By: Nick Meriwether, Busboys and Poets tribe member
My father used to talk a lot about 1968 – a year of great change. Protests. Assassinations. Hot Wars, cold wars, civil rights, and scandal. Some day, I will tell my kids about the summer of 2013. The summer of anger, the summer of revolution. But let’s not pretend that history isn’t repeating itself.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a landmark decision the Facebook generation has quickly likened to the collapse of de jure segregation. Ironically, merely two days before the same Court gutted the most enduring legal protections for African Americans since the days of mass lynchings and bombings in Birmingham. Also on Tuesday, the U.S. rapidly accelerated its hunt for fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, the man currently exiled to a dingy Moscow airport hotel for leaking information about massive, unprecedented 1984-style data mining and surveillance programs. Alongside revelations about secret drones, CIA black sites, and assassinations, these newest leaks have forced a series of awkward geopolitical conversations with our “friends” in Europe and around the dinner tables of polite liberals. Deregulated marijuana and reproductive rights are just around the corner of impending progress. “Traditional marriage” is a dying cow, we caught the Boston bombers, and Barack gave us a “clean” end to a messy decade in Mesopotamia. But a year of NSA embarrassment, Guantanamo hunger strikes, and blown-up kids in Waziristan begs the question – have we sacrificed our humanity for social progress? Have we lost our minds?
The rainbow confetti is still falling in DuPont Circle and persecuted smokers are lighting up in Colorado, Washington, and recently New Hampshire. There are also economic riots on every major continent, an active genocide in the Middle East, a downspiraling global economy, and ongoing authoritarian surveillance and extrajudicial murder by our own government. Let’s not even mention things like peak oil, dead jarheads in Helmand Province, runaway climate change, or the vanishing of the honeybees. The simple fact is while we pat each other on the backs and clink glasses to a new era of progressivism, the world is devolving into a maelstrom eerily reminiscent of post-Depression Europe – a place where the angry people tell the scared people what to think. If you turn on the news, you can already hear the fear cracking their measured tones and watch the populist anger marching in the streets.
An era of great change is upon us – and unlike the revolutions of old, we now have the information and connectivity to shape history in our favor. We must refuse to be distracted by social pandering and ask the tough questions about the physical and economic devastation committed in our name across the globe. It begins with holding our leaders accountable, just like scores of demonstrators in Brazil, Turkey, Europe, Syria, and Egypt. I recommend starting with a simple Google search – Scahill, Stuxnet, Snowden – and take the information at face value. The reality of the world is at our fingertips. All we have to do is connect the dots.