I watched the 2019 film Resistance, starring Jesse Eisenberg, who performed the character of the famous mime Marcel Marceau. The film portrays the incredible true story of the partisan movement in Nazi-occupied France – and Marceau played a leading role. Marceau and his compatriots worked tirelessly to outsmart the Gestapo and its southern France Chief, the notorious Klaus Barbie, known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” who murdered Jews and resistance fighters under the collaborationist Vichy regime.
Marceau and his group were able to save thousands of Jewish children, and they helped smuggle many of them through treacherous steep woods to eventual safety in neutral Switzerland.
While not as dramatic and hardly clandestine, millions of good hard working U.S. residents labored diligently over the past four years to turn back the Christian white supremacist tide and eventually saved our fragile democracy until the armistice was realized on Wednesday, January 20, 2021.
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However, our work is never complete because there still remains much work to do that was not finished before the Trump era. In his case, demented failed would-be autocrats never die. They simply retire to a golf course in southern Florida.
Resistance movements have surfaced throughout the planet in the attempt to depose autocratic leaders in countries from Israel, Turkey, the Philippines, Russia, Hungary, Poland, and beyond.
The bigoted legions remain in the United States. They had been waiting in the margins until Trump invited them to join the center in his personal political and financial power grab. He merely created the spark and gave the oxygen to the combustible fuel waiting to be ignited. These extremists do not simply evaporate with a change of administration.
The Trumpian age must be understood as a national wake-up call, one that has set off a blaring siren, an alert to those who had not previously counted themselves among the throngs of progressive political activists.
This age represents a call to action for a collective movement to make the United States live up to its mission of providing “a more perfect union” and ensuring each of us the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and most certainly, “liberty and justice for all.”
Benjamin Franklin was one of the nation’s “founders” who attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to draft our now-famous founding document. At the age of 81, though the perennial optimist, he had no illusions and thought it impossible to expect any group of people, no matter how wise or brilliant, to create a “perfect production.” However, even “with all its faults,” Franklin believed that this Constitution was far superior to any alternative that could possibly emerge.
He had a warning, though. As the story is told, when departing the Constitutional Convention, a group of citizens approached Franklin and asked him what kind of government had the delegates created?
His response: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
And it is up to all of us, people of goodwill who believe in this constantly evolving experiment we call the “United States of America.” It is up to us to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” even when, especially when our duly elected representatives fail in their oaths of office.
Voting is not only our right but also our duty. But voting is certainly not enough to “keep” this republic. We cannot vote and then retreat to our lives and assume our representatives will cure all the ills of our society.
As residents of our country, we have an obligation to remain vigilant, to keep resisting the forces that would take away our republic. We must remain vigilant that another snake oil seller never achieves any elective office: local, statewide, or national.
The bastions of bigotry and oppression from Christian white nationalist extremists as well as the more “palatable” actors stand in the ready. To keep and to ever improve our democracy takes constant work, constant resistance, and constant vigilance.
But the work pays perpetual dividends.