Been thinking about this a while. Also, ignoring it. It’s been two months, winter is coming on, and the tent cities are scattering. Where will the energy go?
I have not been a part of it. I can’t get excited any more, or think it will do any good. Of the dozens of protests I attended years ago, almost all left me feeling useless, one-sided, low. Shouting simplistic slogans at nobody. Stale songs from the sixties on repeat. The choreographed dance of marchers and riot police, a marionette show of discontent.
The School of the Americas civil disobedience touched me, when I was arrested along with several thousand others, banned and barred from the property, singing songs in memory of the disappeared. But it happens every year, and the durn place is still training military terrorists, with a sugar-coating of human rights. We marched in view of nobody to the immigrant detention center in Georgia, witnessing to an impoverished town of mostly African-Americans whose only industry was low-paying jobs at the private prison. Against war in DC. Against the PATRIOT Act. Mourning the death of Paul Wellstone in Minnesota. The sole lasting point of light was the march for affirmative action in Cincinnati. The only truly diverse protest I’d belonged to, we walked through the neighborhoods to the courthouse together, people joining along the way. Years later, waiting for a bus in Minneapolis, the headline on a newspaper vending machine caught my eye: affirmative action had been upheld in the five states that the legal challenge had affected. Victory. I actually jumped for joy. But what a rarity.
So my experience inclines me to skepticism about outcomes. Who are these people? To get all corporate, what’s the mission statement? To get all English teacher, what’s the thesis? What’s the solution? Do they know that while maybe we’re the 99% in the USA, globally we’re still the 1%? Do they remember that this didn’t start with Lehman Brothers, that lots of people have been living in a recession their entire lives due to intersections of gender, class, ability, and/or plain old bad luck? Moreover, I’ve heard it suggested that the mainstream publicity paid to these protests is part of a deliberately planned timeline that will see most Americans coming to resent these people just as elections arrive, ensuring that even worse governance will ensue.
But one day I saw that Angela Davis was there. She’s righteous. She says that it’s learning how to unite and communicate and respect each other first, then the action will come. I get pissed at the shiny, plastic anchor who keeps pressing her for “talking points” and a cohesive message. Which is pretty much getting pissed at myself, so I back off that angle.
I’ve already put in my lifetime share of participation – and facilitation, god help me – in consensus discussions. And faux consensus discussions. Already been to as many meetings of any kind as I need for the rest of my life, actually. Guess I must be getting old.
We are poised at the end of this empire. Any victory possible will be a ceding, an integration, taking our proper place in the global order. Usually the end of empire is ugly and ungracious. Invariably another rises, just as avaricious, just as hungry. A delicious sliver of me looks forward to watching the fall, is fascinated by living at the edge of the cliff, in a beautiful wilderness, corrupted, privileged, and precious all the same.
So folks, go for it. You’re obviously not perfect. There are isms floating about those camps, as they float around the whole country, polluting the air. But any fledgling democratic movement has my thumbs-up. May your star rise. May this… may anything… work.