Over the past few years, it has been said that Americans are apathetic, don’t pay attention to politics, don’t care about what happens in (or to) the rest of the world and are only concerned with their own lives and material possessions. This is a reflection of the nostalgia for activism of past decades, in which citizens fought loudly for women’s rights, civil rights and equality.
A clear source of reference of this apathy has been voter turnouts during past elections. When having to vote between what some would call “the lesser of two evils” in the majority of elections, many voters choose not to go to the polls.
But, if you’ve been paying attention over the past few weeks (actually I would say the last year or so), this is far from true. Frustrations have grown as the inequalities in our society have been brought to the surface more and more. Big banks were bailed out, but a lot of homeowners were forced to foreclose (and still are) on their homes. A few states have enacted anti-immigration laws that have encouraged hate and racial profiling. A man was executed even though there was reasonable doubt that he actually committed the crime he was convicted of.
In response, many of us lent our signatures and voices to try and stop the execution of Troy Davis, there are movements to Rebuild the [American] Dream, we are constantly coming together to stop DREAMers from being deported and most recently people have flocked to New York to Occupy Wall Street.
Since Occupy Wall Street started, over 800 people were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. More activists across the country are paying attention to this movement because those occupying Wall Street have remained non-violent. The occupy sentiment is also now spreading to major cities across the country and Occupy Together is the “unofficial hub for all events springing up across the country in solidarity with Occupy Wall St.”
Are we at the level of activism of say the Million Man March or the anti-Vietnam War protests? Maybe not quite, but I think activism today takes on a slightly different approach than it did back then. Today, we use technology more to pass on our messages and share causes we find important. Today, people around the world can be a part of a cause without having to rely on the media to tell them about it.
Does this mean that everyone has shaken their apathy? No, probably not. But, we are going through a process of awakening that is fueled by the recognition that all of our lives are connected and the desire for justice and equality.