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  • Mike

Protests great and small

This week a ‘senior official’ in the US government has published a piece in the New York Times called ‘I am part of the Resistance inside the Trump Administration’. It made serious claims against the president himself and about his White House. Incompetence, bullying, deception – it is a long catalogue. The hunt is on to identify the writer of this anonymous piece. When the source is identified they can expect that life will become uncomfortable even dangerous. All we really know now is that someone felt that it was time to register a strong protest in the name of democracy.

The previous week, Labour Politician, Frank Field, ‘resigned the whip’- he left the Labour Party group in Westminster. He will operate as an independent, left-leaning member. This comes after 39 years in Parliament as a Labour MP. He resigned in protest against what he called 'a culture of anti-Semitism, nastiness and intimidation in the party that he loves - an ‘erosion of core values’. Political commentators expect other resignations to follow. Former PM Tony Blair is interested in founding a new centrist party.

Last week we attended a festival where the headline act was Pussy Riot – a feminist punk group. Their music is not quite our cup of tea. But we admire the courage which put them in the news headlines for being arrested while staging a protest in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour against Putin’s government and its links of the Russian Orthodox Church. Three of them were given a term of imprisonment for their trouble and Amnesty International took up their cause.

These stories raise the question of how to register dissent in large and powerful structures. It makes me ask, how effective has the behaviour of these dissenters been? Only time will tell.

I am not by nature an activist but I do admire the courage of all of them. I did join a million plus people in central London to oppose Tony Blair’s (‘Bliar’?) war in Iraq, and found myself shoulder to shoulder with all manner of people. I did join a few small marches when I was a student - nothing very significant. When all is said and done, I would prefer to invest my remaining energies in something I am for rather than something I am against.

But I do get angry about various injustices and find my anger accompanied by a sense of helplessness. What to do? In my own church, the leader of the global organization is behaving in what seems to me to be a high-handed way, trying to ignore some of the checks and balances on power. In the process his style of leadership and the culture which encourages it, alienates some people – some of them are my friends. They variously leave, retreat to the margins, form smaller groups, find meaning elsewhere. Very like Frank Field.

What to do? It’s work in progress. In the church, I will keep up my own slow-drop style of protest as a teacher. But I often ask myself, ‘Is it enough?’

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