By Evan Harmon
The truism today is that we all agree that something is very wrong in our country. We know the status quo isn’t right so we support change on some level. The problem is that we have yet to agree on what exactly the problem is. Our country speeds toward a fateful fork in the road, but if we can’t come together as a country and agree on how to handle these historic challenges, we’ll just end up going straight.
The choice we face is not Left or Right, Democrat or Republican, or Obama or Romney. It is more fundamental than that. Down one road is our choice to disengage from civic involvement for the sake of prioritizing the people close to us. That is the path I have taken for most of my life. With such challenges and threats to our loved ones’ well-being, it is natural to disengage from our duties to our community and our country in order to ensure that those we care for the most are safe and cared for. What else can we do when things have reached such dysfunctional levels?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking that road when our loved ones’ welfare is at stake. In fact, it is praiseworthy because there are far too many who disregard personal responsibilities altogether. But I believe there is an even more praiseworthy road to take. That road is the choice to not only take personal responsibility for ourselves and those we care about, but also to take a vested interest in the functioning of our government and society on both local and national levels. Today, personal responsibility is sorely needed, but civic responsibility is a dinosaur. The United States has not had a voter turnout for a presidential election above 60% since the 1960’s. (Local elections are often worse.) And this says nothing about our civic and social duties beyond voting.
As a country, we seem to have substituted our historic tradition of civic responsibility for merely articulating our political beliefs to the glare of our TV screen or on our Facebook Wall. Perhaps we vote if we can remember the date. I have been as guilty of this as anyone. But I have grown tired of screaming along with my choice of TV pundits. They almost never hear me anyway.
Down this latter road is the choice to take ownership of both our personal responsibilities as well as our wider civic responsibilities. It is to take the stance that we get the communities and government we deserve, and we deserve better. That the people we voted for to look after our needs have failed us for far too long. That the indictment of our leaders needs no justification beyond the crumbling of our roads, the incompetence of our schools, the absurdity of our courts, and the injustice of our economy. That it is time to do more for our country than just vote for others to fix it for us. That it is unacceptable that our government and economy leave so many Americans figuratively and literally out in the cold. That it is time to create new forms of civic and community engagement to reassert a government of, for, and by the people. This is the proverbial road less traveled, the high road, and no significant challenge our country has ever faced has been solved until a large enough number of patriotic Americans has cared enough about their country to take it upon themselves to do something about it.
We have a ways to go. But I think the Occupy Movement just might be the way to go.
If you have remained neutral up to this point, it is probably because you are lucky enough to have that luxury. You are probably one of a decreasing number of people that has a financial blanket big enough to keep you warm during this economic downturn. However, if our economy and government are not fixed soon, fewer and fewer of us can remain comfortable through our country’s hardships. Unemployment, underemployment, debt, dwindling career prospects, razor thin profit margins, cutbacks, a devalued dollar, a stagnant economy, foreclosures, and layoffs claim more victims every day. The only ones truly safe from the downward spiral of our economy are not the 1%, but the 1% of the 1%.
I am lucky to still enjoy a decent standard of living. I have a job and my son and I can live fairly comfortably. I have some debt, but I am far more indebted to the support and stability my family and friends have provided me than I am to any debtor. But I am well aware that this comfort may not continue much longer.
I am part of the Occupy Movement because my usual political cynicism has been transformed into wide-eyed optimism by what I have experienced and what I have seen accomplished in the Movement so far. I used to be completely baffled as to what might return this country to sanity, but I believe the Occupy Movement is our best hope yet.
However, my hopes for what this Movement can do to get America back on track is not possible unless more people join us. We need your help. We need the 99%.
The Occupy Movement is no revolution. Rather, it is more of a last ditch effort to avoid the potential of revolution if the unemployment, poverty, and suffering reach the epidemic levels they are headed toward. Personally, I’d like to do whatever I can to try to avoid such a tragic situation, if not as an act of compassion for my fellow man and country, then as a completely selfish one.