by Cara Gardner
Barry Lopez's most recent novel, Resistance, has designs on our modern concepts of safety, success, progress, patriotism and power; it is a 162-page meditation on forms of resistance that extend beyond protest or discord. It asks, at its core, "What can love offer that cannot be rejected?"
A political novel as well as an astoundingly philosophical one, Resistance is pieced together as a series of final letters written to the U.S. government's "Office of Inland Security," a branch of the Department of Justice designed to keep the world safe from "terrorists." Nine people - artists, historians, designers, anthropologists, writers and philosophers, have received requests from the Office of Inland Security to stop questioning governmental practices in their work. Each one of them drafts a response, which make up the chapters in the novel. They explain eloquently, sometimes abstractly, why their resistance against the government has become synonymous with their devotion to humanity.
"We reject the assertion promoted today by success-mongering bull terriers in business, in government, in religion, that humans are goal-seeking animals," writes one character. "We believe they are creatures in search of proportion in life, a pattern of grace. It is balance and beauty we believe people want, not triumph."
At the beginning of each chapter are monotypes created by Alan Magee. They are disturbing, often grotesque facial renditions, left on the page for readers to stare at, pulled away from the words.
Lopez's novel reveals the innate connection between political and artistic resistance, between physical geography and frame of mind. His characters have chosen to live outside the United States as a way of salvaging something internal. There is no separation between the personal and the political, between your private life and the governing bodies, which give it context. Thus, the true revolutions are internal; we change the world by changing our minds. And the most powerful activists are those who can express this mindful transformation in ways others can understand.
Resistance is a powerful dictum to artists and poets, designers, architects, philosophers, actors and historians, to intellectuals and the creative minds of the world: Innovation is a crucial element to transformation, and transformation fights tyranny. Lopez's work reminds us to keep thinking, keep creating, keep praying, keep reading, keep listening. We must continue to change our own minds.
Publication date: 10/14/04