I don't think it's enough that we make art and vote. I don't think it's enough that we choose not to buy the products made by those companies we disagree with. I don't think it's enough to read books and watch movies that tell the truth. I don't think it is enough to sit in silent meditation on the impermanence of all.
I believe that we must speak. We must tell those in power that we are against what they stand for, and we need to refuse, resist, and organize. I went to bed last night just after receiving the news that Howard Zinn died while vacationing in Santa Monica, CA. This morning, watching the retrospectives and profiles of this truly great humanitarian and historian I was struck by how different his stance was than most of my supposed Democrat friends, who seem to have been sold on this faulty notion of bi-partisanship and bridge-building. Zinn spoke eloqently again and again on the purpose of protest being to make those in power uncomfortable, to make them upset. He stressed again and again that that was the whole point of civil disobedience, that the power of the people is most effective when it's spent making power uncomfortable.
We have been sold a lot of myths, and one of them is the idea that we can somehow create more progressive change by reaching out to those who vehemently oppose it by saying "please." But the great, meaningful changes in the past came from the people demanding it, and from demanding the genuine article, not compromised versions we think will be more soft, and more palatable. When did we become a people who don't want to offend? The Right doesn't mind offending us. What if Moses had sent a letter to Pharoah saying, "I respectfully request that you let my people go, in a gradual pullout over the next year, as long as it doesn't hurt the economy?" It's time to say things plainly, and to take action. President Obama is very good at saying the right things, but taking action is another story. He took action to bail out the banking industry, with the supposed philosophy that it was in the interests of the People, that our entire financial system was at stake. Now he is proposing that in order to pay for that huge expense, and the huge expense of our illegal wars abroad we put a freeze on domestic spending, in effect making we taxpayers the ones to sacrifice to pay ourselves back for the money we gave to the bankers. He can go on TV and admonish the bankers and we feel like, "yeah, he's taking a stand!" But his actions don't follow the rhetoric. I see this a lot from him. He admonishes the Supreme Court for their terrible decision in favor of corporate spending on elections, but what solution does he offer or suggest? He says he supports legislation. We can now sleep at night thinking "yeah, Obama is on our side," but until something is done his words are meaningless.
So we must speak, and we must do more than speak. As Manuel Zelaya, the leftist president of Honduras who exited his country in exile today (due to a military coup that ousted him in June of last year) said, "I prefer to march on my feet than to live on my knees."