Occupy Radio co-host Rivera Sun reflects on interviewing fugitive philosopher Katherine Ann Power
In the late 1960’s, Katherine Ann Power engaged in an armed robbery to finance a revolutionary movement to overthrow the US Government. While leaving the bank, one of the men in her group shot and killed a police officer, Walter Schroeder. Katherine fled and lived as a fugitive on the FBI Most Wanted List for twenty-three years.
She was born the same year as my father.
When Katherine Power was a child, the “Green Revolution” connoted pesticides, not solar panels. Science was busily breaking the world down into little parts. Neil Armstrong hadn’t even dreamed of walking on the moon. My father, who would one day grow up to be a Vietnam War resister and a civil rights marcher, was taking his first toddling steps around the newly subdivided Levittown (the prototype of suburbia) on Long Island.
Though I grew up with stories of the 1960’s, the full scope of the times eluded me until speaking with Katherine for our Occupy Radio show. “There was a bombing somewhere in the US every day,” she said. “Kissinger later stated that the country was on the verge of civil war. Revolution was on the table.”
These perspectives weren’t taught to me in public school . . . and we were growing up in a very different world. “Ecosystem” was the new buzzword at elementary school. Acid rain was falling. Global warming arrived like the new kid on the block. The Internet was a tech whiz’s wet dream while most of my contemporaries moaned over the crashes of gold and black screens. We shared email accounts with our reluctant parents.
Hurtle forward one more generation to Katherine Power’s grandchildren, the children of today. Their parents text message as they drive, navigating by the voice commands of the dashboard GPS while a podcast warns them that climate change caused by carbon emissions will wipe out the forests of the Southwest and Pacific Northwest before their kids finishing paying back their college tuitions.
Katherine says that the scientists of her time claimed to have an answer for everything. The scientists today can’t get a word in edgewise as corporate mouthpieces insist that climate change isn’t real or it isn’t caused by fossil fuels, or even if it was, it’s too late now, there’s nothing we can do, and these are just the End Times prophesized in the Apocalypse.
When I was thirteen years old, my parents bought land in Northern Maine, including a half-acre on the St. John River, bordering Canada. “You could walk across,” my father muttered. I rolled my eyes in teenage scorn, thinking he was referring to the shallowness of the water. Of course you could walk across . . . but why would anyone want to?
I am thirty-one years old now. The NSA has records of the phone calls of my entire adult life. The Supreme Court – not the people, not the Electoral College – appointed Bush, Jr. in my first presidential election. There has been a major catastrophic oil spill every five to ten years of my life. I watched the North Pole melt and the island nation of the Maldives submerge. I heard former President Jimmy Carter state “America does not have a functioning democracy at this point in time.” Governments are not just speeches and white-toothed waving politicians. Governments wage wars for profit, persecute truth speakers and whistleblowers, ignore the outcry of the people, corrupt justice, and destroy those who oppose them.
I understand now why the ability to walk to another country might be a useful thing.
Revolution is on the table, once again. It is being discussed with increasing seriousness as our representative republic fails to adequately meet the populace’s needs. As poverty and unemployment rise, so do the voices arguing about the most successful strategies for evicting corruption from the seats of power. As corporations spend billions on elections, grooming candidates in a mockery of democracy, the words “direct”, “participatory”, and “people’s” democracies are being kicked around.
One significant change has swept our society since the 1960’s. Blame it on elementary school explanations of ecosystems, or a planet writhing in climate change before our very eyes, or perhaps even the rise of Wikipedia, a living encyclopedia maintained by people . . . but the world looks different to us now. When my father and Katherine were children, the universe was explained like giant clockworks. Scientists were dissecting it to see what made it ticked. Now, millions of people understand that it is the relationships of a highly interconnected web is what makes this world whirl round. Reductionism will never add up into an explanation for a living system that is constantly changing.
We understand that robbing a bank or assassinating a single leader will not catalyze the massive social and political change we know is necessary. Our efforts must be myriad, multi-nodal, legion, and pervasive. We must relinquish guns and reach out our hands to one another. We know there are really no borders to flee across. Our global problems require global struggles. There is nowhere safe to hide. Our own towns and communities are now the front line of the struggle.
Katherine Ann Power’s life journey brought her through extremism, violence, fleeing, hiding, surrender, conviction, imprisonment, and release. The most remarkable part of her journey is that she has not lost hope. She has grown wiser through her life, learning to look deeply into the causes and conditions of destruction and suffering. She and her contemporaries have much to offer all of us struggling for social change at this time: experience, wisdom, and most of all perspective.
“Change cannot be forced,” Katherine says.
In the quiet space between the words, I hear her say, I know, I’ve tried.
Change is a dance we can all join hands in. It cannot be forced, but we can work together to put something beautiful in motion.
Author/Actress Rivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to cohosting Occupy Radio, Rivera is also the author of the novel The Dandelion Insurrection, nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars.
Listen to Occupy Radio: Fugitive Philosopher: Katherine Ann Power