Practicing for the Revolution: Preparing for our Tahrir Square Moment by Steve Clemens. Oct. 5, 2011
Peacemaker Kathy Kelly told our new friends, Zahra, Shahrbanoo, and Basir, in Kubul in March, “We didn’t know when the revolution would start in Egypt or what might trigger it but we did know that behind the scenes there were young people just like you – committed to nonviolent change – learning tactics and strategies of nonviolence. And we didn’t know that the change would come so quickly.” Those 3 Afghan peacemakers, along with their new friends from the Bamiyan Province, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, are working for a new, peaceful, and more just Afghanistan to come out of the bitter ashes of war and occupation.
Here on our side of the globe, we too need a radical re-ordering of our politics, our economy, and our whole society as the transition away from the declining empire become imperative. The last time I was in the Imperial City known as Washington, it was with environmental justice activists pleading with the President to stop the Tar Sands/Keystone XL Pipeline and to help move us more quickly into our post-oil/fossil fuel future. By all indications, it appears our protests and 1,253 arrests fell on deaf ears.
I’m back again, this time to join with a myriad of peace groups in an attempt to occupy Freedom Plaza, a park area in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. October 6th, the 10th anniversary of the start of the longest war in US history was the date picked to begin what hopes to embody an on-going nonviolent presence calling for the end of both the wars on the Afghans and the Iraqis but also a radical re-orienting of our social and political priorities away from war and domination toward care for the earth, assistance for the poor and marginalized, and an end to corporate and big money control over our politics and policies.
This presence is with the same spirit and energy fueling the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, now entering its 3rd week, and is metastasizing in other cities around the nation. We don’t know what might spark our own “Arab Spring”-type uprising but many of us know deep in our guts that it is needed and the time may be ripe for the masses to get off their couches and into the streets demanding change. The Tea Party folk are already angry but most of that rage has been misdirected by the Koch brothers and other right-wing bloviators like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh towards the victims rather than the perpetrators and enablers.
I don’t expect the revolution will begin tomorrow (or, as has been said by prophets and poets, will it be televised by the corporate-owned and controlled media). But we do need practice in learning to say NO!, in using nonviolent methods, in taking responsibility for orchestrating change rather than merely voting for politicians whose promises are quickly abandoned on the altar of real-politick and re-election strategies managed by those with entrenched vested interests and a lot of campaign contributions.
It is a broad coalition attempting this occupation. Some of us come from religious/faith communities and networks, others eschew the role that religious institutions have enabled and baptized the imperial order. Some still hold out a diminished hope for change within the political systems while others see voting as a waste of time and energy which should be channeled elsewhere. Some are avowed anarchists; others envision themselves as true patriots. The group will include whistleblowers as well as those who have never worked “within the system”. Military veterans will be standing side-by-side with conscientious objectors and draft resisters. Many of us are retired while a growing number who will join are under- and unemployed. I suspect that our initial presence will be way too white but hopefully we will continue to work more frequently with our brothers and sisters of color who are more frequently on the receiving end of our empire’s dysfunction and destruction.
Hopefully, it will inspire, reenergize, and encourage us and others for the long slog ahead of building a nation which places people before profits, looks to the well-being of both present and future generations, and is designed around compassion rather than domination. [For more info, check out www.october2011.org]