The United States at this moment makes for an interesting setting. We face many challenges as a society but we also have a strong, collective desire to overcome them. Recently, our country has seen multiple labor and union uprisings and a movement called Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Together demand radical political and economic change and mostly not succeeded. Instead these movements have been ignored, mocked, and brutalized, and the political and economic crises have both only deepened. All the same, Occupy and the labor movement have made their fellow citizens more acutely aware of the control big business has over their government, as well as the separation of the American population into distinct socio-economic classes. All the same, very many Americans, just under half, in fact, are still beholden to one or the other major political parties. Most liberals, though they have internalized the reality that big business controls the government and the public does not, still believe that mostly only the Republican Party is the party of big business, but that the Democratic Party is still somehow the party of the people. These liberals, and most conservatives, are aware that most of the funding that Obama and Romney and Obama and McCain and Bush and Kerry and Bush and Gore all received came from the veritable 1% or .1% or .01%. They are aware that Republicans in Congress and Democrats in Congress both are equally the target of and friendly with lobbyists. And yet, most liberals and conservatives, at least the ones that have not been disaffected and still vote, still think their party is the party of the people and the other party mostly represents special interests.
The unfortunate fact is, of course, that people who still have faith in the system and faith in the party they identify with, are mostly wrong, and the politically disaffected, who are just as great in number, are mostly right. There is little reason to trust the president or our governors or even our mayors and it doesn’t matter which party they come from. The same can be said for most of our congresspersons, most of our state legislators, and a great deal of our city councilpersons. However, where many disaffecteds are incorrect is in the idea that there is absolutely nothing that can be done. In fact, there are things that can be done. One of those things is activism.
As an activist myself, including in the Occupy movement, the anti-fracking movement, and elsewhere, my opinion is that activism is the most crucial way that the citizenry can have an effect on our government’s policy. Indeed, it is the only way we have ever brought about major political and economic change, except, of course, for the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. In recent years, in many parts of our country, environmentalist movement has protected us from fracking, and in many places absent of sizeable environmentalist movement, the population has had to suffer from fracking. And suffering from fracking is no modest suffering.
However, as an Occupy activist, I have to admit that our victories have been few and far between. At local levels, we have enjoyed municipal, county, and even state governments joining the fight against foreclosures by introducing people-minded policies, such as foreclosure moratoriums and a variety of other creative programs. As well, we the activists have, without the help of political authority, prevented or even reversed many foreclosures all over the nation. And there have been other victories on other issues at the state and local levels made by the Occupy movement, it’s child movements, and it’s abeyance structures. But the fundamental economic-political crises remain entirely unalleviated. Occupy began hardly more than a month after the debt ceiling debacle of 2011, when both parties in Congress (okay, mostly the Republicans are to blame here, I’ll admit) couldn’t come to an agreement on raising the debt limit and we came very close to a default, and, as a result of this, our credit rating was lowered, and even worse, the American people were forced into a govermental sequestration, which is really just a nice-sounding word for “austerity.” As such, we ought to understand Occupy for all that we Occupiers said it was- not only a demand for an end to the gaping, much-larger-and-much-longer-than-just-one-recession economic crisis, but also a demand for an end to the even deeper, seemingly bottomless, political crisis. And because we ought to understand it that way, we must recognize that if only two years later, the Congress shut down the government over the debt limit, our success in th national arena was not very great.
This is not to say that on the national level, activism is equally as ineffective as voting. Let us recognize that our very recent Occupy/labor/environmentalist/feminist/student/whistleblower-lead democratic awakening is still in it’s infancy. The Civil Rights Movement of the post-war period, which began in earnest no later than 1955 (which is not to forget that the movement existed over the entire six decades before then, both in activity and in dormancy), only saw local and state victories in its first few years. But after a number of years, there were many major national-level victories, like the Civil Rights Acts of 1960 and 1964, the Voting Rights Act, and federally-enforced desegregation as a result of the state and local governments making virtually no progress in complying with the Brown decisions. Indeed, activism can be very effective even at the federal level if it can gather lots and lots of people who are willing to keep the fight going for a long time.
This is precisely what the United States deserves right now and long into the future. At a time when our education system is being destroyed, when the war machine is carrying atrocities in our name as well as, along with the financial industry, gutting our economy, when the so-called “War on Drugs” and the NSA spying program and the PATRIOT ACT and the NDAA and the for-profit prison system and the acquisiton of surveillance drones and armored tanks by local police departments are killing the freedoms we once took for granted, when the Congress and, to some extent, the White House insist on “austerity or else,” when journalists are treated with harsh state repression for carrying out their extremely critical and democracy-sustaining duty, when fracking and mountain top removal and many other forms of environmental degradation have ruined the lives of so many people, animals, and plants, when pornography industry is colonizing our minds and causing preteens to pressure other preteens into sexting, when our economy is in deep structural not incidental crisis, when whistleblowing is considered espionage, when the schools are even more segregated than they were before desegregation, when there are more black men in prison than were enslaved prior to the Civil War, when we have the largest percentage of our citizenry in prison in the whole world, when our police departments have received training from Blackwater, this country deserves as much activism as its able-bodied citizens are capable of giving it. So let us build on what we already have. Let us all break free from our illusions about our leader looking out for us. Let us get out in the streets in greater numbers than at any point in our history. Let’s get together and MAKE history! We CAN reverse course. We CAN restore the Constitution and our freedom. We CAN end racism and sexism. We CAN create an economy for all. We CAN build a different tomorrow. Another world is possible; let’s be unstoppable!