Commentary: A call to arms to protect precious values

LATER THIS MONTH, Republican leaders from across the country will converge on our fair city for their annual "Republican Issues Retreat." While details for the retreat are unclear, we expect that lawmakers will continue the growing drumbeat toward an oligarchy that is run by and serves the interest of white, male billionaires.

During the retreat, lawmakers will begin to make plans to strip us of Social Security and health care, deport millions of undocumented people, eviscerate our collective bargaining rights, widen the net of mass incarceration, further privatize our public education system through vouchers, roll back Roe v. Wade, create tax breaks for the 1 percent and establish a Muslim registry.

These are not the values we hold dear in Philadelphia, and it is clear that working people across this country face difficult times ahead.

Yet it is in dark times that we are called to stand together with our neighbors. Together, we protect those who are most vulnerable, and then figure out how to build something new and powerful that can effectively express our values of equality and solidarity, even as the world seems to crumble around us.

The first order of business in Philadelphia will be for all of us to act as a bulwark, putting our bodies on the line to protect those who are in Donald Trump's cross hairs from Day One: immigrants, Muslims, black and brown youth, public-sector union members, people dependent on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare or Medicaid. Defending all Philadelphians is the critical first step. And through that defense, we will learn how to work together so that we can pivot and take offense - making ourselves more powerful and more unified in this difficult time.

While this call to arms may seem naive when all the mechanisms of power are churning against us and our communities, this is precisely the time when we have to band together and also strategize for a better tomorrow. The tea party movement emerged on the heels of President Obama's historic election in 2008, and now, eight years later, all of the branches of the federal government are in their hands.

There is no reason the pendulum cannot swing back toward justice, but it won't unless we begin, here, at home. In fact, we can begin to see the pendulum swing through the week of action that is developing around MLK Day and Trump's inauguration Friday. This week and the actions it encompasses offer an outline or silhouette of the struggle to come.

The week of action (details of which can be found on the Philly We Rise website www.phillywerise.com) includes actions through Saturday. In addition to Monday's MLK Day D.A.R.E. March for a Better America that traveled from 6th and Market to the historic AME Mother Bethel Church, here are some highlights:

"Philly Kids Solidarity Rally" will be held at the Liberty Bell at 6th and Market at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

"Fund Schools Not Wall Street; Education not Deportation." Our City Our Schools Coalition will hold a rally at Wells Fargo at 15th and Market at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Directly following the rally, people will gather at 440 N. Broad St. to demand that the School Reform Commission proactively commit to protecting all students in Philadelphia schools.

"The People's Inauguration/La Inauguracion del Pueblo." There will be a series of marches throughout the city that will converge on the Liberty Bell at 4 p.m. Friday.

"Women's March on Philadelphia" will begin at Logan Square and end at Eakins Oval, and there will be a rally at Eakins Oval beginning at noon Saturday.

Many more sparks of resistance, from homes and schools to houses of worship, are rising. This extensive week of action is only the beginning. We have a long journey in front of us, and there is much work to be done.

The near future will be full of strife and hardships originating from Washington and Harrisburg, and in order to succeed, people will need to band together.

In order to ensure a diverse and flourishing Philadelphia, we all have to rise to one another's defense. In creating our wall to protect our communities now and in the months to come, we can lay the foundation for a movement based on our values of equality and solidarity that can help lead to a progressive resurgence at the polls and in the streets.

Todd Wolfson, an associate professor at Rutgers University, and Antione Little are on the steering committee of 215 People's Alliance.