04/30/2012 11:45 am ET Updated Jun 30, 2012

We, the Shareholders (Not the People)

We are no longer citizens participating in a democracy. We are shareholders attending a meeting of a large, corrupt corporation. Call it Americorp.

As shareholders, we sit face-forward, quietly, while the CEO, or president, makes his presentation, glossing over balance sheets and quarterly earnings, assuring us that the company is moving in the right track. The board of directors, or Congress, sometimes keeps the CEO in check and overrules him, but for the most part, their agenda is the same as the president's agenda -- preserving the status quo.

The shareholders at the meeting get ballots, though each ballot item has the opinion of the CEO and board under it. They're told by the board to vote a certain way, based on the opinion of the executives. The shareholders have a voice at the end of the meeting, but for the most part, the CEO and board will do whatever they want. If the shareholders should speak out of turn or protest inside of the shareholder meeting, the CEO will wait politely while dissidents are swiftly escorted out by police.

The founders never intended for the people to be obedient subjects or quiet shareholders. We were meant to be citizens. And as U.S. citizens, we have rights granted to us by the U.S. Constitution, which are irreplaceable, unbendable, and unchanging. The same George Washington who was inaugurated at Federal Hall in New York would be furious at Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Commissioner Ray Kelly, and the NYPD officers who arrested nonviolent protesters expressing their constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly on the steps of 26 Wall Street, the memorial of where Washington was inaugurated, and where Bill of Rights was first introduced.

Sleeping on sidewalks as a form of protest was deemed constitutionally-protected speech in a 2000 district court ruling, Metropolitan Council, Inc vs. Safir. But just this week, NYPD arrested citizens exercising that speech, and beat those who resisted. Simultaneously, corporations, or "legal persons," spend unlimited amounts of undisclosed money on political campaigns, and have that deluge of cash protected as free speech under the constitution. In Americorp, corporations are citizens with the right to constitutionally-protected speech. And citizens are shareholders, arrested and taken to jail for daring to speak against their corporate overlords.

Citizens are told every day, by the media owned by the same corporations that own our politicians, that we are divided. Their goal is to segment us into walled-off demographics and pit us against each other -- liberal vs. conservative, public sector vs. private sector, tea party vs. occupy. If they can isolate us even further with individual labeling, they will. College-educated female, Black male under 35, union worker, single parent, etc.

We're told by the politicians we elect to represent us, whose campaigns are financed by the same corporations that own the media, that the government we pay taxes to every year is not to be trusted. That only we know what's best for us, not the government. Such tactics are meant to turn engaged citizens into isolated, apathetic subjects. Democracy becomes a spectator sport, viewed through the lens of the corporate media. Citizens are persuaded to be apathetic, focusing only on their immediate needs and maintaining their income. This allows the board and CEO of Americorp to continue their plundering, free of scrutiny.

Instead of having a wide range of choices for whom we want to represent us, we're only given two. They are presented as having differing philosophies and use different language to create the illusion of diversity, but their campaigns are financed by the same corporate backers that actively use their bottomless funds to practice "free speech." The only role of Americorp shareholders is to vote on which rich guy they'd like to continue the status quo for the next few years.

In a true democracy, our officials are elected by and held accountable to us, the citizen, the highest office in the land. By focusing on the issues that unite instead of divide, and organizing with other citizens who meet on common ground, we can reject the status quo and its servants. Instead of seeing ourselves as Republicans or Democrats, we see ourselves as the 99 percent, united by the crushing inequality, poverty and debt that are by-products of the 1 percent and their policies.

Americorp's executives are dependent on the disinterest and apathy of the shareholders for their continued prosperity. So on May 1, stop being shareholders in Americorp and reclaim your citizenship as Americans. On May 1, stand as one, and exercise the rights we've always had loudly and proudly. Our rulers should remember that their rule is only valid if we consent to it.