The impetus for this article emerged from an online discussion among Section IX board members in the spring of 2013 about new projects we might undertake. As many of us sprang forth with ideas for new initiatives, others gave voice to a feeling of demoralization and withdrawal from activism. A thoughtful exchange ensued about the possible sources of this disengagement. For some the reason was local, and specific. One of us who had worked doggedly and so far unsuccessfully over five years to get the APA to implement the requirement of the referendum that directed the removal of psychologists from military interrogation sites was understandably burnt out from this effort. On reflection Steve linked his own demoralization to the apparent demise of the Occupy movement. Never in his lifetime had he participated in something that had felt so potentially world-changing, and it had largely sputtered out. It struck him that all who had involved themselves in or simply observed Occupy with a sense of hope must be affected in some way by the passing of a galvanizing political moment.
Following on this discussion Rachael suggested we speak to people currently involved in projects connected to Occupy. Steve knew such projects existed, and had involved himself in one (a petition drive to advance a bill to create single-payer health care in NY state). We thought the idea of interviewing current activists could be a good way to study how people who had retained more stamina for activism had sustained themselves after the broad public movement that was Occupy faded from the headlines. In Steve’s case, he thought it might also help him explore his current feeling of disengagement from politics.
Rachael was reminded of times in the past when hearing or reading about the reflections of activist heroes offered her renewed hope and inspiration. She considered how over the years she has come to rely on certain essays and interviews when feeling demoralized and in need of a boost of hope.
We decided we would interview an activist on each coast to hear how they keep putting one foot in front of the other. The following are the results of those conversations.