Citizen Action

Empowerment vs. Power: The Outcome Will Determine America’s Fate


By Mark L. Taylor

Daily Call (1/1/12)


With passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) congress  embodied the latest in the battle between American power and empowerment. The escalating struggle between the absolute power of the state and empowerment of individual citizens to have a say in their government is the question of our time; its outcome will soon determine the future for all Americans.

In what should otherwise have been a routine bit of war funding, several bipartisan sections (1031-1033) of the Subtitle D of the NDAA congress waterboarded legal safeguards guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments to the United States constitution by extending military “battlefield” justice to the American “homeland” in cases related to terrorism – or the suspicion of terrorism.

To be clear: you wouldn’t have to have actually been engaged in a terrorist plot or act; providing any kind of support, like an unwitting charity donation - perhaps just speech - could be enough to land you permanently in a military brig with no right of appeal.

Despite a manly pledge from Barack Obama to veto the NDAA, he ended 2011 with a New Years Eve collapse by attaching his signature and reputation to this teasonous bit of legislation, completing his third year of wimpy capitulation to and collusion with the most sinister political forces in America.

The important thing to understand is that when it comes to anything related to terrorism – however they choose to define that term – military justice will now be the mandated automatic default for citizen and foreigner alike.

The scope of this exercise of power is stunning. The concept of habeas corpus, a central pillar of western jurisprudence going back to the 1200’s, is dismissed.  Just like the autumn images of pepper spraying police beating down Occupy Wall Street protesters, the NDAA exemplifies the rising fist of corporate state power.


Power to the Few

At the same time the Supreme Court grants corporations the power and rights of personhood through its infamous Citizen United ruling the rights of real flesh-and-blood, breathing human citizens to assemble, protest and speak are hobbled by harassing permit ordinances and police barricades. As corporate power gets the keys to the castle ordinary citizens get the bloodied end of the riot baton.

While First Amendment rights of free speech and protest are seen as too dangerous to be left intact, Second Amendment absolutists succeed at extending the right to carry concealed firearms into practically every nook and cranny of public space. National Rifle Association legislation is now skimming through congress to okay gun permit holders to pack their Glock 9 mm to other states and municipalities, no matter the local laws. In keeping with the trend, the assertion of a powerful privileged few trumps the many, leaving all at risk.


Empowerment Running Up Against Power

While the power of the economy shifts into fewer and fewer hands, the 99% see the security and power of their tiny cup of home equity, savings and retirement funds siphoned away by the corrupt 1%.

Though the final outcome of Occupy Wall Street has yet to be revealed, the powerful 1% understood the movement represented the long overdue empowerment of ordinary citizens. In the space of weeks, the national conversation focused on the crippling impact of 30 years of class warfare on the poor and middle-class by the super wealthy few. Injustice became clear; people were talking about it; marching and protesting. The trance was broken as the shimmering curtains that had hidden the reality of the casino our economy had become were pulled down.

That simply could not be permitted to stand.

What we saw this fall at Zucottii Park, Oakland, Portland, Atlanta, Madison and hundreds of other cities across the nation was empowerment running up against power. When the power struck back it came in the form of pepper spray and night sticks, rampaging lines of cops and plastic cuffs biting into the wrists of peaceful citizen patriots.


True empowerment –

Of all the autumn images of state power determined to smother empowerment the video of the University of California – Davis police officer so casually pepper spraying a line of peacefully seated students was most emblematic. The casual ordinariness of the abuse epitomized American power and hubris come home to roost.

What happened next was empowerment.

With a steady chorus of “Shame on you, Shame on you, Shame on you..” rolling towards the police line from the students like relentless ocean breakers the police hesitated. Confused and tentative they slowly backed away; reaching out to touch each other reassuringly. Their weapons of steel and impact resistant plastic, and the Third Reich modeled helmets and face shields and militaristic black SWAT uniforms were suddenly useless, limp and impotent in the face of a power they - and the powers who sent them on their traitorous mission - can never understand.

A lone student called out to the police to let them know they would be given a “moment of peace” and would not be followed. The students began chanting “You can go, You can go…”.

The police left, their heads down in confusion and relief.

We are in a race folks. No, actually, we are in a battle. It is a battle between power and empowerment. Given the stakes of liberty, human dignity and decency in question, it is one we simply cannot lose. It’s the battle the Germans lost with their government in 1932-33.

There is no way we can match them in power; they have purchased their guns, and flash grenades, and gasses and armored vehicles and sound weapons and helicopters and built their prisons and holding cells with the stolen wealth of this nation.

But, as previous campaigns of non-violent resistance have shown over and over, in the face of citizen empowerment all that power is no match because the power becomes seen for what it is; just power; there is no morality of legitimacy behind it. If all that sounds too fuzzy for you, watch the videos below and say a little prayer of blessing for the deep lessons these young people have courageously offered us.

This is the image from 2011 we need to build from in 2012.


Unique Video of the UC-Davis incident recorded simultaneously from four different perspectives. 10+ Minutes:


  • Here’s what power looks like when it is confronted by genuine empowerment - UC-Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi walks to her car while throngs of students and protesters stand by in complete silence. This has been dubbed the “Walk of Shame Video” on the internet - and so it is. Eerily, not a word or sound is uttered by the silent mass of demonstrators during the entire two-minute walk. Though she is still the UC-Davis chancellor, it really means nothing; her tenure is now an empty charade, for whatever legitimacy she once had has evaporated like stinky cigarette smoke. 3-minute Video:

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