“Occupy:” Why the World Needs Stories

I was 12 years old in May, 1970 when the Ohio National Guard poured lethal fire into a mass of demonstrators at Kent State. I had long since been made politically aware by teachers who fed current events into the minds of all the “special progress” (think GT) students at PS 81 in Buffalo. And by the story my favorite sportswriter penned about Doug Corbett’s older brother Mark, who used to toss the football to us before being killed in that jungle war.

I can’t guess the significance of “Occupy” compared with the civil unrest and social upheaval of 1967-72. That generation had the immediate impact of helping to end a war and ushered in a “sexual liberation” that is a surviving legacy. I’d also argue that seeds were sown that paved the way for the consensus environmentalism of today; and that emboldened Western thinkers to put more distance between themselves, and thus Western society, and its Judeo-Christian moral/spiritual heritage. The effects of 60’s countercultural impacts remain – for better, for worse, for debate.

Now, police in California turn pepper spray on students protesting tuition hikes. Encampments of grass-roots protesters spread to more financial capitals and population centers worldwide. It feels 1960’s-like – but I can’t easily compare it with the events of the ’60s that I remember so well. Revolutions happen differently today. The world is so much more connected! It’s said that “Occupy” is inspired by what was, a few (more hopeful) months ago called the “Arab Spring” in North Africa. Revolution that starts in Egypt and Libya, then spreads to the U.S.? Unthinkable back then!

Where are my sympathies? (Don’t wimp out, DiGrazie – take a stand!) I stand with writers and with certain freedom-fighters whose causes unambiguously oppose evil.

This year I’ve learned that many adults younger than me want more than just to talk about, or donate to, destroying evil. They want to go toe-to-toe with it. One such group of people is at International Justice Mission. They are a team of lawyers and other professionals who boldly act to end human slavery (including in the U.S.), rescuing kids from brothels and sweatshops; and putting kidnappers, pimps and other perpetrators behind bars. Let’s change what needs fixing, not forgetting about the poor and the young who can’t defend themselves.

I stand with writers because if you’re under 40, I’d venture that you know about 1960’s counterculture and revolutionary mindset of that time, mostly from your parents. You need to round out your understanding with the written records that preserved the stories, the zietgiest of the era. You need to consider many perspectives. So all my writing friends, write stories about today. You’re important!

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