I’m sitting in a coffee shop here in my city of Olympia, Washington. Olympia is a small capital city, populated by state government workers, students from The Evergreen State College, and the various dwellers who rely on serving those populations. There’s a sizable homeless population here owing to the temperate climate, and there’s the children of the working- and middle-class majority.
Just now some middle-aged white guys were pontificating on the debt ceiling facade being thrown up by Congress and the White House, and given the badge I wear as a non-threatening looking member of their society, was privy to them speaking their truths. Oh joy.
Among the “wisdoms” pouring forth was the inevitable Fall of America into the broadcast pit of despair they see coming. From that place one of them postulated whether it would take a gradual slide to wake up the masses, or a sudden fall.
This type if hopelessness seems to be grabbing the consciousness of many in the middle class today. They’re feeling the absence of their financial access and the toil of the daily news worsening. This is leading to questions about the efficacy of representative government and corporate ownership of democratic functioning throughout American society.
Traveling the country over the last decade talking and teaching young people and adults who do the good hard work of social change has shown me a lot of realities, not the least of which being, “Duh.”
I know that I grew up different than a lot of people, homeless with hope-filled parents living on optimism seems anomalous. Spending my teens living as a white kid in an African American neighborhood doesn’t happen that often. “Making it” afterwards is even rarer. Learning about the histories and herstories of oppressed peoples and committing oneself to advocating radical social transformation is rarer still. I know all that.
But from that unique vantage point I’ve seen the realities at work in thousands of hearts, minds and actions across this country all this time:
* America, as an idea, has always been rough for a large number of people whose voices aren’t routinely heard through mainstream media or represented by politicians.
* Americans, as a people, have always been critical of the efficacy of the government. Always. This Is not a new phenom, or a different space. This country rallies, albeit with motivation.
* Young people always lead the way, and despite what mainstream society believes, there are still young people among us.
There is a long road ahead, but even with the mythology of America laid plain, it’s ridiculous to assume that the tenants of free speech and democratic governance aren’t enough to redeem this nation.
The hopelessness of the growing majority should not supplant the truthfulness of vast commitment to democracy. No amount of corporatism, commercialism, or gross consumption can placate the determined breath of our social power. Stand up for hope! And let’s rekindle the knowledge and abilities of children and youth to lead us forward.