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A Little Resistance Tale

It is hard to resist. People might resist back, and you could get hurt. I like to think of myself as a rebel, but far too often I cower with the rest of the masses when time comes for action. Still, I have discovered, it is often worth at least trying to act. Sometimes people don't resist as much as you think they will.

A couple months ago, I was really horrified to see a rather nasty Neo-Nazi message spraypainted on a sign at an intersection I pass everyday on my way to work. The message was anti-Semitic, although ironically painted outside a convenience store run by Arabs–but all non-Aryans is all non-Aryans, right? And it doesn't matter–the message was awful AND its location was awful.

I must admit, after my initial horror, I had a very status quo reaction: the government will do something about it. The message will be reported and the handy dandy city maintenance people we see around all the time will paint it over post-haste.

Then reality sunk in. Of course the goverment isn't going to do something about it. And even if it does, it'll take months before the red tape is crossed and Handyman Negri will come and fix it. (Actually, if Handiman Negri knew about it, I'm sure he would paint it over, but since he's actually a folk singer in real life, I doubt they'd contact him first.)

Well, then who will do something about it?

I walked by that damn awful swastika and those horrible words for a week.

Then I elected myself "who."

This was not easy. I thought, I've got to do it in broad daylight, and people will see me, and someone will arrest me for vandalizing (even though I'm fixing worse vandalism), and the Nazis will find out I did it and they'll stalk and kill me.

You know what? I really couldn't stand looking at that swastika.

So I went to the local witches' apothecary (no joke), where is apparently the place in Oakland where one can find cool bumper stickers these days. I befriended the Apothecary's black cat and carefully selected my stickers, looking for not answering words of a different kind of hatred, but ones fostering a message of love to counter the message of hate. Finding stickers that satisfied me, I marched down to the intersection. It was afternoon. It was busy. People would see me. I no longer cared.Over the swastika and the "sieg heil" I placed a nice shiny bright red bumper sticker that read "LOVE HEALS" in big letters. Over the remark about six million being a step toward perfection, I placed a nice green bumper sticker that read "Teach Respect for the Earth and All Living Creatures." One woman passed not a foot away from me as I did it. She said nothing, but she caught me in the eye with a faint smile and kept walking. Staying as objective as I can, I think her expression said, "I don't see anyone putting stickers on city property. Good for you."

I fully expected within the next few days to see my stickers spraypainted over by the neo-Nazis. Even if it just meant blotting out my messages--I hadn't really left them room to add a new one.

The stickers are still there, unmarred. A few days later, on an old "white power" sticker on the other side of the sign, someone wrote over "stop racism" and it looks like someone else tried to peel it off. I did notice another sign that had been spraypainted at another intersection, but shortly after my own sticker action, someone else proceeded to put "END RACISM NOW" stickers all over it.

No news from the Neo-Nazis. A little resistance... and they stopped.

I am not so naive to think they have gone away for good. The paranoid part of me says they'll paint over it eventually. But at least for now, I and a few other people threw in a quiet voice for equality that ended up silencing the hatred.

I don't want to write this in hopes you'll say, "Oh Rep, you're so cool." I'm just writing this to let you know there are little ways to speak out, little tiny ways to resist hatred. Some of them don't even cost six dollars. And also to let you know, if one voice speaks, often many that were afraid to speak before will follow. (Well, the other voices in this case may have spoken anyway; at any rate I feel community with them.) My final prayer is that I can overcome my fears again the next time I feel moved to act, moved to resist. I have learned, or at least been reminded, that a little resistance can go a long way.


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All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard