In leading a discussion about what’s going on in Kiev in my photojournalism class this week I posed the question, why don’t Americans revolt? Lots of shrugging and then a few answers that mirrored Robert Reich’s analysis on this concept.
In a post on his Facebook page he talks about three reasons; we’re afraid of rocking the boat and losing what precious employment we have; the traditional revolutionaries – college students – are so in debt and face such meager career opportunities that they don’t want to rock the boat; and that so many have become so jaded about government that they believe reform is no longer possible.
I offered that we’re just too fat and lazy, that despite the incompetencies and corruption on federal and state levels we’re still not moved to action because there’s little if any correlation between branches of government and our ability to be immediately gratified on any level. Then a student chimed in saying this country doesn’t have a history of revolution, to which I brought up that little Revolutionary War which was quickly dismissed that this conflict was against another country. While I was trying to maintain my decorum, the student went on to say that in America, if you don’t like what’s going on in your state, you can just move to another – like gay marriage; if your state doesn’t have gay marriage, move to one that does.
I’ve simmered over that comment, sorry that I didn’t call that out at the time, a teaching moment lost. That’s why I’m writing now.
As teaching fate often allows, I was using the current conflict in Cairo as an artifact to illustrate social media’s role in civil revolution for my social media class. I screened the documentary, The Square (what should be required viewing for any college student), and was bonked over the head with the answer to the love-it-or-leave-it premise so easily exercised here. Don’t like the incineration of biohazard material in your neighborhood? Move. Don’t like the liquor laws? Move. Want to be legally married? Move. At least we have the freedom to do so. God bless America.
Don’t like interrogation? Don’t like torture? Don’t like being silenced? Egyptians revolt because they don’t want to leave their homeland, they want the right of democracy.
Perhaps that’s it. We’ve lost the stake of homeland. We see relocating as a privilege instead of staying and fighting for what previous generations have established as legacy; the land, the culture, the sociality of living in our homeland. Instead we default to that ethnocentric indignancy, offended at the thought that another citizen has lost their appreciation for where they live because just by their geography, they are denied inalienable rights.