So long 2022!
Hello 2023, and whatever’s next!
I was thinking about a time years ago when I was arrested with countless others in a chaotic street-fight with the police on Michigan Avenue, and packed into a crowded police van rushing headlong toward Cook County Jail, I was full of energy and hope—in fact I felt a little ecstatic. We had not backed down, and we had not run away. We had stood up for peace and freedom, and we’d conveyed our urgent message to a vast audience. The whole world was watching that night, and in that dark and stuffy van, with a bloodied head, I felt myself breathing the refreshing air of freedom.
I think that experience reveals a paradox at the heart of freedom—we’re most free precisely when we’re in the act of naming an obstacle to our own (or our neighbor’s) full humanity—our freedom. That moment may appear obstructed or fraught or dangerous or troubling—and, in fact, it may be all of that. And yet, freedom heaves into view exactlywhen the brutal wall of unfreedom is identified—enslavement, subjugation, abuse, cruelty, persecution, exploitation, prison, oppression—and then opposed, shoulder-to-shoulder with others in an effort to prevail over unfreedom. Identifying and naming injustice, organizing and agitating against it in the company of comrades, breaching barricades and overcoming barriers—that’s where freedom explodes onto the scene and comes to life as three-dimensional, vivid, trembling, and real.
Frederick Douglass describes a moment when he refused to allow himself to be beaten by his master, and, risking death, fought back. Without any assurances of success, Douglass fought the man to a standoff and defended himself successfully—intentionally resisting the temptation to severely bloody or hurt the man. Amazingly Douglass was not punished. When he reflected on the encounter, Douglass wrote, “I was nothing before; I was a man now…After resisting him, I felt as I had never felt before. It was resurrection…I had reached the point where I was not afraid to die. This spirit made me a freeman in fact.When a slave cannot be flogged, he is more than half free.
Douglass had expressed himself openly, fully, and authentically; he had removed the servile mask of compliance. Through fighting back, he had openly named unfreedom, resisted it, and felt suddenly resurrected—exhilarated, intoxicated, energized. Although still enslaved, Douglass had tasted freedom.
This is my hope and my resolution for 2023: to breathe the air of freedom as often as possible by going into battle hand-in-hand with the Freedom Fighters.
Abolish the prisons!
Defund the police!
Build a world of joy and justice, peace and love for all!