Last year I was asked to submit an essay to be included in a book called #UsNotMe, that would have featured essays from a lot of my peers and heroes as well. Since I put some time into what I wrote and it has been many months of that book’s editors not returning emails, I’ve decided to plop my contribution on the internet. With the Trump inauguration looming, I feel the message is worth having out there in the universe.
I believe that behind every evangelical pessimist, lies a jaded romantic. I see false bravado, preaching pragmatism as a cover for that time the pulpit-penchant got their hopes up, and gravity ultimately did its handy-work. I get it. The system is rigged. Some people are selfish jerks. It’s easy to abandon hope for safety. However, sentimentality only flourishes when shared.
Our revolution is a dandelion. Our flower wasn’t picked this time, yet our seeds have been picked up in the wind and we are multiplying. If you’re reading this book: thank you. You did that. You did this very beautiful thing, and I thank you. Our solidarity is not about one person, or any organization, but about all people, and if you’re one of the people who has decided to speak truth to power, I thank you.
Our struggle continues, not because we had our victory snatched away from us, but because we are now brothers and sisters in arms against tyranny. We are wildflowers cracking through concrete, and soon we will make that cold, gray surface into a colorful field.
Like the founding fathers of this nation, we have been outraged by income inequality, unfair taxation, a militarized force in our streets, and the snatching up of our rights and freedoms. Like any good hero story, common people have done the uncommon, and have begun to stand up against corruption and tyranny.
Independent voices have begun to rise above the corporate-owned commercial static. Friends, family, and neighbors have been given an opportunity to think about the issues outside of the duopoly endorsed talking points. We crowd-sourced candidates together and shined a light on the crack in dragon’s armor.
No hero story that has ever been written begins with a victory, especially the true stories. First off, that’s just bad storytelling: Protagonist identifies moral injustice and puts an end to it. The end. Come on. When does that happen? Secondly, for heroes to become heroes, they have to overcome themselves before rising up against corruption, so they are less likely to be corrupted by their victory. That’s the formula for a good hero story, folks. Tried and true since language was invented; you should feel free to adapt it into your own.
Our story’s protagonist was never Bernie Sanders. I love Bernie. I believed in Bernie. I am forever grateful to Bernie for putting his neck out when no other progressive would and putting the band together. However, this is a sing-along. We don’t have a lead singer. This is an open jam that nobody was invited to yet everybody hit the stage. Grab your gear, it’s time to rock. Together we are the protagonists, standing against oligarchical antagonists, and now is the part of the story where we decide if we can handle this. If we can, we will march on stronger, together, victorious.
In the next stage of our revolution, we must seed the grassroots. We must replicate Bernie’s famed email list into an organic social network of sorts, ready to crowd-fund any issue, candidate, or non-profit together in force. We must fight fire with fire. We must fight oligarchical capitalism with compassionate capitalism to prove to the world that there’s nothing wrong with a little democratic socialism. We’ve got to break free from the chains of political party brand loyalty and start working towards political compassion for each other. We must take back our government from the corporate interests. Our struggle continues.
We have identified so very many injustices, and our empathy has known so very few bounds. We must not be frustrated. We have only just begun. The American Revolution started with leaflets, well before anyone picked up a musket. Abolitionism took root in church congregations, not polling stations. Suffragists built from that new 14th amendment, starting with a convention in Seneca Falls, New York where they organized and did the work for the next American movement against tyranny. These great changes in American history didn’t just happen. They started with educating each other, talking to each other, and grassroots organizing. Our revolution has only just begun. We’ve laid the groundwork. The dandelion seeds are spreading. Heroes are rising. You are a hero if you stay on your quest. Shoulder shrugging and apathy are not the stuff of heroes.
Long before Jackson Pollock, beat poetry, Lou Reed, or Andy Warhol came out of Greenwich Village, Thomas Paine made an art-form from speaking truth to power. While he didn’t change the world with his early works condemning slavery, his missive, “Common Sense,” helped turn undecided American colonists into revolutionaries. I recently reread that work, and I tell you, if you replace “the King” with “the oligarchy,” and “Parliament” with “the duopoly,” it holds up.
My challenge to you, as you read this missive tucked away between the words of much smarter and more important people, is to try to be Thomas Paine. Find a way to speak truth to power and inspire everyone around you to stand up against tyranny. Of course, Mr. Paine died mostly known as a rabble-rouser, but in my humble opinion, that’s pretty rock and roll.
We live in an age where the very tyrants we seek to overthrow have a stronghold over our media. Nearly all information is controlled by a handful of corporations. Those who profit from the very systemic injustices we came together under Bernie’s umbrella for control the flow of information. Between their advertisements for overpriced drugs and magic pillows, they cover up each other’s crimes and convoluted propaganda for the candidates that best serve their cabals.
In the next stage of the revolution, we must be the media. We must support independent media. We must emulate those who passed out leaflets before the Revolutionary War. Educate your friends, family, and neighbors. Encourage them to pass it on. Incidentally, income inequality in America is worse now than it was when those revolutionaries were handing out leaflets. So we’ve got that going for us. If people were upset then, we should be able to convince them beyond their creature comforts to be upset now, and to dream of what could be if we made our priority people, before profits.
Your TV lies to you. If you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty hip to that. So, it’s on you to be the media. Start a blog. If that’s outside of your wheelhouse, share that blog you like with all of your friends and family. Start a YouTube show or a podcast. If that’s outside your skill-set, share that YouTube show or podcast you like with all of your friends and family. Run for office. If that’s outside of your comfort level, give every bit of free time you can muster to that candidate that you believe puts people before profit. It’s truly that simple. We’re at the stage of the revolution where we have to wake each other up. Be an alarm clock!
However, what do I know? I’m just an aging sentimental. Perhaps this missive is just a love letter to other romantics out there, who aren’t prone to pessimism, and want to keep the dream alive. Fourteen million of us had our votes counted for Bernie Sanders. Scholars on the subject think there were many more of us who tried to. When polled on the issues, it seems that Americans agree. We just have to talk to each other, inspire each other, then organize together, to move past the duopoly’s professional wrestling, red versus blue, mentality, and affect real change. In my humble opinion, that is.
In the next stage of the revolution, we have to find our commonplaces and begin working together there. Once “be good to each other” is the American mantra, our hero story will have found its climax. The pavement will be overrun with flowers. The dragon will have gone back into hiding until the sequel, as these sorts of fights are never truly over. Sorry to break that to you. Especially when the bad guys are corporations, there is always a sequel. You are my favorite character. I hope you’re in the sequel.
In 2011, Occupy Wall Street started. By 2014, Black Lives Matter was a phrase every American knew. Just over a year ago, Bernie Sanders inspired us to gather in each other’s living rooms and start a political revolution. Every day our movements are stronger. I don’t know about you, but I feel like we’re on a hero’s trajectory here. We’re in the early stages of a fantastic story about overcoming injustice and tyranny that will be told for ages. Of course, I’ve always been a bit of a romantic. I sure hope that you will be too.
Michael Salamone is a frustrated songwriter, who used to be a newspaper editor and columnist. He took up podcasting and amateur punditry a couple of years ago and tries to build tools to aid independent broadcasters. He maintains quite a lot of websites including michaelsalamone.com and the soon to be launched, mediarevolt.org.
This is an edited version of an essay originally published on Medium.