Collaborative Op-Ed: Let’s take back our democracy and reclaim the American Dream

Collaborative Op-Ed, written with John Flynn and placed in the Mail Tribune. This  focuses on simple yet powerful things we can do now to address the issues that have motivated Occupy Wall Street and caused financial, social and environmental distress across the nation. We face challenges but also many opportunities to makes changes in our lives that will add up to real change if made collectively. So, get marching and share this with friends, too

Let’s take back our democracy and reclaim the American Dream

October 25, 2011

By John Flynn and Melissa Schweisguth

Occupy Wall Street has taken hold across America, from New York to the Rogue Valley. This diverse grassroots movement is demanding an end to the “monied corruption of democracy” that has put Americans, our economy and the planet in dire straits.

Some may not grasp its meaning and dismiss it, since the complexity of the underlying issues manifests itself through diverse forms and opinions. Others might feel it’s too removed from our daily lives or formidable to address.

Yet, Wall Street and other corporate influences have entrenched themselves our lives and communities, leaving us with the short end of the stick. Thankfully, there are lots of simple, yet powerful ways we can — and must — act to ensure we can achieve the American Dream of building a more equitable, prosperous and viable future and maintain a true democracy of the people, for the people and by the people.

Complacency enables injustice. Action creates jobs, boosts our economy, builds community, saves money, helps the planet and empowers us.

1. Get informed and engage in independent and community-owned media, and occupywallstreet.org.

2. Attend local events supporting Occupy Wall Street to learn, connect and make our voices heard.

3. Get active in politics to reduce corporate influence. Let elected officials know our thoughts on current issues, volunteer on campaigns and run for office.

4. Move our money and credit cards to locally owned and operated banks. Statistics show locally owned banks invest more in their communities and small businesses than corporate banks. The Rogue Valley has several such institutions. Rogue Federal Credit Union also offers its own credit card.

5. Shift investments to responsible options, including socially responsible funds, community development funds, social finance and independent businesses (for more information, see greenamerica.org).

6. Share our skills and surplus, and trade, barter and buy used for things we need. Check out the Southern Oregon Time Bank, second-hand stores and craigslist.

7. Choose locally produced items and services from independent local businesses to keep our money, jobs and hard-working neighbors in our community. For nonlocal goods, choose items made by independent, responsible businesses, including co-ops, union shops, Green America members and organic and fair-trade producers. Food is an easy and powerful way to start since we all eat, our area has lots of family farmers, and the Growers Markets, Rogue Valley Local Foods and Siskiyou Sustainable Co-op accept SNAP/Oregon Trail. With our valley’s population, Growers Market vendors should end the day with empty tables instead of taking half their produce back to their farms. (Info: thriveoregon.org)

Now is the time to build the future we want. Solutions are at hand.

Let’s get marching.

John Flynn is an Ashlander and returned Peace Corps Volunteer currently working in Mongolia on human rights protection and promotion of democratic governance.

Melissa Schweisguth of Ashland has been working to advance social, environmental and economic responsibility among consumers and businesses through nonprofit and business roles.

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