Iranians, Chinese, and to even more Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis, and Yemenis.
But seriously. Something sticks in my craw about all this officially sanctioned The Resistance business.
In part, I’m disgusted by how the term “resistance” has been bandied about for the last year, even before the Second Cold War’s commencement in November. It borders on sacrilege. By way of glib association, The Resistance manufactured by establishment apparatchiks attempts to claim the mantle worn by notable resistances of the past.
In the waning years of World War II, one of the most famous literary voices of Europe’s Resistance against the Nazis wrote a series of letters, both poignant and defiant, as if addressing a German friend with whom he was parting ways. Albert Camus opened one of those letters with these words from Étienne Pivert de Senancour’s novel Obermann: “Let us die resisting; and if our lot is complete annihilation, let us not behave in such a way that it seems justice!”
To resist in 1944—as it had been before and has been since—was to enter into mortal combat with an exceptionalist power that promised to obliterate anything that stood in its way. And a resistance worthy of the name would not act in a manner that would jeopardize its integrity or, to use Camus’s term, honor.
In the context of 21st-century America, Trump’s not the only one who represents an exceptionalist power worthy of honorable resistance.
Look no further than what calls itself The Resistance. One of its charter members recently reaffirmed “we’re capitalists” in order to spurn the growing thirst for leftist and populist ideas and policies. Consider, too, that The Resistance is composed of more than a few people who aren’t all that against US aggression abroad, aren’t militating against increasingly bellicose police forces, aren’t doing more for Sandra Bland and Alton Sterling than saying their names (if they even remember their names), aren’t dismantling an economic system that literally kills people, aren’t addressing the disproportionate violence and poverty endured by transgender people beyond the bathroom, aren’t joining Native Americans in solidarity as they stand against a multi-billion oil industry that threatens all of us and our shared ecosystem, aren’t sincerely interested in ensuring that all Americans have access to the same quality of healthcare that folks in Cuba have, and on and on.
All things considered, The Resistance is a poorly conceived but no less effective front of counter-resistance.
Genuine resistances of the past shared something in common. The kind of resistance that anti-fascist Europeans had in mind during the 1930s and 40s implied revolt. Resistance to monarchic despotism in America and France implied revolt. Resistance to French colonial rule in Haiti and later in Vietnam implied revolt. Resistance to South African apartheid implied revolt.
Today, the growing disgust with the late-capitalist US and its imperialist military ventures has inspired resistance abroad and will inspire actual resistance here, all of which portends revolt.
In other words, rebellion is just under the surface.
A popular rebellion in America is exactly what the Clintons, McCains, Pelosis, Ryans, Obamas, Brookses, Maddows, and, yes, the Sanderses in our midst must head off because everyday people rising up to seriously exercise their existential, democratic powers is what the CIA, Pentagon, NSA, FBI, multinational corporations, bankers, insurance companies, and petrochemical giants won’t tolerate.
Running bad boy Trump out on a rail is fine, the logic goes, as long as the world-eating empire he heads isn’t touched. But as Tom Paine spelled out in his Vindication of the Rights of Men, removing the head of a bad regime, however benign (Louis XVI) or malignant (Trump I), achieves nothing if the foundations and institutions of the bad regime aren’t dismantled and replaced.
The Resistance we’ve been granted aims to remove the head, no doubt. Its primary objective, though, is to protect the state which gave rise to that head and, therefore, to thwart authentic resistance—to foreclose an honorable assertion of life.
George Barbarie is a writer who has lived in the Deep South for all of his forty-six years, who is a recovering academic, and who is a socialist in the Luxemburgian vein.