Here we are, almost a month into 2012 and people I meet are still saying Happy New Year. I’m not surprised, really. I don’t usually pay much attention to the calendar change, but this year is different. Twenty-eleven (I will miss saying that name; it’s sounds like fun, like something a pre-schooler would make up) was a great year. Five entrenched dictators, with millions at their disposal and armies at their command were toppled by popular movements, movements without leaders or budgets or the cover of somebody’s empire, but with awesome legitimacy. Not one power structure replacing another, but power being removed without being seized. Over and over. This is big news for everyone who loves or aspires to democracy, because it flies in the face of cynicism and complacency. It can be done.
And at home, Americans are learning the lessons that the Casbah and Tahrir Square. The Occupy movement started as a fire drill in organizing. And while it remains a drill we saw what grass roots organizing can do. Close down a major port. Get Bank of America to drop its transaction charges. Start a national discussion on economic justice that the media have dodged for years. And in the process, replacing the old hierarchical, ideological “Left,” with something far more democratic and responsive to the current times.
Vermont has universal health care! Didn’t know that? Maybe the folks on the radio are too busy talking about Newt Gingrich’s latest bs to let you know about it. Yep, another grass roots movement. Universal health care will happen like every other major movement in American history, like Abolition and Women’s Suffrage, state by state and learning from each other. Vermont is the first state through the gate. Not surprising as it was the first state to abolish slavery.
Yeah, it’s been a good year. And next year will be even better. After last year’s surprises, who knows what we can do? So let’s get started making it better. Get a bike light. Register to vote. Visit some outfit that’s making a difference in your world and see if you can contribute in some way. Find what works for you.
And have a Happy New Year.