By last April, after 20 years of writing about politics hoping to make a difference, i had become so weary with America i could not even make fun of it anymore. I was defeated. The plutocrats had won. Again. The GOP had the upper hand and were wringing our throats with it. Again. And the media were making them out as heroes for it. Yet again. Yet another case of the sheep pleading the case for their own slaughter.
And through the summer the news just got worse. Our obscene wars continued to be mismanaged and the American public continued to be force-fed the idea that blindly supporting the mass scale destruction of foreign cultures for little, other than corporate profit, was in some way equal to loving one's country. Occasionally the Arab Spring sprang a whiff of democracy across our nation's television sets, but anytime an American protest tried to capture the media attention we got to watch celebrity show trials instead.
And every couple of weeks some new expose came out showing vast web of criminality the financial and political sectors have created in their ongoing effort to dupe the American public out of trillions. For me it wasn't so much a matter of eating the rich, but i sure would like them to get their teeth out of my neck. And when faced with the challenges of serving their constituents who are now more poor and more uninsured as wages continue to drop and their very lives are imperiled, our rich politicians complained that instead of the public's call to increase the taxes on the rich, (i.e. themselves) the real solution was to increase taxes on the poor. Oh yes, and cut government services so the rich could have more tax cuts. I kept wondering when the public was going to get so sick of this crap!
Then ... they did. Some are calling this the first progressive populist movement since the 1930s. I call it wonderful. After 30 years of the fires being slowly turned up under us, the American people finally got preoccupied with the fact we, the people, actually occupy the vast majority of this country and the 99% should not be forced to bow to the whims of the richest one percent.
It is now a month since the Occupy Movement started. Like movements around the world, people started gathering at their country's seat of power. In our case, that means Wall Street. On an island that was once "purchased" from the Indians for $24 bucks in costume jewelry, where that richest 1% now collect 45% of all wages paid on the island, the people have assembled to gripe about the plutocrats. At first, as Gandhi once wrote: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Let's hope part four of that equation comes as true as parts 1-3 have. It took a couple of weeks before the press became too embarrassed to not acknowledge their presence. They then went from condescending derision to scornful condemnation at a pace that rivals most land speed records. Reviled by the same national corporate media who lie to us to secure the positions of their masters? The media who created the box we are now expected to think within? It certainly seemed like a group for me.
Me? I am an American, more than that i am a teacher. It is precisely the precious duty of each one of us "we the people" to stand up and speak up in favor of our country, to work to advance the good and challenge the bad and to teach others to do so also. For that is the only way the "of the people, by the people" stuff actually works. Without the people, "our" government is a simply sham sold to the highest bidder. I cannot entrust my precious country's future to a future generation that i will expect to work to change stuff, if i don't work to change stuff too and show them that it can be done and is worth the effort to try, though the status quo-zers will always have a desperate stake in making sure folks don't knock over too many apple carts or rock too many boats. Our culture may claim to champion rugged individualism and outspokenness over issues; but the bureaucracy, the plutocracy, the religious and the social power structures, our marketing and entertainment industries all depend on people tacitly accepting and helplessly depending on our leaders' decisions even when we can plainly see they are yielding nothing but a long train of usurpations. It is not my leaders i pledge my allegiance too, or even, honestly, to a flag. It is to the United States of America--to perfecting our unions, establishing some justice, ensuring some domestic tranquility for a change, defending the commons, promoting our welfare and securing our liberty.
If a person has even an inkling of our history and not merely sucking on the glass teat of the corporate spin that serves the 1% at our expense, you will understand why I have been protesting since Richard Nixon ran for office. And why, over these last 40 years, in no certain order, i have marched in the street, carried signs, written articles and/or just plain agitated opposing the Vietnam-, the Gulf-, the Serbian, the Somali, both the Afghan misadventures, the latest Iraq and the Libyan Wars. I was pissed about Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, and Reagan's little Libya thing too, but i was a bit slow to get up off my ass, so they were over before i got started. And as for the whole deplorable shenanagans in various South & Central American countries where our politicians and munitions manufacturers sold our military as mercenaries for multinationals "developing" the 3rd world? Oh the shame. I've had to speak up. That' what Americans do--we change for the better, we build for the future.
I have protested for farm workers' rights, equal rights, religious rights, poor & homeless people's rights, teachers' rights, immigrant rights, northern Arizona water rights & LGBT rights and of course, for the Right to Choose. Against Richard Nixon, against Gerald Ford, against Jimmie Carter, against Reagan, twice, against Bush the First, against Bill Clinton and against the GOP against him, against Bush the Second and a second time, and inevitably, against Barack Obama and against the GOP against him. I have protested against worshipping Christopher Columbus and for celebrating civil rights, race relations, universal health care, whole foods, for the great "Ohm" at the annual July 4th Rainbow circle and even plastics recycling.
A movement that insists it wants no leader and issues no official set of demands, yet wants the public to stand up over the issues that are rapidly starting to strangle the whole world, seemed just right to me. I have got a lot i could complain about. 99% of us do. Without any central leadership there is no one person to discredit. Without a codified official list of demands there is no agenda to marginalize--just folks like me and you and 99% of us agitating to draw attention to the things we believe in. A public assembly for "shouting out the troubles we're all mumbling about, like that a half a million greed, while a hundred million need, and another billion bleed full-speed from the deed" as i wrote 10 years ago, when the future was not yet a derivative marketed on Wall Street? Count me in!
So, over the course of last weekend, my wife and i made a new generation of protest signs and took our granddaughter to the Las Vegas organizing follow-up meeting following Occupy Vegas' successful Las Vegas Boulevard action centered at the Statue of Liberty sign at New York, New York last Thursday. Over 1000 people showed up and there were no shows of violence, merely a crowd full of "we the people" pledging their allegiance. On our way to the meeting 7 seven old Atlantis and i stopped and stood on a corner of Las Vegas Boulevard beneath the shadow of the great pyramid of Luxor and held our protest signs high. Mine read "99% ." Hers said "Ensure Domestic Tranquility/ Promote the General Welfare/ THESE are the REAL American Values." We laughed and waved for over an hour. When people really liked our signs we hugged and danced.
And wow, just like that, i think i feel the wind change. And whether it chooses to lay or gale, i for one have been blown from my doldrums and am again chasing some course. It was great to feel alive again, to believe in America and a future. I just hope it is not too late to have one.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.