Where do we begin as everyday people living in extraordinary times? For those of us who found hope and solace in the election of President Obama and a Democratic Senate majority, we are suddenly standing on our own, recalling history and Martin Luther King Jr. Yes, we were naïve to think that change would come easily, if at all — though I prefer to call us idealistic, optimistic and hopeful.
Some of us have been out in the streets for eight years now, some of us much longer than that. I, for one, cannot remember a time in my life when there was not the need to protest and to protect the values of peace and freedom, racial equality, human rights and dignity, let alone justice.
I thought we might get a brief reprieve. No such luck.
Look up! The sky is falling. The economy is falling. The environment is falling. Healthcare has barely anyplace left to fall. Basic values of trust, truth and honesty have fallen. The flag flies high but what does it represent today? For me it represents a memory of what I expect from my country.
It is time to let the old fall and rebuild anew. It is time to let the banks crumble, fraudulent corporations collapse, and criminal leaders leave their pensions behind and be cast out of the “system” that protected and paid them well, to bring us to our knees.
It is time for church and state to separate once and for all. If you pay charitable dollars to sell your religious-political wares, it is time to surrender your tax deductions. If you believe your personal values are more important than the freedom of other individuals, fine, but that does not give you the power or the freedom to cast limits on others’ choices. This is, after all, still America.
It is time for Monsanto to get out of the food business, for cloned beasties to go back into the lab and out of the food chain, for farmland to be restored to the family farmer who gives a damn about the quality of products raised and distributed. It is time for packing plants, whether they pack beef, chicken, nuts or spinach, to be shut down until they are cleaned up. It is time for industrial pollutants to be stopped in their tracks before one more child or adult gets MS or autism or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or any of the other pollution-suspect diseases that are weakening human life.
It is time for us to stop the chase for cures and find the sources of human misery, while demanding the resources to find affordable treatments.
Caesar Chavez led us to boycott grapes to bring safety to the fields. Now it is time for us to boycott every industry that is killing slowly and not so slowly – be it banks, markets, corporations. It is simply time to stop trying to outrun suffering and embrace it. It is time to go without now, so that we might have something of value to go to in the future. It is time to take our thumbs out of the dike and let the greedy drown in their own contempt.
We cannot negotiate the outcome. It is what it will be if we idly stand by and wait for whatever crumbs might trickle down to us. We cannot save ourselves from terrorism while we are the terrorists. We cannot raise Afghanistan to a place of peace and freedom, when our very presence encourages rape, murder, and revenge against their most vulnerable populations in retaliation for our self-righteousness and military presence. How can we fight for human rights when we are disregarding them?
We cannot provide Israel with arms when they not only threaten but also act upon their threat to destroy that which they do not agree with – including now, the threat of a pre-emptive strike on Iran.
We have been destroying the infrastructures that have survived thousands of years because we have allowed arrogant and stupid leaders to put their own interests above ours.
It is time for us to take to the streets bearing only our hearts and our will to overcome those that have for years warped every industry into some kind of tyrannical empire of self-destruction.
It is time to say no more and put our bodies where our mouths have been, in the open, refusing to watch the media that deceives us, to buy the products that are killing us. It is time to support the small local businesses that will be our heart and soul if we are to survive this economy. It time for poor kids to stop enlisting in the military and for those who have enlisted to stop fighting, to sit down, to face the consequences of doing the right thing.
It is time for us to have the conversations about what WE can do and must not do, to tell our leaders that they long ago stopped supporting us and we no longer support them.
It is simply time to find the personal courage to begin doing the right thing.
PsySR member Kerry Bassett is a graduate student in Conflict Resolution at Portland State University. She has been a victim advocate and peace worker for more than 30 years. Kerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.