Once upon a time, I was a very angry young man who saw an unjust world and wanted to bang my head loudly against the brick wall of the establishment in order to make it change. As time wore on, I got tired. 9/11 shocked me to my core, as it did many of us. I failed to comprehend its meaning at the time amidst the swarm of emotions it set off inside of me. I battled my own inner demons in its wake and almost lost. Step-by-step, slowly, but surely, I climbed out of that hole by doing what I could to make the world a better place. I joined City Year, an AmeriCorps program dedicated to helping provide support and education to inner-city youth in order to even the playing field just a bit for those who were born socioeconomically disadvantaged. I learned, in the City Year parlance, to “step outside my comfort zone” and “put idealism to work”.
After a time, my personal aspirations grew. I fell in love. I wanted to buy a house, start a family, and begin my journey on the path of the American Dream. I needed more money for this endeavor, so I left City Year to join a Catholic charity dedicated to helping homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 22. I found I loved the organization’s successes, but was at odds with their means. I found that beneath the surface of charitable fundraising was a political power structure that depressed and confounded me.
Meanwhile, our nation falsified intelligence to begin an imperial conquest of the Middle East and the oil that lay under its sands. The federal budget was gutted in favor of defense spending, deregulation of markets, tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and the corporations they ran, and the American people were swindled left and right by an increasingly duplicitous banking industry. We were told to look the other way as civil liberties were eroded, internment camp-style prisons were erected, illegal and immoral torture was normalized and dissenting voices were marginalized.
By the time the Bush Administration finally came to an end, I was exhausted. My rage against this machine had all but petered out. I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing I could do about any of it, at least not on the level that would make any real difference. As the economy finally buckled under the theft, fraud and stupidity of the system in place, I cast my vote for hope in the form of Barack Obama. I had nothing left to give. It was too much, and so I voted and promptly tuned out, placing my faith and trust in the first black President of the United States to fix it all. I threw myself into raising funds for a worthwhile cause at my current nonprofit organization and focused on raising my beautiful daughter. I had decided the rest of the world would have to take care of itself.
Recently, I see that I can no longer do that. Obama is in no position to make the changes our nation and the world at large need. He is, like all politicians, beholden to the power of money. They pull his strings as effectively as any other puppet that rises too far, and that sun of economic might has thoroughly melted the wings of Obama’s Icarus. He was placed on the throne to appease us, and it worked, at least for a time.
But money still rules, as it has since its invention. However, I sense the mood is changing, not just here, but abroad, on a global scale. The Occupy Movement is the result of our distaste for our current system. We are fed up. However, most of us don’t know what to do with that feeling. I know I don’t. I have spent the better part of the last month doing some serious soul searching to determine what it is I should do. Coupled with my own depressive nature, it has been a rocky road that has led me through various combinations of medication and a whole lot of reading on esoteric and mythical lines of reasoning. As a father, husband, homeowner and professional, it is not feasible to say I should drop my life to stand on the barricades in Wall Street. Protests such as that also do not change anything. They are a call for action; they are not an action in and of themselves.
Over the last few days, I’ve done a lot of reading about former CIA analyst and current Jesuit political activist Ray McGovern. In many of his lectures, he says it is up to each of us individually to contribute to the change this world needs in each of our own capacity. Like I said at the beginning of this essay, once upon a time, I was a very angry young man. To deal with this, I wrote a lot, most of which is terrible, but at least I was writing. If McGovern is right, and I feel he is, then my capacity lies in my ability to string words of the English language together. As easy as it has been over the last four years to work, parent, love and play while ignoring the larger world around me, it is in the end both lazy and cowardly.
So, expect more essays of this type going forward. Expect more “crazy theories” bandied about. Expect the unexpected. And, most of all, expect the Inquisition because if they can do it to Cal Ripken’s mom, they’ll do it to anybody. Believe it.
“There’ll be no shelter here”
-Zack De La Rocha