John and I have always been revolutionaries.
Scratch that. John has always been a revolutionary. I have always wanted to be.
I am a person who can't stand a lie or any form of injustice. On the other hand, I'm scared to speak out. I want to be a good girl and not make waves. In boarding school, the real revolutionaries washed out in a hurry (lucky them). Those who weren't as sensitive just chugged the kool-aid and were happy. But I was a person who would hear something that didn't sit right with me, and I would just feel ill. I felt uncomfortable and I knew it was wrong. But I also felt powerless ... that there was nothing I could do, so I'd do better just not saying anything and going with the flow. That got to me. It's the reason I was so unhappy.
When I met John, his tendency to be a rebel was frustrating to me. Why did he have to make a fuss about every little thing? Why couldn't he just take what he was given? It just seemed a little spoiled to me to expect things to change to suit him.
But then he started rubbing off on me. He would ask me questions like "Do you actually want to be in Regnum Christi?" and "If you don't want to be, why are you still doing it?" Or he would go on a huge inspiring tirade that would get me signing up to help refound our college's paper or start the controversial new debate society. Next thing I knew, I was sticking my fear in my back pocket and interviewing a stranger or addressing a roomful of people. I still wouldn't boycott mandatory college events with him, and I never got caught breaking a rule. But I was overcoming my fear and starting to believe that I didn't have to be content with what I was given; I could actually change my situation and make it into something I wanted.
He didn't like his first several jobs out of college, and I was annoyed. It seemed spoiled to me to think that a steady paycheck wasn't good enough for him. But he turned around and got his masters degree and is now working to break into a field he loves.
People my age are always being told that we are spoiled and entitled. In some sense this is true. We were raised with more affection and less strictness (on average) than our parents were. So we tend to expect a little more out of life.
As teenagers, I won't lie, this generation drives me up the wall. I taught high school, and I found their constant questioning frustrating. In retrospect, I realize that they were asking really good questions. I wish I had taken the time to give them better answers.
When people with high expectations grow up and find the world not to our liking, we get angry. We were told, growing up, that if we went to college, we would get a good job. We were told that if we worked really, really hard, we'd get promoted. We were told that if we paid into Social Security our whole lives, when we retired, we would be taken care of. These things turned out not to be true. We were raised in an up economy and came of age in a down economy. We went to college, did well, and didn't get jobs; or we got jobs, worked hard, and were laid off. We have become aware that Social Security will be bankrupt by the time we retire, and that all the money we pay in is going, not just to your impoverished, ailing grandmother, but to millionaires who are in the prime of health but don't feel like working anymore, while we ourselves are having trouble making rent.. That means a lot of frustration and a lot of crushed dreams. And I think that's the root of what the Occupy movement was about.
But we haven't just stayed angry. People of our generation have found solutions. Some have solved the problem of a workplace full of drudgery and no reward for hard work by founding companies of their own -- companies with new rules like flexible hours and on-site daycare and shared ownership. Some have solved the problem of poverty by going back to the land and starting sustainable microfarms. Someone in my generation invented microlending. Someone in my generation is making huge strides in education with Khan Academy. Someone in my generation is finding better ways to diagnose cancer with computers.
The next step after anger is revolution. We aren't sitting like spoiled children whining because we don't have what we want. We are working to change the system so that we and everyone can have what we want. That's why young people have been flocking to Ron Paul. (Don't tell me you weren't expecting me to bring him up!) We are tired of slaving away so that our money can be confiscated by the government, who gives it to the federal reserve, who gives away massive bailouts, not just to domestic industries, but to foreign banks. We are tired of being told we have the right to vote and decide our own government, only to find that we only ever get two choices, and that they look remarkably similar. We are tired of seeing the news media report only those things that will support one of two major parties.
And yet we aren't just angry about this. We have gotten around the media blackout using the internet and social media. We have infiltrated the Republican Party to the point that they were forced to use obvious strongarm tactics to stop us ... so that now everyone knows they have no interest in letting the people have any say in what candidates we have. In short, we have begun to break the bubble of silence and make it widely known that the democratic process does not work anymore.
I know that now is a time of massive discouragement among Ron Paul supporters. In the short-term, we have lost. We had a strategy, it could have won, and the other side cheated. I don't see any way that Ron Paul will be our president in 2013.
But Ron Paul seems oddly hopeful. When told that the Revolution will not be happening, his answer was "Don't they just wish." I got a lump in my throat when he said that. Isn't it true that the Revolution, in fact, will not be happening? We lost. But he was looking at a stadium full of screaming young people, and he knew that we couldn't be stopped. He knew that no power on earth can stop and idea whose time has come. And no power can stop young people who have educated themselves and know exactly what they want. Every four years, more of us come of age and walk into the polling booths. We'll make it happen. It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I can see that, and I'm frightened. But that fear doesn't rule me. We will win in the end.
In a way, the revolution that is taking place right now is my revolution. Not the noisy one, the one with shouting and cheering and signs; not the speedy one with a vote that's counted overnight. The revolution that happens when I, and people like me, stood up and said, "I will teach my children that they matter. I will teach them that what they think matters and what they want matters. I will teach them to be compassionate and kind. I will teach them that their own actions make a difference. I will teach them responsibility. I will love them and nurture them and tell them that this is the treatment they deserve. I will not hit them, belittle them, or abandon them. I will not circumcise them or leave them to cry alone. I will not send them off to a government indoctrination center to be taught how to think and behave. I will give them books, computers, and the great outdoors. I will let them meet people who are different, examine ideas that are different, try methods that are different. When they come of age, the world will become different."
I was told in a facebook debate yesterday that I am like a spoiled child who screams for a cookie and throws their food on the floor because they didn't get what they wanted. That's not me. I'm the girl who drank an entire glass of sour milk because I thought it would be wrong to complain. But I'm getting brave. I'm learning that, if I'm offered a plate of E. coli and a plate of salmonella, I don't have to choose. I can leave the table and get myself something different.
Tomorrow, I'm going to try to give some specific advice for what a
revolutionary can do right now about our current state of
disenfranchisement. But for now, all I can say is, the revolution is
not over. It is just fledging its wings. We will get there.