Resistance is a powerful concept.
As I pray and learn about atrocities and injustices, the courage of resisters in all struggles, through all time, inspire me.
My own first experience with resistance came when I was 18 years old and faced the decision regarding registering for the draft (Selective Service System). The stories of, the example of many Quaker men I knew, helped me immensely to decided to resist the draft. My friend and Quaker mentor, Don Laughlin, collected stories of Quaker resistance: Young Quaker Men Face War and Conscription
It was an act of resistance when we walked and camped along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline, from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa, for a week in 2018. You can read the many stories, and see the photos of this sacred journey here.
First Nation-Farmer Unity – First Nation peoples and farmers working together (firstnationfarmer.com)
I spent many years resisting other fossil fuel pipelines, including the Keystone XL pipeline. And was peripherally involved with the Wet’suwet’en peoples’ resistance to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
I don’t know what I will write each morning, as I wait in quiet and pray. The following poem triggered this today.
Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum. Resist my people, resist them.
Hawaiians are still here. We are still creating, still resisting.
Stand in rage as wind and current clash
rile lightning and thunder
fire surge and boulder crash
Let the ocean eat and scrape away these walls
Let the sand swallow their fences whole
Let the air between us split the atmosphere
We have no land No country
But we have these bodies these stories
this language of rage left
This resistance is bitter
and tastes like medicine Our lands
replanted in the dark and warm there
We unfurl our tangled roots stretch
to blow salt across
blurred borders of memory
They made themselves
fences and bullets checkpoints
gates and guardposts martial law
They made themselves
hotels and mansions adverse
possession eminent domain and deeds
They made themselves
through the plunder
They say we can never— They say
we will never—because
and the hills and mountains have been
mined for rock walls the reefs
pillaged for coral floors
They say we can never—
and the deserts and dunes have been
shoveled and taken for their houses and highways—
because we can never— because
the forests have been raided razed
and scorched and we we the wards
refugees houseless present-
absentees recognition refusers exiled
uncivilized disposable natives
our springs and streams have been
dammed—so they say we can never return
let it go accept this
progress stop living
in the past—
but we make ourselves
strong enough to carry all of our dead
engrave their names in the clouds
We gather to sing whole villages awake
We crouch down to eat rocks like fruit
to hold the dirt the sand in our hands
to fling words
the way fat drops of rain
splatter off tarp or corrugated roofs
We remember the sweetness We rise from the plunder
They say there is no return
they never could really make us leave
Copyright © 2021 by Brandy Nālani McDougall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
“‘Resist’ was inspired by Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour’s courage to stand against the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and ethnic cleansing of her people. In 2015, for the poetic line ‘Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum’ (Resist, my people, resist them), she was imprisoned on charges of ‘incitement to violence’ and sentenced to five months in jail and years under house arrest. This poem ‘Resist’ reflects on both the militarized violence and creative decolonial connections between Palestine and Hawaiʻi, which was an independent country prior to the U.S. military-backed overthrow in 1893 and the subsequent illegal annexation to the U.S. in 1898. Our own continued struggle as Kānaka ʻŌiwi includes protecting our lands and waters from U.S. military bases and testing, bombing, dumping, housing, and recreational sites, and protecting our people from related health hazards, poverty, and hopelessness. We will forever resist the destruction of our homelands and how they are being used to test weapons that bring horrific violence to others. I intend ‘Resist’ to be a poem of solidarity for the Palestinian people.”Brandy Nālani McDougall