From the editor: I received this video from “Jimmy.” I know there will be many, many comments by the pundits about 9/11. But this video is by, Who? Just Jimmy, a guy out there who cares. It may not be as slick as some, but because it is by someone who is not famous (maybe in his own circles?) or well-known, I was even more moved by it.
We are in the midst of a revolution of sorts. It has not become violent—except in pockets such as the young unemployed in England or the incidents in Oakland, California. So often young men always are on the edge of violence. In both cases, a trigger was the death of one of their own. Further proof that violence only begats violence, even as one could argue that their anger is justified.
I had a conversation with a middle-aged woman reporter from an eastern state at the National Media Conference last April. It was casual–during lunch in a lounge area with a former Minnesotan now in Chicago. This woman sat down and started talking to us. At some point in the conversation, she identified herself as a Republican. Somehow we got into the topic of war and militarism. I expressed, as usual, the need for culture to evolve to nonviolence. Her parting comment was something to the effect of: “If the young men allow it.” This is not the first time I have heard this type of comment.
Remember the 1862 Uprising in Minnesota? Perhaps you do not. It was the Indians and the settlers, in the heart of the Civil War. And the Indians were getting short shrift. So as one Indian man told me recently, although Chief Little Crow did not want to go to war, “the young warriors had other ideas” and attacked. The end result was the largest mass hanging in the United States, 38 warriors just after Christmas in Mankato. In the confusion of cultural ignorance, some of the “wrong” warriors were hanged—even one who had been responsible for saving a white woman’s life. A black day in Minnesota history, so, no, it is not taught in our schools.
This is a touchy subject. I know a lot of young men who are nonviolent. Others who are activists who are not nonviolent. Perhaps the old song of the 1970s, “Where have all the young men gone, gone to soldiers every one, ” says it best. Of course you know the rest, “gone to graveyards every one.” “When will they ever learn. . . .” George McGovern said, “I’m sick and tired of old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.” So it’s not just the young men. . . .
Whatever the case, we are in the midst of a revolution in this country. People everywhere are stepping forward and saying in many ways, “Give me my country back.” Madison, Madison, Madison; the nurses in 60 cities around the country staging protests at congressional offices; Tar Sands protest and arrests at the White House–and so many more we do not hear about, and they are protesting peacefully.
We have not yet had the massive protests like Egypt, Syria, and so on in the middle east. We may not, because we are so spread out. Often the size of one of the states in the U.S. is the same size as a country in the middle east, or larger. Still, there are signs of revolution everywhere, as ordinary people step forward.
As a long-time antiwar protester, especially during times when it was uncommon to protest and commit civil disobedience, it is heartening to see the creative demonstrations, protests, and civil disobedience taking place around the country. A peaceful and scattered revolution, perhaps, but still a revolution. And no, the revolution is not being televised, or otherwise covered by mainstream media.
Many of you know all of this, but I think the most important advice I ever got (from a WAMM founding grandmother) is to find a focus because the work to be done can be so overwhelming. And then to support other causes/issues as possible.
When it is overwhelming, chose an issue near and dear to you, and focus on that issue. Join with friends, coworkers, associates, or neighbors who also care deeply about a particular issue and work together to address that issue. Support other issues of importance to you and those working on those issues as you have time and energy.
For example a friend who is a long-time peace and justice activist, who, because he is in a position to be able to do so, went to DC and was arrested at the White House with others protesting the Tar Sands Pipeline. Closer to home, Minnesota Nurses protested at Michelle Bachmann’s office, calling for taxes on Wall Street; they were part of demonstrations in 60 cities across the U.S.
Another friend has just said she will write to Obama a minimum of once a month about an issue. She is a teacher and works many hours a week. Some people may be able to write once a week, or even once a day. Other things to do include writing letters to the editor, signing petitions online, etc. Others will go to Washington DC on October 6, 2011 to join many others in the Stop the Machine protests (October2011.org)
9/11 is 10 years behind us, and has resulted in a security state that pries into the lives of individuals, especially those who may disagree with government policies. We have a Congress basically bought and sold, with a few exceptions, to corporate interests and billion/millionaires, leaving us with an economy in which jobs are scarce and hunger has increased in the U.S. exponentially.
We have a Congress that with almost no exceptions ignores Palestine and kowtows to Israeli interests, even as those interests create an apartheid for the people of Palestine.
We have a president who at best is hamstrung, at worst is weak and lacks courage.
When I think about all that, and more, it’s overwhelming. When I join with friends in a creative protest (sometimes you need numbers, but sometimes creativity with a few is very effective), when I write a letter or email because I am outraged at something I have seen or heard, or make a phone call to a call in radio show, write a poem or draw a picture, create a play, or go the DC or New York or march in my own town (coming up October 15th at the anniversary of the war in Afghanistan at Lake St and Hiawatha in Minneapolis at 1:30 ) I am doing something.
That is important—that we all each do something, collectively and individually, to change things. We need to make change happen. No one can do it for us. Hubert Humphrey said the most important part of the Declaration of Independence is the first three words, “We the People.”
In the words of Howard Zinn:
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite successions of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
—A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, p. 270
The challenge remains. On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major [mainstream, corporate] media. On our side are the people fo the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.
Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson—that everything we do matters—is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another. When we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to us to take it back . . .
—A Power Governments Cannot Suppress p.16