Resistance does not have to mean rejecting the system, or even aiming to change the system. Resistance means not letting the system change you.
In case someone has not caught up yet, money is the name of the game and the overwhelming majority of us are not winning. Even those with houses, cars or a guaranteed retirement plan are getting the shorter end of the stick compared to the ultra-wealthy in America — especially when talking about minorities. Generation X was the first to experience the reality of not earning more than their parents, and the circumstances for our generation have not changed much. Furthermore, the global and national events of the last decade have shocked, distressed and shattered just about everything we thought being American meant; a time surely to be (mis-) illustrated in our grandchildren’s history books. Let us just hope that when we reflect on “back when I was your age,” we smile at the funny way things tend to work out.
Even for the privileged among us, a growing exposure to the alarming gap between the interests of the government and those of the people paints a less-than-perfect picture. The Deluxe American Patriotic package — liberty and justice for all — is not exactly all it’s cracked out to be.
“Justice for all,” as we know from firsthand experience on campus, is a myth. Minority groups have long felt that no matter how successful you may seem, the color of your skin and the the culture which with you identify will limit the degree of any success you may enjoy. Liberty, too, is a bit misleading. Often confused with freedom, a civil liberty is the ability to act freely as long as you walk neatly within the lines of the given legal framework. Sure, you are free to make your choices, but the options from which you pick are handed to you and limited by the system.
Unless you skipped to the end, by now, you may be asking yourselves why a campus Jewish newsmagazine is giving a platform to a barely-witty conspiracy theorist. Let me assure you, I’m not calling for radical action to throw out The Man. I’m calling for a change in perspective.
For those like myself who find no hope in “liberty and justice for all,” allow me to offer an authentic truth to hang by: “He who follows righteousness and mercy will find life, righteousness and honor” (Proverbs 21:21).
In other words, a person intent on pursuing justice for others in this world will find prosperity, righteousness and dignity for him- or herself. Not as straightforward as declaring “liberty and justice for all,” this premise suggests that good is not merely handed to you upon birth, but is reciprocated after you complete your part of the deal. Not as easy, I know.
Gandhi was not the first to point out the not-so-obvious: if you want good in your surroundings, you must set the example by practice. But Proverbs adds that if you commit to equality and dignity for others, you will also earn them for yourself. Seems like a reasonable trade, no?
History tells us that objection to the status quo is resistance. But resistance does not have to mean rejecting the system, or even aiming to change the system. Resistance means not letting the system change you, not letting the system silence you, and most importantly — not letting the systematic hierarchy blind you from seeing yourself as equal to every creature.
The more exposed we are to the world outside ourselves, the more aware we become of structural injustices. Some let this bog them down in pessimism and resolve to never bring kids into this terrible world. Some, even worse, settle for passivity. But those with faith in agency allow this awareness to bring them to terms with a personal mission to correct wrongs; they commit to re-imagining a world their kids deserve.
It takes plenty of courage to make the world you want to live in instead of accepting the one you receive, but alternatively, the path of passivity and ignorance is a poor one to tread. The hope is that each one of us is passionate enough to act against some injustice, be it within our personal community or the one around us. Be it by fundraising, volunteering or demonstrating, helping those in need, in any way you can, is crucial.
Though I am not optimistic about current economic and social circumstances, I am proud to be a part of the living and kicking solution. I am proud to be part of a generation that finds the courage to make the world it wants to live in without taking no for an answer. I am proud to be part of a student population that knows not only how to demonstrate with picket signs but also how to narrow gaps of disagreement diplomatically. I am proud to be part of a student population that refuses to sit quietly as tuition rates spike, that bravely takes to the streets in masses to reject mistreatment of minorities and demand legal action. I am proud to be part of a Jewish community that supports and defends its heritage and right to self-determination in the face of hateful sentiments. And I’m proud to be part of a generation that knows injustice when it sees it and is unafraid to fight it.