Conservative, Republican columnist David Brooks wrote last week in The New York Times, “it is hard to think of any administration in recent memory, on any level, whose identity is so tainted by cruelty. The Trump administration is often harsh and never kind.”
Operation Nightwatch has historically not taken political positions, as from its inception it has not seen itself an advocacy organization. But all the political process is is a means for implementing values. And if the values being thrust upon you would seek to bully into submission the principles of decency and compassion, it would be a violation of those principles to remain silent.
It is still unclear how the politics of the Trump Administration will affect the poor and homeless whom we serve. But (as per David Brooks’ assessment) there is little sign they will have any heart for the marginalized and neediest. The executive order banning refugees is one indicator. The appointment of a man as Treasury Secretary who gained much of his fortune by foreclosing on the poor is another. There has been some speculation based on the public stances he has taken that Ben Carson’s stewardship of the Department of Housing and Urban Development will involve fewer programs aimed at actually getting the homeless into housing, and more warehousing of homeless people in overnight shelters.
In many respects I would be deemed an avowed liberal. But my liberalism comes from what I see is necessary to give a “fair shake” to others. What many don’t appreciate about me is that on a personal level I’m pretty conservative. I am not a libertine. I am frugal and hold highly the values of personal responsibility. When I preach “inclusivity,” I believe that means including not only those of different races, backgrounds, religions, abilities and sexual orientations, but also those of differing opinions and points-of-view. My bottom-line experience with many political conservatives—a David Brooks, for instance—is that they really hold the same humane values I myself do. It’s just they believe in different avenues by which to see those values implemented. They believe, for instance, that the free market will ultimately benefit all, whereas I believe the free market is not enough. But at least—and here’s the crucial point—we can still civilly engage with one another because foundationally we hold some common ground.
The problem with the new leadership in the White House is that it is difficult finding any common ground on which to engage. Reason is impossible because reason requires the acceptance of provable objective facts. And an appeal to values is futile when your conversation-partner is devoid of any moral compass whatsoever. Unless one fits into the very constricted worldview of the narcissist, there is really very little possibility of profitably engaging with him at all.
So there’s really only one option left—and that is to resist.
Of course, resistance can take many forms—taking to the streets, writing letters to the editor and to Congress, raising a ruckus on social media. But it seems to me that the greatest way to resist a regime characterized by cruelty, one that is “often harsh and never kind” is to embody extra kindness oneself and to counter cruelty with extravagant displays of compassion. Hate, after all, is never overcome by hate. Unless we believe that love will triumph—and not “love” in any abstract sense, but the kind of love in which we put our own lives on the line for others—we only become part of the problem ourselves.
Nightwatch’s logo has never been more relevant—that of the light shining in the darkness. The darkness has rarely been darker. But we shall resist in seeing that light shine on.