I have been thinking about Abraham Lincoln frequently in the past few days. The Occupy Revolution has gotten me to think about why America exists and what about her, if anything, is worth preserving. A few months after the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg had concluded with Robert E. Lee's ignominious retreat, Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to deliver a memorial speech.
The history of that event and the speech itself have been dissected ad nauseum, so I do not think it is necessary for me to rehash the history or the speech. It is Lincoln's peroration that has grabbed my attention in these past few days.
"That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
I think about this because we are now faced with a revolutionary situation in America on the streets and in the town squares of over 800 cities. A wide spectrum of folk have come together in these public and public-private spaces to "Occupy" and take back their democracy from the forces that have conspired to rob them of their birthright.
Many of the people I meet daily have succumbed to despair. "All politicians lie," they will say. "There's no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans." While statements such as these may not be literally true, they express a psychological truth that vast numbers of the working class feel as if the government no longer exists to serve their interests but only the interests of the moneyed class.
In 2008, a great movement arose and voted in a candidate who professed to stand for 'Change' and who encouraged us to "be the change." It's three years later and there's precious little 'change' to see. Today Obama announced that all but 160 U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by December 31 of this year. That's fine and I'm happy for the troops and their families. But why were they not withdrawn on January 20, 2009 (the day of Obama's inauguration)? Likewise, when Obama took office, the national unemployment rate stood at a disastrous 7.6%. As of September of this year, it had increased to 9.1%. That may be change, all right, but it's not the change everyone thought we would be seeing.
And the suffering continues apace. 46 million Americans without health care, 44 million Americans receiving food stamps, the highest number of Americans living beneath the poverty line since the government started keeping official statistics. And meanwhile, 1% of this country's population controls 40% of its wealth.
So it is easy to see why people can give in to despair. And, until Occupy Wall Street began barely a month ago, one would be hard pressed to give reasons why despair was not only a logical response but indeed the only logical response.
Along comes the Occupy movement. In cities large and small across this land, brave folks are putting their bodies on the line for what they believe in, facing down legions of police and the taunts of the moneyed class and its lackies and lickspittles. Finally, the working class has found its voice and it is growing slowly to a roar.
Anyone with eyes to see, with ears to hear, with a heart that feels cannot fail to observe has a sacred duty to support this revolution. The time is now, my brothers and sisters, to renew the promise of America that was and should be our birthright, not for 1%, not for 10% but for 100% of us. This is a sacred duty and history will not look kindly on those who shirked their responsibility when duty called.
What can you do? Donate until it hurts. Alma and I have been taking food donations each time we go. This is more important now than ever, because Occupy Los Angeles has not had a permit approved for its communal kitchen yet and so relies entirely upon donated food. Donate funds. Even though I am unemployed and my net worth has declined substantially this year, I will be making money donations each time we visit from this point forward. Donate your talents. Alma has created some beautiful signs and I have started to write songs for the movement. Find ways you can express your creativity and put them to work to support the Occupy movement. Most important: visit the nearest Occupy encampment and lend your voice to the voice of the united working class. We are all in this together and we will survive together or perish alone.
So we must not succumb to despair. We must remain steadfast in our resolve. We must not waver in our conviction. We must show compassion to our enemies, but we must also provide justice for our brothers and sisters who have been grievously wronged by our enemies. We must be willing to shed our blood, to die even, for this our sacred duty, so that those who have already died in defense of the promise of America shall not, as Lincoln said, have died in vain.