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Column: Lee Camp an example for aspiring activists

Meeting comedian and activist Lee Camp in New York City last Wednesday was magical, especially with the anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement this month.

Lee has been very active in the anti-wealth-inequality movement. On Jan. 17, he spoke to thousands of people gathering for “Occupy Congress” in Washington, D.C., calling the Occupy movement “a revolution of the mind” and praised the people for standing up against the corporations.

Born in Bethesda, Md., the son of a psychoanalyst and a social worker, Lee Camp is gifted with an insight for human weaknesses and the devotion to cure them. Somehow, he found a powerful weapon to fight against the powerful — humor.

At the age of 14, Camp started to write comedy and soon became a humor columnist. On his 19th birthday, Camp began performing as a stand-up comedian. After graduating from the University of Virginia, he moved to New York City, where he went through intense training — three shows per night at Ha! Comedy Club, “rain or shine, cold or colder.”

And it paid off. Camp appeared on Comedy Central, ABC, BBC, Showtime, Fox News, etc., as well as Gwyneth Paltrow’s short film Dealbreaker and the TV series Law & Order.

Lee Camp received a lot of attention when he, as an invited commentator, caught Fox News anchor Clayton Morris off guard during his morning show Fox & Friends on Feb. 23, 2008. He asked on the air, “What is Fox News? It’s just a parade of propaganda, isn’t it? It’s just a ... festival of ignorance.” The video went nuts online.

Camp is also a contributor to The Onion, The Huffington Post, New Dissident Radio and The Jeff Santos Show on Revolution Boston Radio. He recently interviewed American anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, the 2012 vice-presidential nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party.  

A quote from historian Howard Zinn is tattooed on Camp’s left forearm: “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world.”

Camp never hesitates to do small acts. In March 2011, he started his Web series, Moment of Clarity, a 3- to 5-minute podcast that comes out three times a week to document “the corporate takeover of America — with jokes.” And even with his fame, Camp is still willing to do free shows in small bars, like the one where we met on Long Island.

While signing my travel book, Camp asked me to write “love,” “art” and “justice” in Chinese. He drew an arrow toward “love” and signed his name beneath it.

Unlike some other cynics, Camp is “cynical and optimistic.” In his mind, the world is messed up, but he still believes that “we can fix it.” To him, changing ideas is the first step toward changing actions.

Many people are identifying themselves as cynics nowadays. But whether they are just trying to look cool or really are hopeless about the world, they are not devoting as much as they should to make a difference.

Does the phrase “I have a dream” now seem to be too naive? And why would being liberal be connected with unrealistic?

I used to be a big meat eater, but now I’m a vegan. My ideas about my diet were changed by three of my friends and a documentary called Forks Over Knives. Upon joining the vegetarian and vegan club, I learned that American meat consumption is down 12.2 percent throughout the past five years.

As a quote from V for Vendetta goes, “Alone, a symbol is meaningless, but with enough people ....” Yes, what Lee Camp does is add himself to that group of “enough people” and change the world.

 

Bingxin “Sophia” Huang is a master’s student in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism who is studying abroad at the University of Leipzig this semester. Let her know what you think at bh586611@ohiou.edu.

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