President Barack Obama was elected because he made a promise to the American people: we were going to rebuild this nation. Obama supporters sat with optimistic and believed, what Time called, “the decade from hell,” had ended two years early.
This decade was characterized by terrorism, two ambiguous wars and, according to Princeton University Professor Cornel West, “a financial sector shot to levels of greed even Charles Dickens would have problems trying to depict.”
But not anymore. Together, America was going to be rebuilt with green technologies, without the corporate avarice that undermined our economy and without, what Obama himself called, “a stupid war.” The times were changing.
Obama took office and many realized the changes may have been too ambitious, but there was still time to accomplish them. Many of us silently chanted and convinced ourselves, “there’s still time.”
Here we are, almost four years later, and despite everything President Obama has done, many of us are haunted by this incessant static.
We still hear the noises of two televised wars in our living room. 50 million Americans still do not have health insurance. Millions still believe corporate greed undergirds political, and ostensibly democratic, processes. Many of us were left powerless and pushed to the political periphery as Democrats and Republics supported party over nation. We heard it on the radio when each side refused to compromise during the debt ceiling crisis, holding our nation’s credit rating hostage for political ideology. Unemployment hovers around nine percent nationally, and twice that for some minority groups.
Our dissatisfaction at the systems that govern our lives may have been justified. Neither Congress, nor the president, were the people to achieve the change many were waiting for.
Now it’s 2011, and it’s finally happening.
It may be too early to deem the Occupy Wall Street protests a new era of political activism and civic engagement, but we cannot dismiss the significance of them. Thousands of people across the nation have been yelling, and our politicians are beginning to hear: end this corporate plutocracy.
While these protesters began their mission in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, the University of Mary Washington is beginning to feel the effects of this national movement on campus.
While it remains unclear what Occupy Mary Washington will entail, signs around campus have been a constant reminder of the Occupation’s First General Assembly, which will be taking place in Monroe Hall at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011.
Occupy Wall Street has embraced these General Assemblies, which collectively decide the goals and demands of the movement.
Youth political activism should be encouraged on campus to foster debate and intellectual inquiry about the how students can grapple with the world we will soon acquire.
Political participation in our generation is something particularly unique considering the endless supply of distractions that encompass our lives every hour of the day.
Advertisements remind us of the infinite video games we could be playing, the films we could be watching or the Facebook events we could be attending. These distractions keep us stimulated and titillated as we lose sight of more significant issues.
The Occupations are spreading rapidly. We need to think about them critically and engage with what conversations these events are evoking.