Content note: this post discusses Nazis and contains a Rogue One spoiler. And, I suppose, a spoiler for Episode IV of Star Wars, too, but that film is 40 years old and you really should have seen it by now.
I’ll tell you what I wasn’t expecting to feel during the week of Donald Trump’s inauguration: hope. And yet, for the first time in months, I felt something like hope brimming up inside me.
Not because a president was elected whose inauguration honestly felt like the opening sequence of a particularly heavy-handed dystopia movie. But rather, because it looks like perhaps resistance is possible. I’d almost forgotten what hope feels like, and forgotten how to articulate such feelings: forgive me, therefore, if this post is somewhat incoherent, and just enjoy the pictures.
Inauguration day in London started with a series of banner drops as part of the Bridges Not Walls campaign. Each of London’s bridges–and many others up and down the country–carried a message of solidarity from activist groups. There was representation from numerous groups, bearing messages representing transfeminism, Black Lives Matter, welcoming messages to migrants… and there was this, over Vauxhall Bridge.
When I first saw this picture, it brought a tear to my eye. It is a simple message, so simple. Queer solidarity smashes borders. Four little words, lighting the way beneath a rainbow. It is infused with hope of undoing the violence we face. Of course it isn’t all that needs doing, but it is heartening to see those words prominently against the middle of London, and cropping up all over the news.
I watched the inauguration in a pub, me and a friend agog in horror. But then later, an even bigger cause for hope rose up. Everything kicked the fuck off. People rioted. People protested. People made it abundantly fucking clear that they didn’t accept the legitimacy of a far-right president, elected through dubious means, and neither were people particularly keen on the rich, white men in charge of the world.
None of this compares, though, to the ultimate cause for hope which erupted on that day. It was, I think, a Destruction of the First Death Star Moment. I am talking, of course, of…
I have not yet grown tired of watching this. The punch is funny, and the look of wounded pride on that Nazi’s face afterwards as he tries to fix his fucked-up is better still. I am utterly delighted that this punch from an unknown hero has become the first major meme of 2017 (a few of my favourites–honestly I don’t think anyone should stop until it has been set to every piece of music ever recorded). I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the response from the more liberal side of the left. I’d had hatches battened down, defences ready for having the tedious argument as to why political violence is absolutely a necessary and valid tactics, and maybe they should ask their grandparents about the ethics and efficacy of physical violence against Nazis. However… I didn’t really need it. Even liberals seemed to agree that it was broadly all right to punch Nazis, and deeply satisfying to watch.
I also like to think of how pissed-off Donald Trump must be. Such an arrogant and self-centred man must surely be spitting feathers at the fact that an anarchist upstaged him on his Big Day, by clocking a Nazi right in the jaw. I expect he’s been sulking ever since Friday.
It turns out that punching a Nazi in the face is more effective and less resource-heavy than instigating no-platform notices against fascists. Since the punch, Spencer has said he is afraid to leave the house and that he feels he will require more security at public events. This suddenly makes him a far more expensive speaker to book, which will likely prove detrimental to his lucrative rent-a-Nazi-guest career, and severely impact the number of platforms he is given. If every Nazi got a smack in the mouth, we could probably staunch the rise of fascism pretty darn quickly.
The opposition continued over to the next day, when it was estimated that millions of women were marching against Trump, all over the globe. There was a march on every continent, even Antarctica. Everyone, it seems, is invigorated against the man whose name is a fart.
I am in no doubt that the way forward–even the way to hold ground and stay alive–will be rough. I am in no doubt that we need to maintain the solidarity that feels as though it is being built, to expand and build links. I am in no doubt that the problem extends far beyond Trump, and cannot be solved merely by strategic punches and public symbolic actions.
And yet, my low and jaded expectations have been surpassed already. There is more resistance than I anticipated, more passion, more rage.
As Princess Leia points out at the end of Rogue One, what we have been sent now is hope.