Since the incredible events of yesterday's successful general strike in Oakland, many have asked me and others what the next step is. And in keeping with the core values of this leaderless movement, the best answer that I or anyone else can give you is this: The next step is you.
The next step is you: organizing, joining your local Occupy general assembly, thinking and talking with your friends and neighbors, giving yourself permission to stop believing in your powerlessness. It is you: Turning off the horrible reality TV that glamorizes the pornography of fake celebrity marriage and joining a movement that stands on the side of love, wherever and whenever it is needed. It is you: Moving your checking and savings account from the big (and yes, I know convenient!) bank and putting your money in a local credit union. It is you: Supporting organized labor, because however imperfect, they are the most organized mouthpiece of the 99%. It is you: Getting involved in whatever way you can, because once our voices are all united, we are truly unstoppable.
Today, I awoke with a big and very satisfied smile on my face, because I was at Occupy Oakland for 12 hours yesterday and every single moment of it was profound, unifying and peaceful. I helped organize and run an Interfaith Tent with programming all day. We led meditations, prayers, interfaith worship services, conversations, and had lots of music. We served the spiritual needs of thousands who were grateful for our presence.
And we were surrounded by the most diverse and peaceful group of people you have ever imagined. The Teamsters were there, and so was Code Pink. The camp has a section called "the intifada" which is full of young and proud American Muslim's eager to be a part of this moment. There was a free store and kitchen with enough water, fresh veggies, pasta and fruit for the masses, asking nothing in return. One union set up a barbecue and served free hot dogs, hamburgers, beans and potato salad to thousands. There was an incredible "kids zone" with books, thousands of Lego pieces, blocks and games. And of course many a liberal arts degree was put to good use (about the only way in this economy!) on the plethora of witty signs and banners that decorated our liberated plaza.
But then that smile that I awoke with quickly disappeared when I tuned into my local NPR station to hear this morning's Forum with Michael Krasny. It was then that I learned that late at night, hours after the day of peace and unity that culminated in a completely non-violent shut down of the 5th largest port in the world, a few dozen vandals had created a situation that inevitably turned into a violent confrontation with the police. And now that was the story that the media, even the supposedly progressive KQED, was choosing to focus on.
So, I followed my own advice, and I got involved. I picked up my phone and called the show and asked to speak with Michael on the air. And, it is amazing what happens when you stop thinking about what is possible and what is not. The next thing I knew I was indeed talking to Michael on air (link to audio here) I come in at the 13:30 mark. And I shared with him my deep disappointment that this was the focus he had chosen for his show. I told him about what I had seen, this day of unity and peace, and that I was sure this was the important story: the actions of the masses, not this disorderly few. He politely thanked me for my call, ended it, and then proceeded to wash his hands of blame.
But the truth is that every one of us is responsible for our sphere of influence. Some have bigger microphones, but all of us can help shape this narrative going forward. Will you choose to stand on the side of apathy and the status quo? Or will you wake up and realize that this is the moment that so many have been crying and praying for? If you need me to make it more clear I will: The revolution has begun, and the next step is you!
Spread the word, be the word. Peace.
- Rev. Jeremy D. Nickel