New Hope for a New Year?

Submitted by Andrea Perrault

hp2015As the year came to a close, I found myself reflecting on the events of 2014; the summer was hard, but as fall approached, I had found some positive things to contemplate. Then we had the results of the 2014 mid-term election – nothing much positive there.  As we headed toward 2015, the state of the country seemed to grow even more dismal. However, as the negative events multiplied, a spirit of activism seemed to have been awakened among the population.  As the killings in Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland garnered increased publicity, outrage on the part of many Americans was percolating. Civil disobedience now is occurring to renew the fight for civil rights and to expand the discussion about what is meant by a “civil society”. Will it be sustained or will it be the trend of the season?

As a child of the revolution in values from the 1960’s (e.g. opposing the Vietnam War, supporting civil rights and women’s rights), I believed that change for the better was inevitable. After the events of 2014, I am more distressed than ever that our positive intentions were doomed by the capitalist structure that ensures greater inequality. Many Ethical Community members identify as “the greatest generation”; what must they think of today’s reality? Today, as capitalist forces increase their grip on the country, those on the margins of society seem not to be able to get a leg up.  And the “margins” keep getting wider, now threatening to thwart the middle class. And in the United States, black Americans are clearly at the mercy of a society that fails to regard their humanity on equal terms.

Renewed discussion of civil rights is called for, and it should include both discussion and action on building a civil society for all. We can bemoan the facts of the last decades: the follies of Wall Street barons went unpunished, and the rich got richer; the rest of us were sunk by bad mortgages, college and credit card debt, increasing homelessness in our communities, and now deadly police violence.We see that government is less a source of remedy for society’s ills, and more a forum for dueling ideological clowns.

Most distressingly, government has expanded inequity and violence by militarizing community police forces. In Massachusetts, we saw it vividly in the police pursuit of the young disaffected attackers of innocent bystanders at the marathon on Patriot’s Day. In Ferguson, it was reported that the police force had only one taser available – does that justify killing as a means of maintaining social order? If the government can arm our police forces with weaponry from the military, including rocket launchers and submachine guns, is it not complicit in creating an uncivil society? Should it not first be identifying how to limit deadly force, rather than expand it?

If building a civil society is not happening within the structures of government, it must be a citizen charge to do so. Let’s join the civil disobedience movement and contribute to the reawakening of an active, positive spirit of community.

Happy New Year!