Above, a man inserted as much of his body as he could into the wheel well of an ICE vehicle attempting to leave. It’s the most striking of many such images from Gadi Schwartz’s Twitter feed detailing Phoenix’s direct action Wednesday night against ICE’s deportation of Guadalupe García, a mother of two who immigrated to the country when she was just fourteen.
A common theme of Trump’s America is the uncertainty. It’s difficult to say whether the Trump administration is filled with evil masterminds or simply dangerous simpletons. The opposition party is torn between obstructionism and bipartisanship (the latter at the cost of accepting the Trump administration’s wicked premises). The way forward to 2018 and 2020 are as unclear as ever. Trump’s most famous executive order, the travel ban, is hung up in the courts, but there are too many other evil documents that bear his signature for one to track. Even historically impressive displays of solidarity like the Women’s March leave open the question of what to do with all that people power.
It’s helped me, and I implore everyone else, to seek news stories where it’s both clear what is on the line and what can be done. Two such situations come to mind. The first was the nationwide protests at airports that immediately followed Trump’s travel ban that largely targeted Muslims. Protesters slowed airports to a crawl demanding that detainees be released, and organized labor even became involved in the form of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. The second such situation was the fight against Guadalupe García’s deportation. These moments of clarity are essential in today’s political climate.
Indeed, people using their bodies to impede the mechanisms of deportation is exactly the sort of resistance I had in mind (with all apologies to Keith Olbermann draped in an American flag, possibly nude underneath) immediately after the election. “The American experiment isn’t over,” I wrote November 9, “This is just one of its big tests: How are we at fighting beyond the ballot?”
One concern I heard is that protesters can’t hope to face down the armed force of the state with success, and indeed that’s frequently true. Guadalupe García was deported Thursday morning. But we must be prepared to fight countless losing battles if we hope to face 2020 with ours souls intact.