From Travel Ban Protests To A Global Movement Against Global Injustices by David Swanson

No Ban, No Wall Protest at PHL Airport

Image by Joe Piette via Flickr

by David Swanson
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Let’s Try Democracy
January 31, 2017

Airport resistance is the biggest step forward by the U.S. public in years.

Why do I say that? Because this is unfunded, largely unpartisan activism that is largely selfless, largely focused on helping unknown strangers, driven by compassion and love, not political ideology, greed, or vengeance, and in line with activism around the globe. It’s also targeted at the location of the harm, directly resisting the injustice, and achieving immediate partial successes, including very meaningful successes for certain individuals. It’s gaining support from people never before engaged in any activism. And it shows no signs of any significant undesirable side-effects. This is a movement to be built on, and I have an idea what a next step should be.

Of course it is not at all uncommon for people to selflessly act for strangers. Much of the charity industry is driven by that sort of generosity year after year. But activist organizations are constantly telling themselves that this is not the case, for example that ending the bombing of distant unknown families can only be accomplished by advertising the financial cost of it or instituting a draft or making known the harm to veterans of the military doing the bombing. Yet when the peace movement in the United States has been stronger, in the 1920s in particular and also in the 1960s, acting on behalf of others has been central, as it was to the first big activist campaign, that begun against the slave trade in London, and as it has been in countless campaigns. Working to protect the natural environment is work for future generations. You can’t get more selfless or enlightened than that.

But what’s unique about this moment of sympathy and solidarity with refugees from nations the United States has bombed (plus Iran which it has gone after in other ways) is that it runs counter to U.S. government propaganda, it replaces fear with courage, hatred with love. This isn’t just love stepping into a void. This is a transformation into love from its opposite. This is why I think another major step might be possible.

When I listen to people interviewed at New York protests, or look at the signs they bring to the White House and to airports around the country, I’m struck by the expressions of love and concern for others, more than by the presence of partisanship or hatred for Donald Trump (though it certainly is a factor). And I’m bowled over by the widespread recognition of the lesson from history of the damage done to European Jews by U.S. immigration policy. Protesters’ signs indicate an awareness that Jewish refugees were rejected by the West, that Western governments met and refused to accept their mass eviction from Germany, that the U.S. Coast Guard chased a ship away from Miami many of whose passengers later died in the camps, that Anne Frank’s visa application was rejected by the U.S. State Department. I had no idea people knew these things, much less learned and applied a lesson from them.

Of course, some protesters have personal connections to those put at risk by Trump’s Muslim ban (and that’s what it is, based on his campaign promises and his renaming of the Global War on [of] Terrorism to the Fight Against Radical Islamism). And others find ways to identify themselves with those at risk, such as: “We’re a nation of immigrants. My great-grandparents were immigrants.” But this doesn’t make the movement less altruistic. Identifying with people in some way, even as fellow human beings, is a common part of coming to care about them and to act for or with them.

There are indications that this sentiment is not limited to those protesting and resisting at airports. The ACLU has never raised more money before. And check out this tweet:

John Paul Farmer @johnpaulfarmer

I’m 20 minutes from landing at JFK. Pilot just warned us about delays due to #NoBan protests at T4. The passengers’ response? Applause.

There are also protests happening around the world, outside of the United States, allowing us to build a global movement against global injustices even when those injustices are headquartered in Washington, D.C. And in Washington D.C. and around the U.S. we see unprecedented resistance from an Acting Attorney General and from judges — a group that seemed to be mostly asleep for the past 16 years.

And Canada, which has resisted U.S. wars, aided those enslaved, given shelter to conscientious objectors, and protected people from all variety of U.S. injustice for centuries, stepped up too:

Justin Trudeau @JustinTrudeau

To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada

There are elements of partisanship in this uprising that could hold it back, and of nationalism as well. Some liberals are not so much concerned about human cruelty as about Trump disrespecting their sacred U.S. military. Where were these crowds when President Barack Obama was setting records for deportations, or when he was bombing the nations that Trump is now banning refugees from, or when he was purporting to create the presidential power to do what Trump is now doing?

Our task is not to erase mistakes of the recent past but not to focus on them either. Our task is to move forward with what we now have. And I think the way forward involves taking one additional major step beyond where the resistance is right now. Once people have come to resist injustices to refugees from wars, to identify with them, to contemplate lives lived in horror of immigration police, to consider the suffering of family members in distant lands suddenly blocked from visiting their loved ones, it seems to be a quite achievable step to begin opposing dropping bombs on those family members. If you’re going to oppose harm to refugees, why not oppose the destruction of their homes that makes them refugees in the first place? If you are willing to question government fear-mongering, you are ready to question the government dogma that says more weapons sales and more bombs and more troops will make things better rather than worse.

If that step is taken, then this becomes a movement that cares not only about that fraction of suffering populations that finds some tenuous connection to U.S. shores, but about that whole 96% of humanity that lacks any such connection. Then we really have something new under the sun. Then we really transform U.S. policy. Then the trillion dollars a year wasted on preparing for more wars can be cut into a little bit to fund human and environmental needs beyond our wildest imaginings.

I was heartened by this recent tweet:

Yaroslav Trofimov @yarotrof

Number of US citizens who traveled to Iraq, Syria to kills locals on behalf of ISIS: 250. Syrians or Iraqis who carried out attacks in US: 0

I replied:

David Swanson @davidcnswanson

What about number who went there to kill locals on behalf of US military?

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. War Is A Lie: Second Edition, published by Just World Books on April 5, 2016. I’ll come anywhere in the world to speak about it. Invite me!

from the archives:

The Anti-Trump Protests: Don’t Ask: Where Were You For The Last 8 Years? by Bill Dores

Protests Against Trump’s Refugee Ban

Ralph Nader: Trump’s Presidency Will Be Tumultuously Unpredictable

Chris Hedges: The Future of the US Empire Under Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump, About Your 29 Ideas by David Swanson

Chris Hedges: Refugee Trafficking is Big Business for ISIS

18 thoughts on “From Travel Ban Protests To A Global Movement Against Global Injustices by David Swanson

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  8. The image heading-up this post shows a woman with a placard NEVER AGAIN #Not Another S.S.St. Louis. So, not sure what it referred to, I looked it up online to learn it was a German liner carrying about 900 German-Jewish refugees, that in 1939 under the command of a German Captain Gustav Schröder, was refused entry to Cuba, then the US and even to Canada

    In this immediate day and age, the irony and anguish and relevance of that situation should not be lost; neither underestimated nor forgotten. Especially when we consider the demonstrable webs of control, command, power and influence currently dictating the terms of engagement along the present fault-lines in the Middle-east (& beyond.)

    David Swanson makes an essential point, that in my estimation amply illustrates the urgent need for concerned US citizens to reach out to others around the world; to build an invincible bond of mutual understanding across borders, between (relatively) free peoples. Whilst at the same time, helping to gain the confidence and trust of those who although they are well aware, remain deprived of any substantial right to self-determination and sovereign immunity from overt “state terror” ~ let alone the menace of covert terror.

    Real wealth only exists wherever it is well-established; by being deeply rooted in consensual trust buttressed by professional standards. This is the one prerequisite that not only does not restrict, but allows & empowers communities to work honestly & fearlessly ~ to exchange and trade our skills, professional services, innate abilities and innovative products and ideas ethically, honorably and fairly.

    So if we are serious…as ‘necessity’ is the (proverbial) Mother of Invention…we ought to be prepared to face that primal need squarely…as it falls to us to acknowledge it in ourselves, to identify and cultivate our real needs with authentic generosity of spirit & genuine inclusion ~ not from fear of loss or a hysterical insecurity, that seeks affirmation from paranoid delusions.

    Once we are confident to act from intelligent strength ~ born of instinctual experiential prudence and social coherence ~ from pragmatic knowledge (uncorrupted by ‘received’ political dogma or sophist persuasion;) from an inherent understanding, internalized directly from empirical evidence…then things will go much better for everyone.

    Of course, some may detect far more than irony in the fact, that right-wing Biblical evangelicals, with fundamentalist agendas steeped in literalist beliefs & fantastical prophetic absurdities, are strongly supporting an administration that has declared total war on an extreme expression of radically militant Islamic fundamentalism, sponsored and promoted worldwide by one or more, of the United States’ closest “allies.”

      • Truth hurts, but especially those who have condoned the monstrous suffering of others, by simply failing to acknowledge it….or even worse, by blithely accepting the horrors perpetrated in their name, by those who purport to represent their ‘noblest’ interests.

    • David , what part of the word SOVEREIGNTY dont you understand ? the Koch Brothers and George Soros and the WTO and IMF and the international Elite Neo Con Neo Lib pro war entire international structure fears one thing : The sovereignty of the nation state. Erase the borders is their goal . This increases their power along with big data .

      in the ancient world the the city state ( the Polis ) was the bulwark against Empire . Since the 17th century France began the nation state as the bulwark against the Hapsburg Empire. The American Empire has disrespected other nations by not allowing them to be sovereign . how ? – invasion . This must cease. but the knife cuts both ways . America must not allow itself to be invaded by undocumented immigration .

      This all comes down to the nation state and boundaries . Many confuse this with national”ism ” and Jingoism . America has every right like any other nation to invite or dis invite people into its country . There are many ways to help others with out erasure of borders . the erasure of borders and those who support it are falling into the hands of the international power elite and seek to shame those who disagree.

      As they shame , they dont understand that they are puppets of the elite who dont care about the real refugee crisis . so i say shame on them – we dont need their phony moral righteousness and empty sloganeering .

      • I don’t understand your comment Rocket if addressed to me; are you saying I am advocating the erasure of borders in support of US hegemony? If so where have I said this? On the contrary, I totally believe in sovereignty, especially of the individual, that scaled-up constitutes the organic architecture of any free and independent state.

        How we conceptualize borders is another matter, as those concepts are porous & mutating continually; but the principle of sovereignty is constant, unassailable & fundamental.

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