Benjamin Shepard: “Anarchy is For Lovers”: On Progress and Conflict, Friendship and Fighting: Winter Social Movement Reading, between Adorno and Benjamin, Women’s Marches, and a Few Notes on This Moment

On my way home from one of the crazy trips I took to DC over the Kavanaugh confirmation battle in the fall of 2018, I wondered about all the years of actions in DC.

Our trips to fight wars, presidents, and looming fascism, to try to make democracy work for people. Most of the time, the best conversations of the day take place after we are arrested, in booking, or waiting to be released, the adrenaline receding as we find time to reflect on what we’re doing. Sometimes we talk all the way home; others we nap or read on the bus. Usually, I bring a paperback. Sarah Schulman’s People in Trouble, about the early AIDS years, saved me after an AIDS action that fell apart in 2005. The bus broke down on the way to the action. By the time we arrived, the action was over. And all I wanted to do was turn around and read my paperback. “People don’t become what they were brought up to be, people become themselves,” Schulman wrote, reminding me these actions were a part of something I hoped we could become –a bit less invested in the apartheids of sex or gender, a bit more abundant, more inclusive.[1]

On the way home from one of those trips last fall, I picked up a copy of my friend L.A. Kauffman’s new book, How to Read a Protest, in which Kaufman compares the top down 1963 March on Washington to the bottom-up style of the Women’s March of 2017 – a thrilling story from someone who has been present through my years of activism in New York. L.A. and I had been at the Supreme Court a couple of days before the confirmation of Kavanaugh, standing by. We were both feeling physically sick about the rightward tilt of the court, as we sat in the sweltering DC heat. Speeches were droning on. Plan A, to go to the Capitol, fell apart. Finally, a group of us from Rise and Resist went to plan B, an act of civil disobedience inside the Senate office building. Inside some of my heroes, activists I’ve known for literally decades, acted up, screaming our lungs out about what was happening. We were eventually arrested. After processing, the first person to greet me was Kauffman. We chatted about the day, the actions, and where it was going, extending a conversation which we had been having for years now.

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