Like many, I find myself thinking about how best to resist the powerful emergence of reactionary, right-wing politics in America, and I’ve decided to go with the Our Gang School of Political Resistance. It’s an approach that worked wonders for Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Wheezer, Darla and “Pete” the dog in the Our Gang ‘Little Rascals’ comedy shorts of the ’30s, and I see no reason why it can’t work wonders today, namely doing what’s right and having fun while doing it. The recent Women’s March, with it’s hand-made signs and knitted, pink “pussy hats” was an example of classic Our Gang tactics.
If you’re old enough to have grown up watching the black and white Our Gang episodes on early TV, you’ll remember how the “Rascals” would have to confront a dilemma in each episode. Sometimes it was saving “Grandma” from an evil landlord trying to evict her, but often it was the challenge of being confronted by the local neighborhood bully, Butch.
Butch, like most bullies, relied on tactics of fear and intimidation; the ever-present threat of physical violence and coercion were his most frequent tools. Sneering and arrogant, Butch portrayed himself as tougher, meaner and braver than the members of The Gang, and his clenched fist was the symbol of his menace.
The members of Our Gang were an odd lot. Spanky was the chubby schemer, Alfalfa the lanky nerd, black Buckwheat innocently clever, Wheezer mischievous, and Darla charming. Alone each was vulnerable, but collectively they were a powerful and creative force for good. In episode after episode, their wits and inventiveness overcame oppression and its threats, whether a greedy businessman or the venal Butch. Herein their method of resistance was displayed.
As a group the Rascals Gang was inclusive and diverse. Each member, despite his or her individual weaknesses found support within the group and a way in which to display particular talents. Alone, none of them could overcome the threat of Butch and his violence, but together they were unstoppable.
As to the individual talents of each member of Our Gang, all found a place in collective strategies and solutions in overcoming evil. Alfalfa’s window-breaking singing, Spanky’s organizational skills and so forth displayed an inclusive strategy, one in which everyone was valued for what could be contributed to the group effort. Even Pete the dog, the spotted mutt with a black ring around one eye, was enlisted.
And here’s the other secret about their success: having fun. No matter how daunting or even scary the prospect, The Gang found a way to have fun while overcoming adversity. Sometimes it was theater – putting on a talent show to raise money. Other times it was the power of invention – creating a better “car” made of wooden crates pulled by Petey or rigging up a series of traps and ropes to tangle-up a thief. When it came to Butch the bully, the solution was often to reveal him as a coward. The early lesson of Our Gang was that bullies are always cowards.
I’m taking these realizations to heart as I consider my own forms of resistance and ways to join with others in resisting the forces of greed, intolerance and violence. Inclusivity, diversity, creativity, courage, effort and humor; these methods of resistance worked perfectly for the members of Our Gang, and given our current challenges, they feel just right to me.