“To Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances”

(This is but the opinion of one Occupier in Solidarity, and not the consensus of OccupyMissoula) 

Many people do not understand what the Occupy movement is all about, and preconceptions and prejudices abound. I have spent most of the last two weeks working to understand this movement and help organize OccupyMissoula. I’m not sure why I stuck my neck out, and devoted all my time, but it has changed the way I look at politics, movements, and my community.

In the words of an elderly gentleman I have known and respected for the 25 years I have lived in Missoula, “this is the most important movement I have seen since the the Great Depression.”

Similarly, last night I had the honor to meet 4 young high school students who had decided to put on suits and come down to the County Court House and OccupyMissoula to “check things out.” We had a great conversation and I felt inspired that our youth feel the same concerns that our more experienced community members do, and felt compelled to participate, and to write about their experience (one of them was a writer for their high school’s newspaper).

It took an article in no less than Fox News, tweeted across the internet in a “Holy Shit” moment to put it all into perspective for me: “The key isn’t what protesters are for but rather what they’re against.”

The Occupy movement is an embodiement of the First Amendment to our Constitution in action. Many of us are familiar with our right of free speech and to assemble. Those rights are on full display all across America as people take to the streets and reclaim public spaces as town halls to express their frustrations with our country as it exists today.

The press struggles to understand and report on the movement, though there are moments when clarity reigns. But to the Occupy movement, this isn’t the classic protest or rally focused on a single issue or issues they intend for the media to amplify. No, the Occupy movement has its own media, embodied in the entwining of traditional media with a new uber-democratic media enabled by internet technology.

It matters no more what the corporate media sees or writes, as we take our own reporting into our own hands. There are no rapid-fire press releases or press conferences intended to capture the attention of reporters under continual pressure and onslaught of those seeking their copyspace.

What I am witnessing as OccupyMissoula struggles with their version of the Declaration of New York is our attempt “To Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances”. And it is not just Missoula, but hundreds and thousands of cities and groups around the country doing so. It is the very foundational form of our democracy in action.

In the doing of this, people are learning to come together in a new way, across all walks of life. People are learning to listen to each other, and share ideas, and communicate in new ways. I myself gave up my aversion to Twitter and FaceBook, and joined in tweeting duties for the Occupation with a young woman I had met under totally different circumstances.

I never imagined a few short months ago that I would be respecting her consensus blocks in a tech workgroup meeting discussing carrying the OccupyMissoula message. A meeting conducted via text messaging and twitter, no less with people scattered across the state.

I have a newly-rediscovered respect for the youth of this country, and what they are capable of, if only us “olders” don’t dismiss their youthful enthusiasm and idealism or lack of experience. There is much torch passing going on as one generation passes on their experience to the next, where true hope and change transcends political sloganeering.

General Assemblies are springing up all over the country in Occupied territory, where people learn how to talk and make decisions in new ways, utilizing consensus, instead of Roberts Rules, or some other hierarchical forum for conducting town meetings. Young and old, healthy and infirm, educated or not, rich or poor, all are coming to respect each other’s point of view or opinion and how it is expressed.

What is coming out of the Occupy movement’s General Assemblies is a collective petition to the government of our grievances. In the words of the FoxNews writer, it is what we are against. But it is not just what we are against. It is also the beginnings of what we are for: a Redress. Once the collective Assemblies have addressed their Grievances, they will begin to coalesce and demand of their government a Redress.

Lawrence Lessig wrote last year about the need for a Constitutional Convention. We here in Montana learned intimately the value of a citizen revamp of our founding documents when we completed and implemented a new constitution in the 1970’s.

Many people have decided that our political system is corrupt and has been captured by corporate interests and controlled by the financial interests of too few people. We no longer believe that our Congress, the Supreme Court in this post Citizen’s United era, or the Presidency are ready, willing, or able to do the people’s business.

Lawrence Lessig writes: “For the Framers imagined a time when the government might be captured. And they created a mechanism to respond to that capture.” That process involves the people in the various States asking their legislatures to call a Constitutional Convention.

When 2/3 of the States make the call, then Congress must call a Convention. That Convention then will convene and the various Declarations of the Occupy movement, and those of any other interested citizen groups will be heard, and the discussion of how the People will redress their own grievances will ensue. And then those Amendments will be presented back to the States, and upon agreement of 3/4 of them, the Constitution will be amended.

Many of us look at this as a peaceful revolution. And many of us also believe that even if our government attempts to appease us by addressing only a few Grievances in the collective Declarations, that our country will fail–that either violent revolution will ensue, or that we will fall into a dictatorial fascist state controlled by corporate fiat.

The Occupy movement is a statement that the status quo no longer is a sufficient system under which we are willing to be governed. And we have a solution and a process through which we may decide to proceed. The solution may not be readily available —  “what we are for” — but it is being worked on by a diverse array of Americans all across this land at this very moment.

As we search for, identify, and exclaim the root causes of the evils we see corrupting our government, the root solutions will begin to unfold. But this is a process of years — not days, weeks, or months. Occupiers are in for the long haul… maybe not on the Court House lawn, but wherever  and however they decide to put down permanent roots.

This is a movement that is building for the long run. For the solution, the “Redress” necessarily will take much time and effort to unfold and become clear. And the new forms of communication and interaction and decision making being learned and implemented in the various General Assemblies — coupled with new-found relationships across our communities — will endure and persevere because they are intimate and real.

People are beginning to realize that the revolution will not be televised, because as Gill Scott-Heron later clarified, the revolution happens at that moment when in our minds we begin to look at the world in a new way and realize that we can look at things differently, and new solutions will arise. And that moment cannot be televised. But as we collectively come to that same realization, the people will continue to Assemble, to Petition, and to envision how they want their Government, through its People, to Redress their (our) Grievances.

Crossposted at 4and20Blackbirds.wordpress.com

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