Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Providence

I see a lot of one-sided review of the Occupy movement-both ways to be fair.  Some people blindly in approval due to their dislike for corporate America, others against for one reason or another.  I've seen all the descriptions of the group, watched all the videos-okay maybe not all of them, but a lot-and read as many articles as I could on the movement from all over the nation.  From the movement's inception in New York, through their occupation and eventual City Council meeting in LA, to the movement's official entry into what has become my hometown, Providence.

I've seen the brutality of the police, from New York City itself to San Francisco.  I've seen the violence of the crowds in Rome, and the desperation of the crowds everywhere else.  What I've seen more than anything is citizens fed up with their government that despite numbers, are growing to not only be fed up with their government, but to fear it as well.  While the police and protesters have not really crossed paths yet here in Providence, tonight at the General Assembly-and every day since the movement began in Providence-a great deal of fear has been expressed of the police in general, with the very valid point tonight being made that here in Providence, the most dangerous criminals ARE the police.

Regardless of what your stance is on any of the issues-and I've been pretty clear that I disagree with most of the Occupiers regarding the economy-this highlights some very, very sad issues in America that need to be solved.  These are problems that have been building for many years, they won't be solved overnight, but they need to be solved in order for this country to continue to exist as we know it.

The biggest problem of all the occupiers seems to be a lack of trust-particularly in government.  This is the one consensus amongst the occupiers, whether it's Congress being lobbied and not acting on our behalf, the police brutalizing occupiers, or politicians in general lying to us the people don't trust their government-and why should they?  On almost all levels the government has done little to earn our trust.  Go to the DMV, you get some miserable clerk who acts like you just kicked her cat and gives you a massive headache.  Have anything to say to a representative or senator?  Good luck finding one, they're out hosting some fundraiser where the wallets-ahem people-they really care about are.  As for the police?  Well around here every time you turn your head they've shot, beat, or raped someone else.  Hell, there was a faction in Providence that were the drug dealers of the city-and yet anytime you run into a cop they immediately treat you like you're the criminal, no matter who you are.

We haven't even gotten to the bailouts yet, we haven't gotten to the economic downturn, the job loss, the housing crisis, none of that-just the government in general as we've all known it, our whole lives.  I mean think about it-who likes going to the DMV?  When was the last time you saw a cop and actually felt safer?  Your first instinct when you see a cop is to protect yourself-check your speedometer, whatever it is.  Your first instinct is not to feel safer, it is to protect yourself from what you instinctively perceive as your enemy.  This is just a microcosm of how the government operates as a whole.  You-the citizen-are a nuisance to them, you're an annoyance, something they don't want to deal with.  Something their job would be perfect without.  In some cases you're even a criminal-just because you're not one of them.  This is not an atmosphere that breeds trust.  This is not an atmosphere that inspires confidence.

The first step governments MUST take is to realize this, to recognize that there is a problem.  Maybe there needs to be massive turnover within governmental bodies, maybe there needs to be citizen review boards added for authorities, maybe there need to be many changes, but they all must originate from a trust that the government reaches out to build, for it is them who have failed us.  It is they who have violated our trust, it is they we elect into office to represent us, we pay through taxes to protect us, who have abruptly forgotten about us, who treat us as nuisances, as lesser human beings.

Critics of the movement would have you blame the occupiers themselves-and in some cases that may be appropriate, I'll give you that-but in many it's not, and it's unfair to characterize the entire movement as such. Is it the machinist, or the tool makers' fault when they come into work and find the factory has gone bankrupt?  When they walk out and realize they're 53 years old, have been working in that same factory their whole lives, and have almost no real options now?  That same person has been told their whole career that every week they pay into a pension and they'll have that, but they then find out it's gone, and the Wall St. executive who pissed it all away just walked away from his company with millions, is that his fault as well?  Just because a person has become homeless does not make them a bad person, it does not invalidate their opinion, it does not take away from their humanity and who they are as people.

Basically, writers, analysts, politicians, and leaders need to stop looking at this movement and trying to find a way to blame them, to criminalize them, or to demonize them in the same way they need to stop looking across the proverbial "aisle" and doing the same thing to one another.  They need to focus on how to get this country back on track, how to win back the trust of the people, and how to move our country past this time in a positive direction before we become what Rome and other places around the world have become already.

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