I’m super proud of Mom and Ray. They’ve been actively involved in the local Occupy Wall Street movement in San Miguel since they arrived last fall. They’ve attended countless meetings, spent hours working on brochures, event planning and researching topics. During my visit I was eager to attend their presentations, Mom on the state of education and Ray on the need for campaign finance reform.
Both have expressed their frustration with the Occupy movement, despite their firm belief in the need to fundamentally change the status quo in the United States. The loose organization and its commitment to the principle of consensus present some structural and procedural challenges. After three months of considerable time and energy committing to the movement’s objectives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, both Mom and Ray expressed weariness and impatience with the (lack of) progress. As with the groups in the United States, the OWS San Miguel is comprised of disparate personalities with contending interests and priorities, resulting in slow momentum and seemingly endless discussions with no tangible results.
But what I saw in San Miguel was superb – an informed, impassioned and articulate team from the working groups presenting on a wide range of topics. Forums were well attended, organized and open for free discussion. Dissenting or questioning voices were welcomed and encouraged. Both Mom and Ray each spoke for nearly 20 minutes and were well armed with clear arguments, substantiated with facts. They fielded the follow-up questions and with knowledge and calm. It was a treat for me to witness how hard they both researched the presentations, and I was extremely pleased to witness all this in person.
It struck me how authentic the Occupy Wall Street movement really is – not just some headline or news image. Its armies of committed and impassioned individuals are active and working together in challenging circumstances to effect economic and political change. These meetings emphasize the critical importance and complexity of all these issues, underscoring that there are no “quick” solutions and none of them can be distilled into simple sound bites, as our political leaders often do. And since San Miguel is a community of expatriates from many different countries (although predominantly from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom), the perspective was broad and insightful, with heavy emphasis on models and examples that work beyond the borders of the United States. This was refreshing since so rarely does the US media present ideas or options from abroad.
And indeed the dialog has changed substantially since the Occupy movement grew last year from Zuccotti Park in New York City to countless cities around the globe. No longer do “tax cuts for the wealthy” and “stop government spending” calls dominate. Emphasis now is on the injustices of corporate America and growing income inequality – these are the real and prescient issues of the day.
We are at an important crossroads in the United States. We suffer under a dysfunctional Congress and a lackluster Supreme Court and its pernicious Citizens United decision. The next decade will determine whether my country will be completely bought and paid for by corporate and wealthy interests, or return the power to Middle America with a priority on progressive values which has done so much to advance the nation from the 1930’s through the 1970’s.
So kudos to Mom and Ray for working so hard during the past months in San Miguel to produce something significant, relevant and inspiring. Rather than an absence of “real solutions” or “political strategy,” the objective of the movement is clear – we need to change the dialogue now, we must vigorously drive the message of income inequality to the front and center of this election cycle. We must emblazon this message on the forehead of America. And we must hold our elected representatives accountable for their corporate “constituent interests” and change the way “business” is done in Washington D.C.
Thank you, OWS–San Miguel, for energizing me to take part in the action. You are a steadfast and loyal group of patriots – mostly activists, free thinkers and progressives of an earlier era – and if you can demonstrate such leadership and commitment in faraway Mexico, I certainly can (and should) do a lot more within the borders of my own country. The stakes are simply too high. There is no excuse, especially now that I have the time and energy to work toward what matters.
So I hereby pledge to do what I can in the coming months to extend the voice of reason of Occupy Wall Street to ensure that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
It’s now or never, y’all – we all must do our part.