Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices



    I remember the day the war started. Though remember, it wasn't a war, but a peacekeeping mission called Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was 20 when it began and today I am 28. When it began I remember the fear that gripped me after two years of turmoil it felt like another reason for Them to come after us and with each 'Breaking News' flash across the television screen my insides churned waiting for the next big thing. If I felt that way with such strong and visceral reactions to bring myself to think about how the parents of those overseas have dealt with each insurgent attack and IED explosion. I'm shaking my head: How do you do it? How did they do it?

    War became the new normal. The Mission Accomplished banner was bullshit and the finding of Sadam the most memorable. Found in a hole a former dictator thankfully knocked out at the knees. And knowing all these years later that there were never weapons of mass destruction. What was real and what wasn't is something that will continue to be debated for years to come and while we can be sure of how it ended it is the beginning that gives me chills. But today it is over. Secretary Panetta declared it so and the last troops moved across the border into Kuwait.

    (Photo via @richardengelnbc)

    It's over. There's no elation just somber and continuous reflection. How do you feel?

    The One With Jim Messina 

    If presented with the opportunity to ask Jim Messina - The Jim Messina. He of the 'Michelle Obama wants to meet you but only if you give $3' emails - a question then you should take it. With great trepidation of course and a shaky voice because clearly you are not worthy enough to be in such a situation where Jim Messina wants to know your thoughts. It took a few minutes (and tweets) but he kept mentioning the need for the "base". The base vote is key in most any race. It's that group of voters on whom a candidate can always rally. On the right it might be NRA members, pro-lifers and Evangelical Christians in the Bible Belt. On the left it's minorities, young people and women. Though there are no absolutes when it comes to a bloc of voters and to think such would mean writing your candidate's concession speech, this is more of a trend over the years that leads a group to be referred to as the base. As such, when Jim mentioned the Obama 2012 campaign needing their base I thought "Swell!" "Great!". Afterward questions came but mostly from people of a certain age who wanted to know about intricate messaging thus leaving me wanting more.

    In 2008 Obama for America was engaged. Excited. But where has that gone over the last three years. Once upon a time people were crying while watching the President give a stump speech. There was that rapt attention and thrill of breathing the same air as Barack Obama. Though I might still pass out at the thought of just being in his presence my peers are less than interested. That campaign was pure magic which has nothing to do with policy or politics but with its ability to make people feel as if they were special and this person running for the highest office in the world could reach out and touch a voter just by opening his mouth.

    During the 2010 midterm election my then 23 year old brother point blank said that he didn't care. He was apathetic to all that was going on. So while I did labor walks and pulled my hair out over voter mobilization and voter turn out he just shrugged. His excitement was long gone and as he would later say; "There was nothing there for me…they are not speaking to me". Of course he was neither the first or the last young black male to stop caring but because he was my brother - MINE - I had to wonder and know what had happened.

    So when it was my turn to ask Jim Messina a question, I did so with a tremble in my voice knowing full well that though I wasn't speaking for every other 40+ in the room I had to question this current campaign and how to get back those that buoyed them to success: "You have mentioned the base and the importance of the base vote but as a black woman under 30 clearly I am engaged…I am here, in this room…but what about others? What is the plan to get them engaged about this race? Because I can tell you right now that when I talk to them about the payroll tax extension their eyes glaze over."

    There were nods in the audience especially from those under the age of 30 where gave me a 'right on!' Another friend was just happy that I framed it around the payroll tax extension but it's the truth. Do you want to know the best way to turn off a group of 20-somethings? Talk about Social Security. That shit is better than Ambien.

    Messina acknowledged my need desperation for something from the campaign that would get people on their feet. There would be something coming in the New Year for the groups described and the kicker? If I didn't like what I saw? Then I should call him.


    Just let that sink in for a minute.

    The thing is that I would totally call up Jim Messina and tell him that my friends ain't buying what he's selling. I want them to win and I have very small doubt that with the current field of GOP contenders that they could win but right now I continue to scratch my head and ask what I think are the most obvious questions: What about your people? The ones who wanted your win at the beginning and those you have since left behind. You cannot get us - the collective young, black and female 'us' - on board with promises to veto any bill that includes the Keystone pipeline. Debt ceiling talk isn't a turn on and we only care about the Euro when it comes to traipsing around Europe on our parent's dime.

    And so, to Jim Messina I say this: Find us. We're out there. Seek us out. Use us. If a young black female wants to advocate for you; HELP HER. Talk to her. Listen to her. It will be worth it in the end.


    Since the beginning of the Occupy Movement I have struggled to come up with the correct words to explain my admittedly mixed feelings. As a progressive - a rather vocal one at that - there was a part of me who felt the need to throw myself into all of it: The rallying, the human microphone, the act of occupying. "Will I be considered a 'bad' liberal?" I wondered. Though I realized that while income inequality is a very real thing I was uncomfortable with going into the fray with aplomb. The answer I arrived at was no. But let's go back to the start.

    I watched via LiveStream as protesters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge two months ago. How magnificent to see thousands to linked in solidarity against something that has been plaguing at least 12.6% of the population for years. That population being blacks in America. I'd be remiss not to mention the obvious truth that blacks have been facing disproportionate income inequality for far too long but many have become resigned to the fact that this is their lot in this American life. But something big was happening and to finally see people gripped with enough anger to move them towards something; to see the passion that these people held on their quest for regaining the necessities and their place within the middle class was truly amazing. College students saddled with thousands in student loans now forced to live with their parents. Or the recently laid off man with the family of four now forced to stare at bills wondering if he can provide both food and a roof over his families head. This is what people have been and now in record numbers have been facing and it is not what had been aspired to.


    Of course there is a 'but' coming in all of this because after the march across the bridge and the tent cities were erected - probably a few weeks into the whole shebang - I could only scratch my head and think "Now what?" There were the encampments and the eventual police brutality that was unnecessary and yet…and I sigh deeply before saying such a thing…the act of police officers being terrible to citizens who are not breaking the law is another one of those things that the African American community has faced for years. But are my feelings on the Occupy movement predicated on the sudden inequities that non-blacks suddenly find themselves up against?

    Yes and No. Yes, because as I wanted to scream from the rooftops THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR YEARS. THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN INCOME INEQUALITY AND NOW YOU GET TO EXPERIENCE IT FIRST HAND. On the other hand as a single person with a good job with a great salary and benefits to boot, the mere thought of losing my job makes my stomach churn. And having the bottom fall from under someone with no way back to the surface because it's happening to most anyone and everyone, is not something that I would wish upon my worst enemy. But what it really comes down to is what can be done about a now systemic problem? Is taking over parks and bridges and public spaces worth it? Though it does bring attention to the cause and a need for change what are the tangible benefits?

    It's something that the Tea Party - and my apologies for invoking them - got right. The were able not only to rally and to bring attention to their cause which was also fueled by anger but then they were able to find people to take their cause beyond mocking and into the halls of congress. That is what the Occupy movement is severely lacking; leadership and the inability to truly be taken seriously. I, while in full agreement with why they were out there and the need to show all Americans the plight of so many, often looked at the tent cities with a bit of disdain. While I remained glad that people were taking note by the second month I wanted to say; you have our attention now move onwards, forward, upward. It's devastating to see that this is what this country has come to but it's even more telling to see throngs of people camping out and not doing much more to change their situation.

    I have always believed that 'If you aren't angry then you aren't paying attention'. People should always be angry and question because that is what democracy is. I also believe that you can flaunt your first amendment rights until the cows come home and more power to you. But…BUT…it won't be worth a damn if there is no follow through. Those chants, the general assemblies the arrests - the entire country and the world have been watching and now we are watching this movement slowly dwindle into nothing but an Internet meme. The 99% is far greater in number than the 1%. Without us the 1% would be at a loss without people to serve. Fuck occupying a park in upstate New York - where, let's face it, it's freezing - and take your message, your people, your cares and that energy to the polls. The Tea Party did and the 99% will never survive if we do not do the same.