2016, the year that would not quit is finally behind us. As we lurch into 2017, it’s still hard to believe that 2016 actually happened. So many calamities, so many deaths, so many scandals. So many assumptions made by so many people about so many things were completely upended. In addition to all this fuckery, 2016 was also a bit of a drag for me personally. I’m glad that it’s now over.
I spent the better part of 2016 contemplating and recalibrating my intentions, setting the stage for some much needed self care. Part of that included building and launching this website; the latest manifestation and destination for all things James. It was not my original intention for this particular post to christen my new project, but considering the year that we just went through, the subject seems apropos.
As a creative, when inspiration strikes, my role is simply to be available to it. In this instance, my muse appeared around Christmas in the form of Charlie Brown.
I spent most of the holiday season in a mood. Not a bad mood or a particularly good mood, just a mood. Whenever I’m feeling this way, I often turn to music to help me change the mood, or in this case, to embrace it. On this occasion, A Charlie Brown Christmas provided me with a degree of comfort. It is such a great story with an equally great soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi; it’s the perfect accompaniment for when one finds oneself in a mood.
The inspiration for this post came from the classic dance scene that we all know and love. I can never get enough of it. It’s so mesmerizing. What are these characters thinking about? Each one is doing their own thing, in the moment, uninhibited. How cool is that? But what’s their story? After staring at the animated gif for longer than I care to admit, it suddenly occurred to me that many of the events from 2016 are embodied in this scene, personified by these characters.
And with that, I present to you…
The Peanuts Class of 2016
I would be remiss if I didn’t include in this piece the Peanuts characters who personified the greatest jux of 2016. The enduring image of Lucy van Pelt snatching the football from Charlie Brown is the definitive metaphor for what is happening to our country right now. Only, instead of Lucy swiping the ball, it’s Donald Trump who is sending the collective “us” flying through the air screaming AAUGH!
For those of us who are activated and who are planning to resist this new reality, I’m concerned that (in the short term) we may not be prepared to resist effectively? In the decades since the Civil Rights Movement, we’ve fallen out of practice and have lost our conditioning. Our sense of urgency to affect radical change through radical resistance has subsided considerably. Conventional forms of resistance may be woefully inadequate once the Trump administration and the Republican Party begin their take over on January 20th. We know what resistance to low-level suppression and unprovoked aggression looks like, but are we prepared to resist old-fashioned in-your-face systematic state-sanctioned oppression?
In the current arc of this narrative, conservatives have been pulling this football trick on the American people for over 40 years. And the American people have been falling for it for just as long. This is nothing new. Donald Trump just happens to be the one holding the football this time. What is new, however, is that for the first time in as many years the GOP, unsympathetically, has slowly and surely drawn its plans against us (to paraphrase H.G. Wells from War of the Worlds). In an almost direct correlation with the end of The Civil Rights Movement, the conservative establishment has orchestrated its revenge on the movement through organized, deliberate and unflinching resistance. The type of resistance that is defined alternatively in the dictionary as: the impeding, slowing, or stopping effect exerted by one material thing on another.
This is the type of resistance one would encounter while lifting weights at the gym or when running on a treadmill. Otherwise known as resistance training. The purpose of which is to condition the body for strength and endurance so when a challenge arises or an opportunity presents itself, the body is able to respond quickly and decisively. I would suggest that, at this juncture, conservatives are better conditioned and prepared to act on their agenda, quickly and decisively; more so than progressives and liberals are prepared to effectively resist them.
Isn’t it peculiar, Charlie Brown, how some traditions just fade away?Lucy Van Pelt
Resist. Rebel. Repeat.
I honestly don’t know what effective resistance to Donald Trump and the GOP is going to look like after January 20th. In the short term, they are probably going to run roughshod over our rights and there won’t be much we can do about it. In the longterm, the ways and means by which we resist will likely need a significant upgrade if we are going resist effectively.
Resistance training, in my opinion, is the best thing we can do to prepare for a sustained struggle. Projects like The Indivisible Guide and #DisruptJ20 are great places to start getting acquainted with the current schools of thought. This extensive bibliography of non-violence training resources seems like a good place to do a deep dive on the subject. And this particular book What Goes On in a Nonviolence Training is on my short list of things to read (h/t to Professor Claiborne). Additionally, developing this website as a platform for my voice (among other things) is another way I plan to resist.
And finally, the conservation of energy is also going to be crucial to playing the long game. We are at the threshold of a new type of struggle. Striking a balance between the theoretical, the symbolic, and the practical is essential to figuring out the most effective way to resist what’s coming. Until we truly know what we’re dealing with, we simply do not know.
The metaphor of Lucy and her football explains 2016 well enough, but it also explains—in one important way—how we should be thinking about the beginning of 2017. The picture of Charlie Brown suspended in mid-air is where we, as a country, are right now. A event has been set in motion which has yet to complete its cycle. No matter how we choose to rationalize it, there is nothing we can do to prevent it from playing itself out! But here is what we know:
- We know that we’re about to hit the ground.
- We know that it’s going to hurt.
What we don’t know is how hard we’re going to hit or how badly it’s going to hurt. The best we can do right is to get prepared and brace ourselves for impact.
I’m delighted to Put Some Charlie On It and say, “FUCK OFF” to 2016, but my declarative mantra for 2017 and beyond is, “BACK DA FUCK UP!”
Behind the Music
So I’m sitting around the house on Christmas day doing nothing in particular, the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas is playing in the background. The instrumental version of Christmas Time begins starts playing, the producer in me says, “You know what? I should sample that.” And so, I did, and that’s how this little project got started.
With the help of my son Angel, who co-arranged the track with me and my good friend DJ Eclipse, who was generous enough to provide the finishing touches with his signature scratching, Put Some Charlie On It emerged. Eclipse premiered the track on his Sirius/XM radio show Rap Is Outta Control this past Sunday.