Bernie Sanders’ campaign has gotten me excited. He has progressives–and non-progressives, who see our country isn’t working in their economic self-interest–rallying around him like I’ve never seen before. As someone who’s been struggling post-recession to pull myself up by my bootstraps, Sanders appeals to me. By American standards, he’s way left of center–hell, left of left–proudly anti-establishment, and, as an added bonus, steadfast and authentic. BUT, although I find Bernie Sanders appealing as a politician, there’s another reason I’m excited: for the first time in my life, we’re on the verge of a social movement.
I’ve been waiting for a movement like this since my early 20’s, way back when George W. was president. Not to undermine the quest for LGBTI rights–or the ongoing struggles for equality for women and people of color –but the only thing close to civil disobedience in my lifetime was Occupy Wall Street.
I was at the nation’s Capitol in 2003 when an estimated one-million people–yes, one-million–marched in peaceful protest of the Iraq war. I can’t explain how powerful it was to see that many people out on a frigid January day–people pushing strollers, elderly people, white people, people of color, teenagers–all marching in solidarity. By the end of the march, even with two pairs of socks on, my toes were near-frostbitten. Still, it was 110% worth it.
“We did it,” my naive 23-year-old self thought. “They can’t possibly ignore this many of us. The U.S. will never invade Iraq.” Well, guess what? They did.
That was the beginning of my disillusionment, which burgeoned into the realization that protesting occasionally, signing dozens of e-petitions, then going home and hoping for change isn’t enough. We need disruption of our day-to-day lives to make real change happen. We need civil disobedience. We need to rise up, and Bernie Sanders’ candidacy seems to be the catalyst. Of course I want Bernie to win, but my biggest fear is that if he doesn’t we’ll lose our momentum. All of the catchphrases and hashtags associated with Bernie’s campaign–#PeoplePower, #NotMeUs, #WeAreBernie–get at this underlying message: We must come together en masse, or we have nothing.
Civil disobedience: The refusal to obey certain laws or governmental demands for the purpose of influencing legislation or government policy, characterized by the employment of such nonviolent techniques as boycotting, picketing, and nonpayment of taxes.
Have we forgotten how to create change? Or have we become too complacent or apathetic? According to this New York Times piece,
“Collective action on behalf of the poor requires a shared belief in the obligation of the state to secure the well-being of the citizenry. That belief has been undermined by what Beck calls the “insourcing” of risk, transferring obligations from the state to the individual. …
… ‘For decades, Americans and their government upheld a powerful set of ideals that combined a commitment to economic security with a faith in economic opportunity,’ Hacker writes. ‘Today that message is starkly different: You are on your own.’”
In essence, we believe that anyone not successful by financial standards should be blamed for his or her own lack of wealth. We’ve internalized the belief that we aren’t “in this together.” Sanders’ campaign is changing that. My fear isn’t that Bernie won’t be our next president–or even the Democratic nominee–but that this burgeoning movement will vanish, along with the hope that equality and economic security aren’t just specks in the distance.
According to Thomas P. Edsall’s op-ed,
“ … those bearing the most severe costs of inequality are irrelevant to the agenda-setters in both parties. … They are pushed to the periphery except for a brief moment on Election Day when one party wants their votes counted, and the other doesn’t.”
I’m ready to change that. Are you?