Where to Find America's True Democratic Spirit

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Mark Naison is a Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham's Urban Studies Program. He is the author of three books and over 100 articles on African-American History, urban history, and the history of sports. His most recent book, "White Boy: A Memoir," was published in the spring of 2002.

Urban farm in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Wikipedia.

This fall, you won’t find the old democratic spirit in the activities of either major political party, each, in its own way in the thrall of Big Corporations and Big Money.

But that spirit is alive throughout the country, on the ground, among people possessing a wide variety of experiences and political views.

You can find it among housing activists and occupiers around the nation who are fighting evictions and foreclosures, organizing rent strikes, putting homeless families in some of the huge numbers of abandoned commercial and residential buildings that can be found all over the country, and forming residential communes and cooperatives among the growing number of Americans who can’t find decent-paying work.

You can find it among the young Ron Paul supporters who are continuing their fight to reform draconian drug laws, shrink the prison-industrial complex, defend civil liberties, reduce the U.S. military presence abroad and expose the sweetheart relationship between government regulators and financial industries.

You can find it among teacher activists around the nation, and their parent allies, who are fighting the takeover of the nation’s public schools by profit-making entities and the imposition of a test-obsessed approach to learning that stifles student creativity and threatens their health and well-being by crowding out recess, play, regular exercise, sports, and the arts.

You can find it in the food activists around the nation who are fighting the proliferation of genetically-engineered crops and creating their own grass roots experiments in the production of healthy food -- not only in the nation’s rural areas, but in cities where disinvestment and the current economic crisis have left us with large stretches of abandoned land which can easily be transformed into gardens and farms.

You can find it in community groups and civil rights organizations around the nation which are challenging racial profiling, stop and frisk, and at times, the use of deadly force by law enforcement to keep young people of color intimidated and unable to move freely throughout the towns and cities where they live.

You can find it people of every ethnic group and political persuasion who are doubling and tripling up in houses and apartments none of them can afford individually, who take in relatives and friends who have become homeless and/or unemployed, and whose generosity eases the effect of an economic crisis that has been far more devastating in its impact on many Americans that our political leaders and commercial media have been willing to say.

You can find it among women fighting attacks on reproductive rights, defending organization's promoting women's sexual health, challenging violence against women in the media and real life, and creating new forms of women's media and cultural expression that assure that women's voices will not be marginalized.

You can find it in young people who are developing innovative barter systems for everything ranging from housing to food to child care to transportation to information technology and home repair services, circumventing a cash economy in a society where more and more people have found themselves cash poor.

These signs of popular initiative are all around us, if we care to look.

They are the real hope of the future in a country where the mainstream economic and political systems have been rendered stagnant by a concentration of wealth at the top that exceeds anything we have seen in this country for more than eighty years.

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