Revolution is in the air once again. When I was a younger person in the 60’s we talked about revolution incessantly. We had so many good reasons for wanting change. We were losing our guys in a war that seemed to have nothing to do with us, in a faraway tropical place called Vietnam. We were watching our policemen, our National Guardsmen and our elected officials turn fire houses on peaceful black folks who just want to be granted the equality that they were supposed to have won long before. Separate but equal was very obviously not equal at all (still isn’t). Women had the “pill” and we were stunned by the implications of that.
We were often granted dispensation from harsh punishment while we indulged peacefully in the illegal practice of getting high in public. We probably were treated gently for a while because the people in local power were our parents and they tried to let us express ourselves. Besides there were so many of us all, walking around in our flowery clothing imported from Mexico and India, and actually wearing flowers in our hair, and smiling in gentle understanding, even when practicing our civil disobedience as demonstrated by Martin Luther King, et al. All the lovely people would gather at outdoor concerts with happy half-dressed children running everywhere and bubbles in the pungent air. We were the very revolution we sought and we thought that our very existence would change America forever, and perhaps it did.
However, the intensity of that movement subsided, despite our feeling that it would make America forever new and better. There have been many effects on US politics that can be traced back to the peaceful revolution of the 60’s and 70’s. But the fervor we once felt for a new kind of authenticity got syphoned away by American materialism and we joined the race for the old American Dream of owning lovely things and creating a cushy comfort for ourselves and our families. Not that we gave up all of our zeal for lifting up those who did not yet share our comfort, but it began to be subsumed under the old adage that charity begins at home.
So now we are being aroused to a new revolution and, clearly, we need one. Our American Democracy has almost disappeared into the pockets of the wealthy few among us. It is clear to some of the 99.9% that there is too much money being flashed around, and too much of the influence it buys in our political system. We the people are being sidelined because we cannot compete with a system where influence is purchased.
We have numbers but we are not using the force of our majority very effectively. It is assumed that folks without wealth will rise up and demand our government back from the wealthy, although I have not seen many signs that this is the way events will unfold. The Occupy movement is the closest that we have come to mass demonstrations and that did not last very long or have much of an effect on those in power. We are too complacent or stupefied or in some way apolitical to even use the power of the vote. We seem happy to troll from the sidelines and we are not unified at all. We are the most divided we have been since perhaps the Civil War.
Bernie Sanders talks about revolution and some people swoon. I assume he means a peaceful revolution which will stay within the bounds of the Constitution and the present-day configuration of our government. But in these times of such a passionate partisan divide is a revolution a good idea? Will it go nuclear or can it be kept away from absolute mayhem? Would even a quiet revolution split America apart right now? Would the militias bring out the guns? Have Democrats been stockpiling guns? I don’t think I could bear another Civil War and I only experienced the first one at a considerable dusty remove. Could you watch America get torn apart? Would it come to that?
“You say you want a revolution”, but maybe these are not the times to be incendiary. Maybe we need some of that famous diplomacy so maligned by the Republicans that Obama has put his faith in. Perhaps I have done that terrible getting-more-conservative-as-I-get-older thing or perhaps I am just chickening out. I do think there are many things that we need to change in order that we all thrive in the future, something which seems not in the least guaranteed as matters stand right now.
I don’t want to see our nation “ripped asunder” and considering how divided we are at this time and how passionately people defend positions that are polar opposites, becoming two Americas seems more than a likely outcome of holding the revolution in 2016. I have revolution in my soul so I could perhaps be swayed by really good arguments in favor of such a movement. But mostly I think that the skill required to keep this revolution from getting out of hand seems beyond our normal style of throwing bills at problems and hoping they become the laws that fix things.
By Nancy Brisson