America's Revolution

The US presidential elections may finally spark the American revolution the rest of the world has been waiting for.
America's Revolution

I was 19 years old when I awoke on September 11, 2001, to the defining event of our era. Huddled with others around a screen, I watched live television broadcast images of planes flying into the World Trade Center. The mood of life – its color and tone – changed in an instant.

The importance of my school receded to the background; it was clear that the world had bigger questions to resolve. A month later, I watched the American invasion of Afghanistan on CNN. While the consensus in America seemed firmly behind military retribution, I met many people who expressed deep dissatisfaction with the invasion and realized that 9/11 was a tremendous opening that called humanity’s collective future into question. I didn’t know whether or not we should have invaded Afghanistan, or even who the Taliban were. In fact, like most young people at that time, I was blissfully ignorant of the world outside America. But I knew that life after 9/11 was rushing toward a conclusion that no one, young or old, could fully foresee. Nothing could be more exciting for the youthful spirit than to feel that the future was open to discussion, and I resolved to start an anti-war student organization. With this decision, I unknowingly joined a nation-wide movement that was building momentum toward a revolutionary moment.

We founded an organization at Swarthmore College called Why War? and adopted the motto “Question the war.” Our position was simple: 9/11 blindsided us, and we need time to reflect before we’ll know the proper response. However, when it became clear that we had to fight to have our voices heard, we turned to protest.

I remember the mood in 2003 when 38 million people worldwide gathered to voice their opposition to the impending invasion of Iraq. On the streets of New York, we felt that we had finally accomplished an organizational feat capable of altering the future. I watched as my friends broke through barricades, and I refused to move as police horses charged a blocked street, nearly trampling my head. The revolutionary momentum was at a peak – it felt like anything was possible, and that a new world was truly within our grasp. How could the world leaders stand against us when we were able to organize and synchronize protests on every continent in the world?

But our movement didn’t stop America from invading Iraq. The much-heralded “Day X,” a day of civil disobedience that was supposed to sweep the nation, fizzled out without noticeable achievements. Our failure to prevent the Iraq war dealt a blow to our confidence and our momentum dissipated.

Although the Bush administration was able to stem the tide briefly, it did nothing to weaken our vision – merely driving us underground and making our present resurgence more powerful. And in place of the naïve hopes of yesterday are the mature demands of today – voiced in whispers in our hopeful hearts, a dangerous conspiracy to outlast the regime, to maintain our youthful exuberance but temper it with wise consideration. We’ve seen enough in the seven long years since 9/11 to know that we were right to question the war and to trust that, inevitably, we can change the future.

Our momentum is growing. Bush is done, consumerism is collapsing and the patricians are dancing for plebeian votes. On the horizon appear presidential candidates who claim to be the source of our strength, but who are merely the symptom of the revolutionary thrust picking up again in America. We’re optimistic for the future and willing to be inspired, but too skeptical to respond to the rhetoric of “Hope” and “Change” with our whole hearts. So we let them do the work of encouraging demands for change, knowing full well that we will carry their promises further than they intend. What we hear is not what they’re saying. What we’ll accomplish is not what they envision. By playing for our votes, the establishment only helps us see the questions that are off limits and the positions that are deemed impossible.

In martial arts classes, timid students are taught to put their fists through solid wood by punching through the barrier. The target is not the wood, but the space behind the wood. Likewise, in revolutions, momentum is not meant to stop on a specific day, but to carry through to the other side. The barrier is the limitations of what has been declared possible. We’ll overcome it by imagining, demanding and achieving the impossible. In the weeks and months ahead, we will see America’s revolutionary momentum build and, with wise youthfulness and experienced imagination, we will learn to pierce the mental barrier that stands between the tired allegiance to this world and a passionate building of the next. Our target is not the election, but a time beyond the election, when our mental preparation will combine with our political momentum in a revolutionary moment that ushers in a storm of change.

_Micah M. White is a Bingington, New York-based writer and activist, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Media and Communications at the European Graduate School.


150 comments on the article “America's Revolution”

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Surprise yourself and shut off your internet connection at home. You will figure out ways to access it elsewhere when absolutely necessary. It will free you up to do more productive things this makes many assumptions about the necessities in your life, however. The cell phone thing is hard. Even the most staunch opponents to computer technology are tied grudgingly to their cell phones, ready to defend their addiction with excuses like I need it because it has become the norm for initial human connection a phone call usually leads to more intimate dialog..etc.. It's not the cell phone, it's your choice to use it.


so usually I read other's comments before I comment, but I'm in a hurry here. I have noticed when trying to communicate with others my age - I'm 17 - that no one can really communicate fully, especially over important situations. Example: apologies are most frequently given through text. Like no one can confront problems face to face anymore, they have to message it, giving them time to word it perfectly and to avoid actual confrontation.


I got rid of my cell phone two years ago, and am happier for it. No, technology is not evil; its' inanimate. I have to stifle a laugh every time I hear a cell ring tone at full factory set volume or listen to people say they have to answer every call because they can't figure out how to bring up their voice messages. I'm never sure if it is lack of intelligence or laziness that causes some people not to venture past learning how to place and answer calls on their cell. Perhaps they were distracted by a shiny object.


Do you choose to switch off and get in touch with ones self, family and the outside world we live in? Would this potentially make you fall behind as others race ahead with technological gain?
A year in the 'wilderness' could mean be a lifetime in technospace.


I agree with Matt's point about mechanisms of normalisation in our culture. In my experience, not having a Facebook account can make life difficult, as most people at my university use it to facilitate sharing notes and courserelated information as well as a means of firing off party invites and chatting with friends. This normalisation means that, at my university at least, not being on Facebook means being left out academically as well as socially. As for mobile phones, I like to be contactable just in case something urgent or unforeseen comes up. While I agree with Luke about it sometimes being necessary to switch off one's phone or put it on silent/vibrate like when driving I want to be reachable in an emergency if a loved one is suddenly taken ill, for example. Personally, I like the feeling that I can be reached easily in case something does happen. That said, it is unbelievably annoying when I'm chatting to a friend and they start texting someone else midchat. People still don't seem to have realised that texts don't have to be answered immediately, unless the matter is pressingly urgent.


I consider my cell phone exactly what the name is: a cell of foam. The cell is comfortable yet confining. The issue exist when the person calling you interrupts the person you are speaking to face to face. I will often silence my phone and use it like a pager, I can't get rid of it because this cell phone acts as a portal to responsibility and I am forced to keep myself celled. Turn off that electronic dog collar when you are with real peopel and talk the way were are intended to, face to face.

C. Benitez

in my personal experience i have become detached from phone calls, but have seemed to develop a dependency on text messaging. i always have my phone on silent and rarely answer. but texts... i almost always respond. it gets to the point and the last thing i want is to get stuck in a 30 min conversation about nothing. so i'd rather speak to you in person, or text you...
its simply becoming a way of life. the more we develop the more stressors can be formed. it will just be a matter of finding solutions to the effects that our developing world will cause.

smokey bear

If you could implant an internet chip in your brain so that you could theoretically communicate and have instant access all of the webs information, without a phone or a computer, but at the same time be able to turn it off, would you get it?


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