The Persistence

The movement against Donald Trump and his Republican allies has often been called “the Resistance.” I think that’s a fine name, and I’m sure I’ll continue to use it myself, especially when I’m working with others who have adopted it. But earlier this week, on the heels of finishing the Mexico City Marathon (picture below), I came up with a new name that I think I may end up using more: “the Persistence.”

The new name was inspired by the words of a man named Paul Mihailidis, director of the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change. He writes, “We persist towards. We resist against.” The basic idea is that while resistance is an act of standing up against often-implacable opponents, persistence is the steadfast determination to move toward a better world for everyone. In Mihailidis’s words, “we persist towards a better future, and not against intractable obstacles.”

Now, to be clear, I don’t think this means that we must subscribe to the idea common among New Age and “law of attraction” proponents that we must never put anything in negative terms. The blurb I read highlighting Mihailidis’s work itself has the oppositional title “Combatting a Culture of Mistrust,” and my spiritual path of A Course in Miracles often uses the language of negation. Sometimes the language of resistance is exactly what’s needed. Yet at the same time, I agree with the idea that in general, we are better off expressing our vision in affirmative terms.

Indeed, soon after reading about Mihailidis’s work, I came upon an article by communications analyst Carly Goodman offering “evidence-based tips” for how to talk to people with negative views of immigration. Most of these tips involve recasting ideas in more affirmative terms. For instance, rather than debunking negative stereotypes about immigrants, “always highlight the truth.” Instead of talking about how the immigration system is “broken,” advocate “a humane immigration process.” Instead of using the popular slogan “No human being is illegal,” affirm that “All people have rights.” In general, to connect with the other person and enable him or her to connect with immigrants, emphasize a positive vision of our common humanity.

Personally, I like the idea of “the Persistence” for a number of reasons. I do like the positive emphasis. The word reminds me of the well-known meme associated with Senator Elizabeth Warren, “nevertheless, she persisted.” And speaking of “the Persistence” reminds me that working for a more loving, humane, and just world is a marathon, not a sprint. As a person who literally runs marathons, I find this symbol especially powerful. We have a lot of work to do, but if we just keep putting one foot in front of another, we will reach the finish line together.

What do you think? I say let’s all join the Persistence!

6 Replies to “The Persistence”

  1. I love this, Greg. Amazing timing with this article as just today the op-ed in The NY Times came out where a “senior official “ in the Trump administration identifies himself/herself as a member of the “resistance”. I love reframing it as persistence. The positive reframing is inspiring and motivating to continue in our work.

  2. I love this, Greg. I love the idea of working toward something new and good one step at a time. That’s something I can put my energy into. When I think in terms of resisting “what is”, I feel my energy fade. I feel despair.

    I also love the idea to “always highlight the truth”. That’s the path I want to be walking and the skills I want to be learning. Sign me up, Greg. I’m ready to join the Persistence!

    Sue Costello

  3. This reminds me of Mother Theresa who said:
    “ I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there. “

  4. I really like “the persistence”, Greg. It adds a positive, uplifting tone to holding up the truth, even when the truth seems to be the minority voice.

    Once again, thanks for another insightful idea and attitude.


  5. Thank you for your kind comments, everyone! I’m really touched by them. Clearly, this idea of “the Persistence” has struck a positive chord with many of you. I think it’s going to become a regular part of my activist vocabulary from now on. Welcome to the Persistence! 🙂

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