“We have a choice between democracy and empire,” intoned the white garbed writer, a veteran of the anti-imperialist movement that opposed US intervention in the Philippines at the close of the 19th century. Whether those gathered knew the story or not, Twain’s point was lost on no one. Having just completed John Sayles’ massive novel, A Moment in the Sun, set in 1898, I knew what the writer meant when he said, “in our name they are torturing people.”
Twain was portrayed by Ed Helm, a one-time Capitol Hill staffer who has dabbled in other forms of politics in recent years. Ed is now producing a series of TV programs dealing with the current empire and the fiscal excess which fuels it.
Sunday the scene shifted to Newmarket, where about a hundred people met at the Stone Church to hear from Occupy members and discuss issues including economic and labor conditions, drone warfare, education policy, and nuclear power.
The program included a panel with five occupiers sharing their varied experience and perspectives. Michael Joseph, a late-50s teacher, spoke about the correlation between runaway corporations and declining labor standards. “Occupy groups everywhere, employers with a conscience, and self-employed must understand and support the revitalization of the traditional labor movement,” he said.
Shannon Thompson and Matt Richards, both a lot younger, were less specific in their analysis but every bit as passionate in their commitment. For Shannon, the Occupy movement is “humanity’s chance to prove itself.” Matt, who grew up in a Manchester working class family, said he “wanted to get together with people in my community to see what we can do.”
Cacilia Svenbye, a veteran of the movement that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos from the Philippines, said she found “the same shit” when she migrated to the USA. Since then, she’d been waiting 18 years for the people to rise up. Like Matt, Cacilia was one of 5 people arrested at Veterans Park for disobeying city curfew regulations.
And Theresa Earle, who is in the process of moving to New Hampshire, described herself as a nerd with no activist experience who was among the initiators of Occupy Boston. “People want their voices heard,” she said, a pretty basic expression of what the Occupy movement is all about.
Shannon says Occupy is a “movement of mass education.” In that spirit, I suppose, I gave a short presentation at Veterans Park on Saturday about the Clamshell Alliance, which occupied the construction site of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in the late 1970s. And on Sunday I led a short workshop about active nonviolence.