Eleven score and three years ago 55 delegates -- mostly lawyers, merchants, planters and slaveowners, representing their personal and regional interests, but calling themselves “We, the people of the United States” -- met in the State House in Philadelphia (where the Declaration of Independence had been signed 11 years earlier) to write the Constitution for the new U.S. government.
Over the intervening years Americans of many different political persuasions have questioned whether these Founding Fathers should be revered as great sages. But as we enter the 21st century and the age of globalization, it is widely recognized that the representative democracy they devised in the 18th century falls far short of the governance we need. Not only is it unable to regulate derivatives on Wall Street and reduce foreclosures and unemployment lines on Main Street. It is proving itself powerless to save life on Earth from extinction by global warming. Before the eyes of the world it is demonstrating its impotence in the Gulf of Mexico and in the mountains of Afghanistan.
That is why a few weeks ago, for five days from June 22-26, tens of thousands of Americans, youngsters and oldsters, the descendants of slaves and of slaveowners, of Natives, settlers and immigrants – European , African, Hispanic, Asian, Arab - came together at the 2nd USSF in Detroit to declare that Another World is Possible! Another U.S. is Necessary and Another Detroit is Happening.
We/They gathered to witness History and to make History. We/They participated in over a thousand workshops, organized by hundreds of grassroots groups from all over the country. Just glancing at the titles of some of these workshops gives a sense of how profoundly the world has changed and why so many thousands of Americans are seizing this time of crisis to exercise the power within ourselves to create our country anew, building boldly but thoughtfully on new, more democratic and more humanizing values of Cooperation, Community, Participation and Carin.
For example, The Crisis and Opportunity for Cooperative Finance and Credit Unions; Faith, Labor and Community Alliances; Toward New Freshwater Action and Community-led Water Management; Protecting Community Rights and Resources, Community Bike Coops, Direct Action Strategies for Climate Justice and Community Resilience; Shaping, Building and Moving beyond War to Meeting Human Needs andAspirations, Participatory Democracy and Organizing the Commons; Food Sovereignty: a Building Block for Peopleís Sovereignty; Depletion and abundance: Living abundantly with less impact on our Earth, Learning from the Four Directions: Decolonizing your Mind; Training Doctors of Science and Conscience; Using Hip Hop to Promote Higher Education; Alternative Media: Zine Power; Education for Emancipation and Transformation; Green Jobs from the Bottom Up; Growing a Gift economy: Seeding an Economy o f Generosity and Caring; Participatory Budgeting; Weaving Urban Fabrics: Spaces and Strategies for Building Social Justice Networks in the City; NOWTOPIA: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists and Vacant Lot Gardeners are Inventing the Future Today; We/ Theywere inspired by the multi-generational and multicultural diversity, the mutually respectful dialogues, the thoughtful conversations, the poetry, the songs, the music and the dancing.
We/They were encouraged by the truly popular democratic 21st century movement now emerging in many different parts of our country from the ground up.
We/They are grateful to the people of Detroit not only for their hospitality but for their refusal to be driven to despair by the devastation of de- industrialization. Witnessing the resilience with which they have made a way out of no way, planting community gardens to grow their own food and waging campaigns to bring the neighbor back into the hood, to turn war zones into peace zones and to create a City of Hope, our faith in our own selves was renewed.
We/They thank the Detroit planning committee and anchor organizations for the patient and endless work, and the many skills and cooperative spirit without which this huge and historic gathering could never have been organized.