That other people have said it better, is no excuse for me to say nothing. That some may not agree with me does not relieve me of my responsibility to say something. And it IS a responsibility. I feel that deeply, perhaps foolishly, but deeply nonetheless. Because whether you support the Occupation of Wall Street or not, you should at least know what is happening there.
If you haven’t heard, there has been a group of protesters camped out in lower Manhattan since September 17th. In short, they are there to express outrage at the grand collusion between our politicians and big business, and call out the fraud and theft perpetrated against the American people with the consent of our federal government. This occupation/protest has not been widely reported in traditional news outlets but has been tearing up sites like Twitter and YouTube.
Critics of the movement have been quick to discount it for its lack of a clearly articulated message and its apparent disorganization. The protesters have been widely derided as a collection of overeducated, under-employed kids and bored hippies. They have been summarily dismissed as agitators who simply don’t understand the complexities of the system. They insist that We The People did not agree to bail out the banks and corporations. Journalists and pundits sit back and smile, slightly bemused as they explain that this is how things work. We The People rescued the banks and corporations so that the economy didn’t fall apart, and in return, they will provide a stable economy with decent jobs and fair loans. Except that’s not what happened. The banks and corporations recovered but We The People are still waiting. Still suffering.
I have listened to the conversations around liberal and conservative tables alike. We continue to tell our children that they can do anything and be anything if they put their mind to it. We tell them that in this great democracy, their vote and their voice matters, but when the children are out of earshot, we’ll freely admit that deep down, we don’t really believe such things and beneath all the feel-good flag-waving bullshit, we know that the Powers That Be regularly circumvent the will of The People in favor of The Almighty Dollar.
We know this. We are resigned to it. Those protesters occupying Wall Street are not. And even “good liberals” seem to be embarrassed by the movement, urging them to be calmer and more orderly, more peaceful and composed. We wish that this protest would be tidy and intellectual, as if somehow the opposition wouldn’t smear them anyway, wouldn’t treat them with disdain, as a casual annoyance or a subject of ridicule no matter how they presented themselves.
But protest is not polite or pretty and revolution is never treated with respect no matter how it is conducted. This is what real democracy looks like, with passionate opinionated people bringing their passion and opinions to a common action and a common cause. And yes, it is messy and perhaps ill-conceived, but these are our brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren. They have watched helplessly while we lost our homes, our livelihood and our hope in their future. They have dared to get down in the mud, to draw a line and say “this far and no further”. They are a living, breathing representation of righteous anger at the fraud which caused the foreclosure of our homes, the erosion of the working class, the Wall Street bailouts and the loss of power for the 99% of Americans who have less, earn less and matter less than we did a decade ago.
Shame on us if we do not support them loudly and incessantly as they put themselves on the line to stand up against the 1% and the government that it bought. It would appear, in our apathy and resignation that we don’t actually want an uprising. We would prefer that things simply right themselves without one. We want so desperately to go back to the way we were when the corporate and government collusion was barely tolerable, but tolerable nonetheless. We want just enough of what we had before to not be terrified all the time. We want to be two paces back from the brink. We want to go back to scraping by and take that little measure of security in mere survival.
And honestly, if the proper attention was paid, if we gave up our resignation, if we all got down in the mud alongside them, there’d be no going back. Shame on us if we don’t scream at the top of our lungs: End the Corporatocracy. Return the government to the people. Abolish Corporate Personhood. Return the government to the people. Support publicly-financed elections. Return the government to the people. Anything less is unacceptable.