Bonhoeffer…Benedict…Or…Gerald Ford?

New York Times columnist, David Brooks, asks this question this morning, “How Should One Resist the Trump Administration?” Interesting first of all, from this conservative voice, that the question is not “Why” but “How” to resist. Brooks uses some interesting metaphors in wrestling with the issue.

If “the primary Trump threat is authoritarianism,” Brook opines, the U.S. may not slide into full fascism, but become a kind of “repressive kleptocracy” where democratic rights slowly disappear, federal contracts go to the oligarchs, and the media and judiciary are complicit. In such a case, what is called for is a “Bonhoeffer moment,” using street protests, disruptive tactics and fiery rhetoric against the Administration. (I note that Brooks would not recommend following Bonhoeffer in participating in an assassination plot!)

Alternatively, we could simply be in for a time of stagnation and corruption which would call, in Brooks’ estimation, for a “St. Benedict moment.” Following this founder of monasticism who fled into the desert to form alternative communities, then activists simply ignore Washington, put their heads down, and commit to making change happen at the state and local levels. And, presumably, wait for better days to come.

Or, David Brooks’ third possibility is that the main threat from a Trump Administration is “a combination of incompetence and anarchy.” In which case, it will collapse of its own weight and the task will be a “Gerald Ford Moment” which will eventually call forth a decent, experienced public servant who will rebuild the fabric of government and restore the trust of the people. Predictably, as a completely establishment conservative, Brooks thinks the third option is where we are headed and hopes for “a new establishment, one that works again.”

While one can wish that this scenario may indeed play out, my take is that our diagnosis of the current situation depends a lot on where we sit in society, the perspective from which we view this disastrous election and its aftermath. If you are wealthy and secure, like Mr Brooks, you can afford to see things calling for a “Ford Moment.” If you are middle-class and largely secure, like me, you can choose the luxury of opting for the “Benedict Moment” and hunker down, working to effect small changes locally. (I even wrote a blog recently entitled “Think Globally, Act Locally).

But if you are poor. Or if you are a woman. Or if you are a person of color. Or if you are an immigrant. Then you may well see this as a “Bonhoeffer Moment” and resist with every fiber of your being and by every means necessary.

Hopefully, not with the despairing last resort of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to the horrors of Nazism.

Hopefully…not that.

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