The Sanders revolution isn't about a politician from Vermont running for president
It was eleven PM, Castillo Blanco Art Gallery. Bernie fever had taken hold of New Orleans. Attending a Bernie Sanders fundraiser can be unpredictable, especially after drinking three Bloody Mary’s and a Red Stripe. This was only the beginning, though. The air was cool, the crowd steaming. Excitement was abound.
Though Bernie wasn’t there in the flesh, it seemed he was anyway. He was around every corner, gaining applause and cheers. There was immediate excitement, interest. There was no legacy to defend,
Local bands were playing, and it seemed the crowd slowly grew bigger than the hall. Walking in, you are greeted by a woman with green hair who smiles and asks for a donation. I donated 10 dollars. The one question that left my lips was, “Why Bernie?” She smiled and replied “You’ll find out.”
Such a vague statement, ripe and full of conspiracy. Most people in the crowd were young, America’s most underrated and misunderstood generation. The second band to play began with a tribute to Bernie, a spoken word homage that could only be described as an emotional appeal to a social revolution.
“Why do you support Bernie?” the speaker asked the crowd. “What does Bernie mean to you?” A series of words sprang forward; real change, revolution, opportunity, breaking the system, rebirth of the dream.
Rebirth? This would imply the American Dream has died, and that these enthusiastic rebels had witnessed its funeral. A question came to mind, the one that everyone in the hall had perhaps asked themselves at one point; “Where is our American Dream?”
Where, indeed. Perhaps the American Dream was as drunk and high as I was, sitting on a stool near the snack table, wearing a red-flower shirt and an Old Glory visor-cap. Perhaps the Dream became a cynic, and took up smoking, looking for cheap dates and encountering cockeyed drunkards itching for a fight.
Perhaps the Dream one day had its last drink, and slowly was pummeled to death by the smiling suits that walk around the Central Business District, the blood brothers of the suits on Wall Street. One issue was certain to the crowd of the Castillo Blanco; the dream had died.
What is the American dream in this millennial generation? Has anyone seen it? A job that can pay your bills, a stable and affordable home, benefits one can retire on, college that doesn’t sink one in debt. Why does the establishment plague us with so many false hopes of a dream that may no longer exist?
If the Dream had died, then what would this crowd of activists, hipsters, and average persons do to revive it? How could a small concert have anything to do with bringing back the dream long since beaten down by our corporate overlords? Then it became clear why.
This movement, this revival, was never meant to be traditional. This was never meant to follow a pattern. It was also more than just about collecting votes. Any politician can collect a vote. Yet, it takes a special figure in history to make someone fight for a cultural revolution. In essence, that’s what is happening.
“What makes Bernie different?” A speaker asked to the crowd during a music intermission. “We’ve heard it before.” Yes, we have. Hope, change, get out the vote. What was left from that? Have we changed so drastically since 2008? The machine in Washington still churns. What makes Bernie different? We make Bernie different.
Cliche, it seems. Why trust another politician? Is Bernie the same as Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama? Is it just another promise that can’t be fulfilled? Is another Trojan Horse destined to arise? Perhaps, but the energy is where this makes its case.
What will make the Sanders revolution true and impacting is the engagement of those who cherish his ideals. Across the nation, urban and rural, red state and blue, from the town halls of Iowa to the small art gallery called Castillo Blanco in New Orleans, Bernie’s revolutionaries strive not to repeat past mistakes.
The mistake not to be repeated is voting, and disengaging. Voters cannot expect a revolution to win without constant action to protect it. This is more than just making phone calls, voter drives, and lip service voting. Energy is what’s key. Belief in this energy is also important. There is a progressive wave sweeping the nation, bottled up by years of corporate sonnets and musty smiles. In order to ride the wave, one has to mount the board.
The last act performed, time was irrelevant at that point. I met the green-haired woman again, and we smiled. I asked her what her definition of this movement was. The question still lingered, “Why Bernie?”
“He has always been a fighter. He has the only record that proves his commitment to different America, one that returns to its core purpose. Workers have been shafted and spit on. Minorities beaten and jailed for sport. Corporate America has become our source of belief and information. Everything has become about making a dollar, which only the wealthiest can spend. Bernie has fought every day of his political life to stop this. But, that’s not the reason we were here tonight.”
Naturally, I was confused. “Then why?”
“Because we make this movement. Bernie is only a standard-barer. We are the movement, we are the reason this event took place. This isn’t about political debate, it’s about changing the debate. We are changing the landscape, and Bernie is only a piece of this change. We don’t stand with Bernie. Bernie stands with us.”
Why Bernie? A great question, answered in such a way that I had no reply. I thanked her for helping organize the show and fundraiser, and wished her goodnight. It is clear now, that this movement isn’t about Bernie. Bernie is only a figure, a metaphor for something greater. The people have created this wave, and only the people can ride this great wave to victory. Bernie cannot sustain anything without us, the forgotten and disinherited.
Why Bernie? Perhaps the question should be; Why the People?