October 12th, 2011 | Posted by: Chris Stedman
This piece, published yesterday at the Huffington Post Religion, was written on Sunday. Monday night, I went back to Occupy Boston as a Humanist with the Protest Chaplains, to serve as a witness and ensure that people stayed safe. Unfortunately, 141 people people were arrested—including members of “Veterans for Peace”—and officers used unnecessary force. The violence I witnessed is not a part of my vision for America, and underscores to me the fierce urgency of coming together in cooperation and understanding.
When I was in high school, civil disobedience excited me. I participated in a school walkout in protest of the Iraq War, staged a demonstration outside of a conference for anti-gay “reparative therapy,” and regularly got together with friends to make T-shirts boasting our political positions. Though the underlying political motives behind these actions were sincere, I recognize in hindsight that a big part of why I was drawn to such activism was that it hinged on solidarity and cooperation.
I was reminded of these efforts this weekend, when I decided to take my Saturday night off to check out the Occupy America (a national movement born out of Occupy Wall Street in New York City) effort in my city.
I decided to go because I have been tracking it online for some time, and many of my friends and peers have been involved from the beginning. While the participants I encountered on Saturday ranged in ages, Occupy America has frequently been referred to as a “youth-driven” movement, and the statement isn’t without merit. Though participation has been and continues to be intergenerational, there seems to be a particularly strong representation from young people.
As a 24-year-old, I’m part of the Millennial Generation – the generation following Generation Y, born in the 1980s and 1990s. We’re a generation that, according to studies by Pew and others, is supposed to be unconcerned and unengaged with the political process. Yet we defied such classification by coming out in droves for the 2008 Presidential election, and I believe that the Occupy America movement is demonstrating once more that we can surprise prognosticators and muster up unanticipated energy and organization to mobilize for social change.
Still, we remain a generation that is, in some ways, defined by apathy. This is perhaps no more obvious than it is in Millennials’ relationship with religion.