The year was 2014. Five years earlier, Gabriel Bell was just another citizen. His name meant nothing to anyone. In fact, you might say that he was anonymous by design. Five years earlier, he had been complicit in a system that preferred to keep the majority of citizens anonymous, enthralled by a handful of inconsequential but very famous names, but anonymous.
Of course, five years earlier, Gabriel Bell was also still alive.
He came upon the movement as a skeptic, as someone who didn't believe it would last, that it meant nothing but the absurd delusions of those who had screwed up their own lives, who were causing a disturbance that would be forgotten quickly, who had devoted themselves to a cause without reason, without resolution, without an ending. It had come several years into a recession, several years after corporate corruption had been exposed, not just corruption in the form of monopolies or crooked bosses, but a systematic corruption that had robbed entire companies of their profits, of their futures, of their intrinsic values, both to themselves and for those they had been intended to service. The exposure of this corruption led to the recession, which led to bailouts, which led to the movement. Those who stood the most the gain gained the most, and those who stood the most to lose kept on losing.
There had been many arguments on these last points. It was argued that more people in this country lived in greater prosperity than ever before, that the standard of living had so drastically risen in recent years, there could be no proper understanding of need. Gabriel had been among those who believed this was true. He had led a mostly comfortable existence. He had never gone hungry. He had always had a roof above his head. The arguments concerning this basic prosperity suggested that physical need was the only thing a person needed to survive. Gabriel had also attended schooling until graduation from college. Daily he was exposed to the highest ideals of humanity. Daily he was exposed to the American Dream, the belief that anyone could become anything. All that was needed was determination.
The movement sparked something within him. Gabriel realized that somewhere along the way, the American Dream had been regulated. It had been systematically isolated to the reach of a select few. Where it had not been deliberately calculated to benefit the already-fortunate, it had then been relegated to those who possessed innate but perfunctory skills; somewhere along the way, the Dream excluded the imagination, choked it out, said that the only thing worth rewarding was the obvious, that no one ever need think again. Somehow, even the midst of a great recession, this belief was tantamount to the vision of the future.
Gabriel considered the movement to be a rejection of this belief. At first, he had no interest in participating. He saw those who represented it, saw how easily they could be interpreted by observers to be easily ignored, just as they were before the movement began, just as so many others who weren't there, but who did represent it, embodied its spirit. He learned of a writer named Jake, who was denied his own dream because it was considered inconvenient, impractical. He learned of a woman named Zinn, rescued by a man named Swift, and neither of them knew what was truly happening to them.
Gabriel began to speak, to become the voice of this movement. This was how he kept tabs on Zinn, on Swift, on Jake. The person in the front doing the talking is not blind. They observe. They know the character of a situation better than anyone. They of all people ought to have perspective. Gabriel fought to keep his.
He saw what Zinn was immediately, someone who had lost their identity, their purpose, who could have been claimed by the first person to come along to try and rescue them. He saw how Swift had approached her from one direction, but had been overcome by Zinn's hidden power, her inner resolve, her sense of purpose even in the grip of helplessness. He read the words Jake wrote, feverishly, when he believed no one else was paying attention.
Gabriel also knew it couldn't last. He'd made himself a target, and the purpose of all targets is to be struck with a weapon. He was assassinated on a clear morning.
He knew what would happen, even without him, especially without him. That was why he had singled out the three of them, without their ever realizing it. Jake wrote about his life, about his message, his hopes, his dream. Zinn found to courage to find herself again, and because of that, Swift realized what he'd been doing with his life, how he'd been fooling himself about his selfish success. The three of them spread Gabriel's message. They didn't let him be forgotten.
In 2014, a movement that wasn't supposed to produce any tangible results changed a country, and then the world. It only cost one man his life, Gabriel Bell, the prophet, the man in the wilderness. His words continued to echo long after his death. To free his people, all people, he had occupied a little space, only to give it up, so that everyone could claim it, claim the world as its birthright.