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We Can't Give in to the Culture of Fear and Apathy — Channel Your Discontent into Positive Action

The very forces that protect the status quo have been effective in misleading and distracting the public, often misdirecting their energies into futile activities.

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Unfortunately, the groups organizing this rally have aligned themselves with the Democratic Party. Speakers for the celebration include Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and presidents of unions and others who are the greatest supporters of the Democratic Party. President Obama is scheduled to speak on the actual anniversary, Aug. 28th, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King spoke. The only speakers from the front lines of struggle will be the parents of murder victim Trayvon Martin and the Dream Defenders, but they will be surrounded by the very people who have done nothing to end racist policies in our nation; and who have aided the wealth divide and failed to confront the jobs crisis.

Instead of facing the reality that a new civil rights movement is necessary, as Mark Vorpahl writes, “There will be pressure not to embarrass the President, though the effects of his policies and inaction are what need to be unambiguously opposed. The 1963 March on Washington was about speaking truth to power. Its 50th Anniversary must continue this tradition rather than choke it which would bolster the calculations of President Obama and his big business party.”

There are groups on the front lines that are organizing and speaking truth to power. Low wage workers at fast food restaurants have been striking all across the nation to demand a living wage. They’ve announced plans to escalate their actions this fall. Other workers are demanding paid sick leave. And some communities are simply demanding that their local hospital not be torn down to build condominiums.

The American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), which is behind many harmful policies such as the misleadingly named “Right to Work” and “Stand Your Ground” laws, met in Chicago this past week. They were greeted by large protests which closed surrounding streets. Students and teachers protested to expose ALEC’s agenda that is privatizing and destroying education at all levels. Student organizer Sara Fitouri said, “We see people fighting foreclosure in our communities, college students and recent graduates fighting debt, and K-12 organizers resisting high stakes testing and the school-to-prison pipeline. We realize our success is all tied together.” 

Connecting our struggles is critical to success as is the use of tactics that do not appeal to power, but either directly face it or delegitimize it. In Pennsylvania, a coalition of students, their families and religious institutions is planning a boycott of school until sufficient funds are provided by the state for education. In Washington State, local residents that have been fighting the extraction and export of fossil fuels in the Northwest kayaked and marched to the Army Corps of Engineers office to say, “Since the Corps is incapable [of] address[ing] the real concerns of the people, we the people are relieving them of duty.”

In fact, Jeremy Brecher writes that when governments do not protect the public, then it becomes necessary for people to challenge these failures through nonviolent civil disobedience. He states that “climate protectors [are] upholding the law, not violating it.” As we wrote last week, there is a broad climate movement that is exposing collusion between the government and the dirty energy industry and people who are placing their bodies literally on the machines that are destroying the planet.

Many indigenous people are leading the fight against the radical extraction of resources for energy. At the same time, Indigenous leaders are also making connections between the theft of land and resources that began when Europeans came to America and the same behavior that continues today.  The Hopi Prophecy tells of a time when people must choose material wealth or protection of the planet.

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