Nationally relevant

OPINION | Against Normalcy

Demonstrators gather at the RI State House.

“The more normal something appears to be, the more ideological it is.”

– Angela Davis quoting Wahneema Lubiano in the Black Women Radicals, “Black Feminist Writers and Palestine” webinar (via seedaschool.substack.com)

The clocks have turned back, plunging us into darkness before 5pm. The air is getting colder. Seemingly, the hearts of those in power have already frozen. People fill the streets in every major city, rain or shine, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. Over 13,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7. Reportedly, almost half are children. What it boils down to is this: entire families of Palestinians are being wiped out. Infants, young adults at the beginning of their life, parents, and grandparents. Generations of families, gone in a month. At least 39 journalists have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. And yet Congress sends more arms and more money to Israel, even as 68% of Americans responded to a Reuters poll agreeing with a statement that “Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate.”

In a time when many are yearning for normalcy, for things to go back to the way they were before they were made aware of the horrific war crimes being committed by Israel with US-backing, this is not the time for comfort or passivity. Things are wrong, at the root.

There are those who know that things are wrong, who have seen the ugly cracks in the American regime and are doing their best to support their communities and mobilize for revolution.

There are those who know that things are wrong, and are in denial. They spin their wheels trying to make incremental change within a country that has worked tirelessly to invisibilize its own greed, making its citizens believe that the way things are is intrinsic. That the way things are, is the way things will always be. The story of oppression is making power imbalances seem a given. A divine right.

There are those who are just so tired. Who don’t believe they can make a difference, so they turn their head down and try to get through the day.

I watch a video on my phone of a Palestinian boy holding his cat that he managed to take with him to the refugee camp. He says she is scared of the sound of the bombs falling, too.

Outside, the wind whips. Providence City Hall flies an Israeli flag. On October 21, I marched with hundreds past the flag on a journey from the State House to Textron. I walk next to a small baby wrapped warmly in blankets and knitwear to protect her from the pouring rain. Her brothers take turns excitedly pointing out supportive onlookers to their parents. People are cheering out their windows, propelling us forward through the storm. I wave to the baby, and she smiles.

At the State House, where the march began, hundreds huddled under shared umbrellas, and wrapped their arms around friends and family as the speakers took to the marble steps one-by-one to make their remarks. The organizers handed out free ponchos to the crowd. Despite the rain, despite the cold, the voices for peace grew louder. A member from Jewish Voice for Peace RI spoke passionately about his frustration in having his religion weaponized as a justification for the mass killing of Palestinian people. He spoke solemnly about the trauma of his ancestors and the displacement of the Jewish people during the Holocaust; while condemning the state violence of Israel against the displaced people of Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank. He unflinchingly condemned the conflation of being pro-Palestine with being anti-semetic.

Twenty college students at Brown University, members of a group called BrownU Jews for Ceasefire Now, were arrested on November 8 for staging a sit-in at University Hall that extended after hours. They were arrested for trespassing and released later that night. The university has yet to drop the charges. Brown faculty members wrote an open letter to the university’s president Christina Paxson following the arrests, calling for the charges to be dropped and for an open conversation to be facilitated regarding their demands.

The Brown Daily Herald reported on the arrests, noting that the student-led demonstrations were not done without fear of repercussions, specifically being labeled as antisemitic. “‘I obviously had hesitations,’ said Edie Fine ‘25, one of the sit-in participants. ‘This is a fear-inducing endeavor for anybody.’”

Photos of the arrests garnered national attention on social media, depicting the group of Jewish students being individually led out of the campus building in handcuffs. Some smiled, while others looked grievous. They were all brave.

How can you convince those in power to be brave? How can you convince those who abide by their own fear to look around and recognize the fear of others?

On November 17, hundreds gathered outside of Textron HQ on Westminster Street in support of Palestinians and in opposition to Textron’s arms contracts with the US military, whose resources are being funneled towards Israel’s current relentless bombing of Gaza.

Community is the only way forward under the oppressive circumstances we live in as Americans. In a capitalist country devoted to colonialism, war, and greed, citizens are left few choices on how to live their daily lives and feel okay.

Do we care about nationalism? Or do we care about people?

There is hopefulness in the droves of people around the world filling the streets to demand a ceasefire – as well as calling their representatives, boycotting corporations, and paying attention. It takes great effort to pay attention where it might be easier to look away.

Keep going. Our representatives who are receiving funding from single-issue, pro-Israel donors (including both RI senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse) are betting on us getting distracted, getting worn down, and turning away. We will not turn away. We will take very good care of ourselves and others. This is the hardest work we could ever do, resisting the powers that be. We will show up where we can. We will play the long game, if that is what it takes. People will be encouraged to pay attention to the ways in which the world is broken if they see people committed to fixing it.

Update: As of November 22, Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day cease-fire in Gaza to allow for the exchange of hostages. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated a commitment to continuing the war after the temporary cease-fire, “until we achieve all our goals.” This is an ongoing story at the time of this article’s publication.

WAYS TO PAY ATTENTION:

Get involved – Check out local organizing efforts by leftist Jewish orgs like Jewish Voice for Peace – RI and BrownU Jews for Ceasefire Now.

Contact your congressional reps – Follow prompts provided by act.uscpr.org/a/callforgaza to contact your state congressional reps via phone. Visit tinyurl.com/defundisrael.com to send an automated email that stands against every bill funding Israel’s war efforts, no address or phone number required.

Read more – Some suggested materials include “The Palestine Double Standard” by Hala Alyan and Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis.

WAYS TO NURTURE RESILIENCY:

• Drink water and eat as regularly as you can.

• Take breaks and get rest in ways that feel rejuvenating. For me, this means spending time with my cat, watching a familiar show, and doing small chores around the house.

• Talk with loved ones about the way you are feeling. Find ways to tell each other that you love one another.

• Meditate. I enjoy lying on the floor to feel supported by the hard ground and allowing my chest to open. I often hunch over and curl in when stressed, which makes breathing more shallow. Put your right hand on your stomach and your left hand on your heart to feel the air move in and out of your body as you breathe.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Motif. Motif is soliciting a variety of perspectives on this issue, which you can find as they’re released at motifri.com/10-7-23.