Surviving Electoral Madness
Ah what a difference a year makes. A year ago Occupy Providence was setting up in Burnside Park with thousands of people showing up for the first day march. Occupy Wall Street was a month old and Occupy groups were organizing on Cape Cod, in Worcester, Fall River and New Bedford. There was an excitement in the air as people found a way to have a voice and call for substantial change. Images of police out of control, pepper spraying young women in New York and elsewhere grabbed the attention of people who had managed to ignore the abuses the police daily dish out on people of color and homeless people every day and people said enough. The media eventually woke up and regualry carried the messages of ordinary people voicing their anger and frustration with corporate domination, the phenominal concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and their desire to have a hand in reshaping how things work. It was exciting and energizing.
A year later, on this anniversary of the start of the Providence Occupation, we are awash in election frenzy. It feels like the flip side of Occupy - lack of engagement, disgust at the lies and anger at millions of dollars wasted promoting the lies when people can't find jobs and children are hungry. It is a phenomenal display of everything Occupiers opposed.
So what do we do? I totally understand the impulse to tune it all out. There may be periods of time that we need to do that for our own sanity. (I recently spent of a week of vacation sitting on a rock on the edge of a bay in Maine watching the tide change and the eagles feed their youngster - and it was wonderful!) But we also have to find ways to keep on doing the work of building a more just and peaceful world.
AFSC stays focused on the issues - it doesn't matter who the candidate is, or who is elected - these are the things we call for - end the wars, heal the wounded and repair the damage of war, support non-military solutions to conflict through the transforming power of love and active nonviolence, redirect military spending to meeting human needs,and address the injustices that lead to conflict.
In a time when the wealthly elite/corporate corruption of the political system is so blatent, it is hard to care about it or feel like we have a voice. And the reality is that, on the federal level, at this point we don't have much of a voice - though we do need to vote anyway. There are fundamental differences between the candidates and it does matter. But we can recognize that we do have more of a voice at more local levels. So perhaps that is where we focus the bulck of our energy.
The challenge is to revive the idea that citizenship is way more than voting once a year. It is about community organizing - people working together for change. We both build the world we want and confront the ways the system blocks those efforts. We build community and build power. And we use that power to hold the people we elect accountable to the will of the people who elect them - all year long. We all know that - but I think we need to collectively recommit to it.
And that is where the Occupy movement and all the amazing ongoing efforts to challange injustice give me hope. People do care and are passionate about making change. The big wave of occupations has receded, but all kinds of amazing things are going on, some of them direct off-shoots of that organizing and energy.
- People are forming worker cooperatives, time banks and other things that create a more sustainable economy that is in solidarity with people for whom "the system" has never worked. At the SAGE conference in Worcester this weekend people wrestled with the complex realities of putting those values into action - and the energy and the work was inspiring. The Sage Alliance will continue that work after the conference.
- A retreat of people working to change the rules on who can get a drivers license in RI had new members and a great strategic planning session.
- The Center for Nonviolent Solutions is teaching youth about healthy uses of power and nonviolent ways of solving conflicts, and celebrates the life work of Michael True, one of the CNVS founders at a luncheon on Oct. 20th.
- Witness for Peace is touring a woman from Colombia who works in the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Justice.
- People on the Cape are addressing the problem of homelessness.
We publish a calendar full of ways to get invovled. Check it out. Claim your power and lend it to building a more just and peaceful community and world. It is a great anti-dote to the mind-numbing pandering and lying the media insists on calling the democratic process.