On Thin ICE

"Resistance doesn’t need to be loud and out. Resistance is a collection of actions, big and small, that snowball into a concerted effort."

On Thin ICE
The Portland ICE building

Meteorology describes the weather, and nature in general, as a complex system simply expressing entropy and energy dispersal. A purely natural process, it is completely lacking in any sense of dramatic timing and thematic mood-setting.

Despite this, during both times I have been to demonstrations at the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement building in Portland, the weather has been stormy, with high winds and red-painted skies.

Gathered around the small private trolley station that services the business park where the Tesla plant and ICE building are tucked away, hundreds of people had gathered. They were there to hear speakers and organizers talk about the horrors being committed far away at the border and right here in this city. To the north, in downtown Portland, thousands had gathered at the compact Terry Schrunk Plaza for the same reason. Every one of them, filled with the need to do something. Anything.

When a crime of such magnitude of cruelty as the genocide being committed around this country occurs, good people feel compelled to act.  But the nature of these current times leaves the average citizen’s options limited. State surveilance is more powerful than ever, which makes harboring vulnerable people much more difficult. Cost of living is higher than ever, which leaves people unable to contribute financially to bail funds or lawyer fees. As such, people are left with a feeling of powerlessness. An overwhelming sensation of needing to do something but a terrible fear of that something not being enough or being futile.

Part of this stems from our sanitized history of previous occurrences of these reprehensible acts: Hollywood dresses up acts of resistance against Nazi occupation and collaboration as plucky heroes without doubts or fear, sure of purpose and plan. Rarely shown is the hero who questions their actions or is left unsure of their next move.

It is important, in times of turmoil, to remember that no one, especially people engaged in acts of resistance against an overwhelmingly powerful group, knows that they will be successful, or even remembered. The ones who became the heroes we learned about in history classes never knew that would be the case. All they knew was that they had the ability to do something and the will to carry it out.

These acts of resistance were not always immediately noticeable. For every person who hid Jews in their attic, there was the person whose only contribution was to tear down Nazi propaganda at night. For every saboteur who cut the brake lines on Nazi transport trucks, there was the clerk who “lost” a requisition form which meant supplies didn’t make it to the front in time. Resistance doesn’t need to be loud and out. Resistance is a collection of actions, big and small, that snowball into a concerted effort. It doesn’t matter if you are part of a group or on your own, if you go to a demonstration or simply donate to an aid organization, these horrific acts must be opposed, however one is capable of doing so.

That day, under red skies and threatening clouds, I saw small acts of resistance. I saw people of all walks of life, of all ability, gathered as one to speak out against atrocity. To shout into the dark that they would not turn a blind eye to crimes against humanity. That even if all they could do was bear witness and make noise, they would do that. I saw an elderly woman comforting a young woman who looked to be on the verge of tears – who had brought a large banner. The older woman promised her that she was going to hang the banner from the highest point she could find in Washington county, with an upside down American flag to signal distress.

I saw people so suffused with rage and passion, that unbidden, they poured into the street, banners and flags held tight, and blocked traffic for a time, shouting to anyone who could hear “Abolish ICE,” and “ICE out of Portland." There is a movement emerging in this nation, and it is growing organically. People can only see so much pain before they simply cannot stay idle any longer.

As much as I wish I could end this on a positive note, I fear this situation is only going to get worse before it gets better. The supposed "resistance" members of the democratic congress have made it clear they have no intent of fighting against this, with the notable exception of the more progressive members. The cruelty at hand here will continue until our elected representatives take action to stop it. And until they do, the chances of violence from an agitated public grow by the day. The history of the united states is filled with stories of rebellions, armed and otherwise, launched in the face of genocide, and history stands poised to repeat itself once again. Regrettably, the current administration either cannot see this, or perhaps even welcomes such a conflict. The coming months will reveal a great deal about the soul of this nation, and just how much blatant evil the people of the United States are willing to tolerate.