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Getting Out of Bed

It’s a given that life is at best a difficult proposition. None of us get through it without getting bloodied in some fashion. All of us have those dark nights of the soul that, when morning comes, leave us exhausted and intimidated. It’s a wonder any of us ever make it out of bed.

In a metaphorical sense, most of us actually haven’t made it out of bed. We’re there with the covers wrapped tightly over our heads, our entire posture telling the world to go away. The world has a habit of not listening to our wishes however as much as we would like it to.

You see, the thing is that we’ve watched our country stolen away from us under our very noses; while we were lounging in our beds, our opportunities have been eroded, our jobs have been sent overseas, our mortgages have been sold to a predatory financial institution who know that finding a way to foreclose is a way to easy money, and our politicians have become policy instruments of big business. All of this has gone on and we still refuse to get out of bed. “I don’t wanna,” we whine like petulant children on a school day, “You go to school, mom!” we shriek.

I grew up in a conservative household and viewed the activism of the ’60s as the work of drugged-out socialists whose agenda was to reward the lazy with government handouts and tax the middle class out of existence. As I grew older, my world view began to change as I realized that not everything my father and those like him told me was entirely correct. I learned to see the activists of that time and later as young people committed to changing the world into a better place, not just for themselves but for their children. The social change that rose from their efforts – civil rights, the women’s movement, environmental protection and the end of the Vietnam War – serves as a proud achievement and a reminder that change can be effected if enough people are willing to stand up for it.

Now we live in an era where complacency is the norm. People sit in front of their computers, their iPads, their television screens and watch the bad news trickle in. They listen to late night comedians joke about political scandals and faux pas. They watch their bosses nervously – those who have jobs at all – and hope they still have one next week.

I have come to admire the Occupy Wall Street movement that has with little fanfare or press coverage made it clear that there are those who are no longer going to stand for big business raping the people of this country. They are serving notice that there are more of us – the ordinary citizens of the United States – than there are of the superwealthy. The arrogance and lack of ethics that plague the American corporate culture at this time – the philosophy that profits are far more important than people and that short term gains outweigh the long-term health of the economy – have been noted and will no longer be tolerated.

In a strange way, I even admire the Tea Party. I disagree with many of their economic ideas, and I believe that some of those ideas have helped lead us into the mess that we’re in. However, the people in it have at least stood up for what they believed and have effected change in this nation. That is to be respected. They may be fighting for ideas that I think are not very bright, but at least they’re fighting for something.

Until recently, the left hasn’t really done that effectively, not since the ’70s anyway. We need to take a good hard look at what is important to us. Do we want a country with a strong, growing economy based on innovation and establishing new technologies?  Do we want a government that protects the rights of its citizens, from the wealthiest to the poorest and does what’s right for the people of the United States ahead of what’s right for the businesses of the United States?

Do we want to leave our children and our children’s children a planet that is protected by responsible, intelligent environmental policies? Do we want out military to act as a defensive deterrent rather than a bully sent out to protect the interests of Big Oil? Do we want the wealthy to pay their fair share of the  tax burden and our government to attack the deficit not just by slashing spending but also by generating additional revenue (which is how most responsible businesses – and individuals – get out of debt)?

Even if you believe differently than I do, it is our responsibility as citizens of this democracy to stand up and participate in it. Not just by voting and putting signs out on our lawns, but in becoming well-informed on the issues rather than relying on sound bites to make our decisions for us. We need to communicate with our elected representatives and express our needs to them and hold them accountable when they aren’t acting in our interests. We need to attend town halls and question those who run our government. All of this requires time and effort – time we sometimes feel we don’t have between working long hours, obligations to our family and friends and all the things that take up our day. Being involved can be a pain in the ass.

But it’s also our responsibility. I’m sure it was a pain in the ass for the generation that lived during the Second World War to go and fight fascism and expansionism, to sacrifice for the good – for the very survival – of our nation. They did it however, and our nation is here today because they did. We don’t have a threat that’s as obvious as the Nazis but we have something far more insidious because it comes from within.

We’ve been asleep far too long and it’s time to kick off the duvet, stretch our limbs and go about our business – the business of protecting our rights and insuring that our children have the same if not better opportunities that we do. How we choose to go about that is entirely up to you – whether you believe in liberal thinking, conservative thinking or something way out in left field – stand for something. Or fall for anything.


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