For many occupiers, the past ten years had been a time of intense darkness. A wordless despondency had crept over my generation. We watched with tears as war finally came home on September 11th, 2001. We groaned in helpless outrage as our nation’s leaders took advantage of our collective trauma and fear to invade weaker, oil-rich nations. We despaired as we saw America abandon any semblance of respect for the international community, instead striking a belligerant pose of imperial might.
Yet, there was hope. With the election of Barack Obama, many of us dared to believe that America might change its trajectory. Using the economic crisis as an opportunity for spiritual growth, perhaps we could once again become a respected and respectful member of the world community. With new leadership, we could begin to address the climate crisis that threatens all of us. I personally held out hope that this new regime would focus more on education, health care and poverty reduction – rejecting the pattern of endless military build-up and systematic reduction of civil liberties established during the Bush years.
We watched with disgust as virtually all of our lawmakers colluded with powerful, elite interests that ignored the needs of ordinary working Americans in favor of their own narrow interests. Many of us were becoming convinced that neither Democrats nor Republicans offered solutions for the multiple crises that we were facing as a country. All of them – Left and Right, Democrat and Republican – were more interested in the concerns of the wealthy elites than they were in the long-term health of our nation as a whole.
In a very real sense, many of us became citizens for the first time as a result of this struggle. Always before, our voices had been confined by the straightjacket of the corporate-controlled two-party system; but now, we were free to express directly our rejection of a system that privileges the greed of the wealthiest 1% over the needs of our whole society.
We know that slight modifications of the present order will not be enough. We need a fundamental revisioning of our whole way of life. We must examine the ways in which our own entrenched attitudes and habits have contributed to a society in which a small elite controls most of the wealth and dominates public discourse. Now is the time to have these conversations. We have a window of opportunity to profoundly reshape our national self-understanding, to live up to America’s founding creed of liberty, justice and equal opportunity.