2011 Is Here (Almost): Where to Next, Fellow Citizens?
By Kevin Gosztola article link
December 31, 2010 | OpEdNews
As 2011 begins, it is clear that many who long for radical change are increasingly desperate for that change. Good-hearted citizens who have been following American politics and the regular conduct of the U.S. government closely for decades are either wholly cynical or are seeking out ways to cope with the current situation. It is not that they have given up on the idea of resistance and change, but they just want to resist and work for change in a way that will help them not be torn to shreds by the talons of a system that continues to support the wants and needs of the top 1% at the expense of those at the bottom.
The collective American population has given up much ground to business or corporate interests. They have allowed political leaders to shift from being representatives of the people to being representatives of financiers, which fund their brand as politicians in Washington. They have conditioned themselves to accept piecemeal change or reform as all that they can get out of this system and they have even developed a keen ability to take measures that are labeled with the word "reform" and celebrate that measure even if it doesn't really reform anything at all. (For example, health "reform," which delivered customers to private insurance companies by making it mandatory for citizens to have health insurance under penalty of law.)
The consistency with which the American people give in to power cannot continue without producing more dire consequences. It cannot continue without certain minorities, like Muslims or Latino immigrants, being persecuted more. It cannot continue without the few social programs that government allows citizens to lean on in order to survive being lost entirely. It cannot continue without corporations taking more control of politicians and making politicians more indifferent to the misery and poverty of people suffering from the rot, which those in power have created over the past decades.
Thankfully, a small percentage of the American population do not tolerate the coalescing of power, which the military industrial-complex, the security industrial-complex, the congressional industrial-complex and other complexes in this country. They continue to put sacrifice before greed. While many Americans live a life seeking out materials, consumer goods or some kind of social status that can satisfy their ego and make them feel like they have some worth, a number have given up a quest for all that. They are putting their future and well-being on the line by first being curious and asking questions and then often acting upon that curiosity and any information gained by engaging in protest -- acts of resistance.
2011, like every year, has the potential to be a year of resistance. Many instances of resistance happened in 2010, but as is typical, they went unreported or under-reported.
As the TSA stepped up its totalitarian invasion of people's privacy through pat-downs and body scanners and claimed it was a response to a Christmas Day bomber last year, many Americans resisted this turn toward totalitarianism and pledged to not fly or refuse to be groped. In the face of health "reform," single-payer healthcare advocates pledged to double their efforts in working for real healthcare for all, some of them committing to engage in protest and civil resistance. Tens of thousands of Americans gathered in Detroit for the U.S. Social Forum and spent five days developing agendas or plans around key issues in America that desperately need to be confronted by citizens.
The BP Gulf Oil Disaster saw Gulf residents in and around the Gulf area standing up to BP and the government cover-up. They worked to get out the truth about what the disaster had done to the environment and the Gulf seafood, which fishermen had depended on for their livelihood (many of those residents continue to fight).
A number of people stood strong in New York City and in other parts of the U.S. against the bigotry that was on display as a proto-fascist faction of the population worked to prevent Muslims from building a "mosque" at Ground Zero. They responded to the toxic dialogue being promoted by this faction and sought to defend the property rights of all Americans in this country. But, more importantly, they called out the government for continuing wars in Muslim countries, which have turned many Americans into fearful individuals who are suspicious of Muslim people.
Over a thousand people were in Washington, D.C. in October for "Appalachia Rising," a conference and protest event which ended with people from Appalachia calling for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining in an act of civil disobedience in front of the White House where 100 were arrested. And, a couple months later, an act of civil resistance took place in front of the White House. Veterans led the act as 135 were arrested, including Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Ray McGovern, and other notable antiwar leaders.
Unreported in the media, the largest prisoner strike in U.S. history took place in Georgia in the middle of December. The strike was organized through cellphones. They were protesting the living and working conditions they are forced to endure. Most frightening to those in power was probably the fact that different groups in the prisons that are normally fighting against each other were able to lay aside any problems, unite and engage in resistance.
Mega-rallies took place on the National Mall. Glenn Beck had Tea Partiers out by the tens of thousands to "restore honor." Liberals had liberals out calling for "one nation working together." Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had tens of thousands of people out to "restore sanity." The "Restore Honor" rally was frightening in the same way that viewing newsreels of Weimar Republic leaders before they called themselves Nazis would probably be frightening. The "One Nation Working Together" wound up being virtually useless, a waste. It was a poor pathetic attempt at unity rather than an event aimed at taking a stand. The "Restore Sanity" rally was illuminating of the reality that celebrity comedians cannot be expected to save America. Unless willing to risk their careers entirely, they will promote compromise and pragmatism in politics instead of truly taking on the dangerous forces that have lined up against the people of this nation.
WikiLeaks had a big impact. As the Obama Administration maintained a military escalation in Afghanistan and sought to preserve a permanent troop presence in Iraq (that would be left behind after a "withdrawal" from the country), WikiLeaks released a "Collateral Murder" video, showing the US military falsely claiming to have been fired at and then laughing at those they killed -- two of them Iraqis working for Reuters as journalists. While the Obama Administration ignored the immorality and illegitimacy of its wars in six different areas of the world (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Colombia, and the Horn of Africa), WikiLeaks exposed what the U.S. had really been doing during its years of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through two sets of "War Logs." And, as the government engaged in saber-rattling with Iran and North Korea, WikiLeaks made it difficult for the United States to make any aggressive moves before 2010 was over by releasing the U.S. Embassy or diplomatic cables, which put focus on everything the U.S. has done diplomatically in the past decade.
The 2010 Election was instructive. The pendulum in American politics swung back toward the GOP yet polls indicated that most Americans were not all that convinced the Republican Party would lead them to better times. Liberal voters did not get out the vote for Democrats like the Democratic Party had wanted. They did not turn out to vote like Vice President Joe Biden and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had chided and commanded them to do. So, the Tea Party helped the GOP deliver huge losses to the Blue Dog Democrats and New Democrats in Congress while around ninety percent of "progressive" Congress leaders kept their jobs. This indicated electoral energy in the future could serve the Democratic Party if they ran "progressive" candidates instead of corporate Democrats.
Instead of making bleak predictions about the future (much of which would be similar to the ones found in this article and this article), it seems more valuable to pose some questions. The future year presents these dilemmas, which should be deliberated over contentiously:
1) How do we convince more Americans of the need to resist or engage in protest? If they agree that this country has problems, what can be done to motivate them to take action and not wait for government to bring them their deadly brand of change?
2) How do we overcome the fear Americans have that we might not be able to reverse certain government agendas or policies? How do we convince them that they should not become survivalists but instead activists or moral citizens who take action to defend values and principles in this country?
3) How do we plan to defend those who are fighting the hardest for values and principles, which we hold dear? How do we plan to defend those who are being subject to a witch-hunt by the FBI in Chicago and Minneapolis? How do we plan to defend those we consider heroes and not pariahs so that they can continue to be of use to us and can we defend them without falling back on bankrupt identity politics, which got us a President Barack Obama?
4) Additionally, how do we plan to preserve assets that we need to wage struggle -- assets like OpEdNews and others who are part of independent media, assets like the United Antiwar Committee with many organizations that will be invaluable to any struggle for peace and justice in this country?
5) What plans do we have to prioritize issues and discuss maturely what we must align ourselves against first in order to truly make progress? Liberal activists are spread thin. We are each aligned behind one cause. But, we may, for example, need to choose militarism and consciously organize to address how that has perverted America.
6) What do we plan to do with elections, which often siphon away or dissolve energy that has coalesced to support protest and resistance?
7) How do we plan to tap into the power of art and culture and promote the creation and spread of art and culture which is not purely abstract, consumerist, and narcissist but powerful in the way that it comments on government, society or culture--powerful because it allows for discussion on key issues that must be discussed openly in order for consciousness to be shifted and in order for radical change to take shape?
Kevin Gosztola is a multimedia editor for OpEdNews.com. He follows media & activism, religions and their influence on politics, and sometimes writes movie reviews for OEN. His work can be found on Open Salon, The Seminal, Media-ocracy.com, and a blog on Alternet called Moving Train Media. He can be heard on a weekly radio show called the "Saturday News Hangover." He is a 2009 Young People For Fellow and a documentary filmmaker who graduated with a Film/Video B.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago in the Spring 2010. In April 2010, he co-organized a major arts & media summit called "Art, Access & Action," which explored the intersection of politics, art and media and was supported by Free Press. He is also a member of the Media Democracy Day Think Tank in Chicago.
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