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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I went back to a non-picture Tracfone and disabled texting. Luckily I don't need it for work. The only reason I have one at all is because it's impossible to find a pay phone these days. I keep it for emergencies and long distance calls to family. Only my family know the number. And they know I don't answer it. They email when they need to get ahold of me.

Leanne, I have several friends and business contacts who used to be Borg and thought they couldn't survive 30 seconds without contacting their continuum. I have successfully converted many Borg to talking primates by walking away when they start texting. I started subtly and moved on to more extreme measures with much success. I have even moved to other tables in restaurants, started listening to music during meetings and walked to the other side of the street. A few of them get annoyed, of course. I find, however, the ones who are worth it don't need me to explain that I would like to give them my undivided attention because I value their opinions and ideas but regrettably I received a more important message from the other table or my mp3 player or the other side of the street. Yes, for about 2 months most of the texting was about what a bitch I am. But everyone I deal with now either turns off their phone before they meet with me or tells me in advance they are waiting for a call. Six of them have expressed relief that they are ALLOWED to turn it off and have started doing so around others. I have not been interrupted since by any lolcats or forwarded 50 year old text jokes. The ones who are not worth it... well, they aren't worth it. They are joined to their tech and cannot be saved. There is no point in trying to remain friends with someone who doesn't listen or stay in business with someone who can't concentrate.

Jack Dorf

I have a respect and appreciation for technology. But I've always suspected that it would be very easy to become totally beholden to it. Great article Eric!

john hobbs

we are subject to what we allow. the underlying theme is that we don't want to interact with each other, ipods don't let you down, we do.


I couldn't agree more. Although technology is an aid, it removes of from what is real, what is purposeful and what matters most.


Like anything else too much in excess is bad. It is silly to deny the importance and good in modern technology. So long as people use the technology to enhance their lives, instead of using their lives to experience the technology.


this magazine is so depressing. not because of what it forecasts, but because of its fox news-like approach to criticizing modernity. i view you guys as the flipside of the usually rightist infotainment political binary. none of these articles have any basis in critical theory, feminism, anything. there is no substance, only appeal to emotion. take this: "As I stare blankly into a computer screen for hours on end, sometimes I wonder if theres a secret message hidden in this technological maze. But the more I stare, the more I keep coming up with the same answer: I am trapped." what is it with this deterministic, dilettantish approach to revolution that seems to pervade so prominently at every turn of a sentence in this sorry excuse for a magazine? take a class. social critique necessitates a contributive suggestion of action. your teary-eyed accounts of weberian rationalization are nothing new. go read documenta magazines, fredric jameson, theodor adorno, anything but this watered down bullshit.


The peice of technology that i gave up on and that everyone else should give up on is the TV, the boobtube, the idiot box, the google box etc etc etc giving up on TV is one of the best things anyone can do, No more ADVERTS brainwashing you to buy the lastest peice of consumer tat that you dont realy need and come allmost certainly do without, no more mindless soap operas full of unreal people living their sad and pointless lives, no more rigged quiz shows and phone ins. giving up on TV gives some much time back to one to do so much better things like be with family, friends, study, keep fit, getting involved in your local and religious community, read, listen to musicand learn to play music etc etc. I have a mobile phone but it is a basic no frills, no camera, no downloadable ringtones, no built in MP3 player just make and recieve calls and test. the same with all the other technology that we are continuously brainwashed into buyingwith all the effects on the enviorment that it's manufacture and transportation has do you really need that nice new phone, plasma large screen TV, new comuter etc that you are continiously being brainwashed into buying or can you make do with the existing technology that you own. A classic example is satnav cant people learn how to map read anymore. Yes the mobile phone and TVis an example of what is wrong with today's lifestyle.


I think the use of the term slave implies that we are unwilling and helpless in our use of something. But this is clearly not the case, as anyone can choose to not have a cell phone or laptop with them. Our society is perhaps overreliant on technology, but it is not bound to it. You exaggerate the extent of this condition.

annie thinks

cell phones are the contributing reasons for the death of bees... If bees die...humans lose a natural source of food.


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