Resistance 2020: Tether and Release

This begins a new series focused on hope and resistance leading up to the election.

by Kateri Boucher

Outdoor liturgy set at the Day House, the Detroit Catholic Worker.
Photo credit: Kateri Boucher

How are you organizing yourself and others for what faithful resistance might require in the aftermath of the election?

For me, the work of the last few months has not often looked or felt much like “organizing” in the typical sense. It has felt like preparation, though, of a slower and quieter kind. 

Perhaps ironically, as I have looked ahead to this fast-approaching future, I’ve found myself turning more inward // downward // back. I have felt the urgency of more contemplative preparation. Of the immense work that is required to simply, as Merton said, “open my eyes and see.” 

So far, this preparation has felt dual-pronged, involving motions of both tether and release. As November ticks closer, there are two questions I keep finding myself coming back to.

First: In order to show up fully to this moment, what do I need to let go of? What is no longer serving my clear sight and right action?

One by-product of my upbringing in a white, American, suburban, class-privileged context is a deep, pervasive, and often-subconscious sense of entitlement to the world. I was taught, essentially, that this world was made for me to thrive in. In this climate-changing, political-fever-pitch tidal wave of a world, it’s becoming more and more clear that my own engrained entitlement only serves to fog my ability to acknowledge (and show up for) what we are truly facing. What might be facing me. 

I can feel my brain literally rerouting information that does not align with my conception of a comfortable, stable future – “I’d just rather not think about that right now.” Or: “This country is on fire, yes, but *I* will probably be okay.” 

Although these psychological defense mechanisms were certainly meant to protect me, they actually set me up for greater danger — to ignore what is already happening to others, and to be ill-prepared for what might be to come. 

The process of letting go of these attachments has been painful and slow; I imagine it will be lifelong. In recent days, this process has sometimes looked like meditation or fasting. Sometimes it’s just looked like crying aloud. Admitting how afraid I am, how unprepared I feel. But coming back to this: my life is not simply my own. Remembering: the only true stability is being in right relationship to change. 

In these practices of release, I’ve found it ever-more important to ground into the Life-giving connections that sustain me. So comes the question that always follows the first: In order to show up fully to this moment, what do I need to connect more deeply to? What taproots do I need to ground myself in? 

If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be preparing for a momentously, monstrously historic election by spending more time with the Bible, I would’ve laughed. But it’s true: these last few months have been a time of tethering myself to communities that move across both time and space, including those many biblical ancestors whose stories, I think, still speak straight into ours.

And here, today, sometimes preparation has simply looked like working through conflict in the Catholic Worker house I live in. Taking meandering walks through Detroit’s North Corktown neighborhood, slowly getting to know our neighbors and the land. Growing these relationships can be the work of both resilience and resistance. I can only pray that yoking myself to them will allow me to walk further, with less fear, towards the choices that wait ahead. 

Some days, this “contemplative preparation” has not felt like nearly enough. And the truth is that alone, it wouldn’t be. I give great thanks to all those whose organizing has shown up more regularly in the streets, on tireless Zoom meetings, in vigils and teach-ins and classrooms and courtrooms. For whatever is coming, I am indebted to your work. In adrienne’s ever-relevant words, “may we hold each other tight as we continue to pull back the veil.”

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