Yesterday I spent some time at Burnside Park in Providence, RI with our local "Occupy Wall St." branch. I'd seen all the video from New York, read the stories from Boston, and watched the City of LA hearing online, and I wanted to form my own opinion, experience first hand myself. I brought my family down to the park, and spent several hours down there with my disabled 5 year old son, my fiance, and our 3 year old Boston Terrier. I was able to take some video, some pictures, some audio, experience first hand a very impressive march, and speak to several people.
Overall, my impression was very favorable of the movement. I don't agree with all of them on all the issues, but I believe something needs to be done, and that's all these people are saying. To me, the movement is great because it's chameleon-like. Whatever your issue is, whatever your gripe, you're coming to protest because you want it to be talked about. You want people to think about it, to talk about it. The people of Occupy seem to want three fairly simple things-to be heard, to be represented, and for bi-partisan progress to be made. Basically, put aside your differences, stop wasting your time looking for birth certificates or arguing about whether Dick should marry Jane or Bob, and get this country on track.
Critics would have you believe this is a movement of hippies. Of dirty, uneducated, homeless hippies looking for a free handout, looking to live off our hard earned dollars. This is a movement that finds it strength in the disenfranchised, in the downtrodden of society, those that have been chewed up and spit out by the economic machine. Yes, some of those people are homeless now, but that doesn't make them bad people. That just makes them people who weren't lucky enough to land on their feet when the mortgage crisis hit. Did that stop them though? Did the loss of millions of jobs stop them? Did it stop their hope? Their drive? Their purely American spirit? No it didn't, it hardened their resolve. They learned to live, they learned to adapt, they learned to get together and challenge the system itself as so many groups have at so many turning points throughout American history.
All throughout history there have been many movements by the people. The Civil Rights movement in the 60's, Women's Suffrage before that, the American revolution, and on and on. Throughout all of those movements there has been one common theme: protesters are painted as the scourge of society by those with the power, those that are being protested against. They have to do this, that's all they have going for them. They don't have numbers, they don't have logic, they don't have humanity, they have none of these things going for them. Therefore they must paint the protesters as insurgents, as malcontents, as mutinous, traitorous, enemies of the state that must be destroyed-or at lest ignored. For this is how the politics of these things work. The critics build a smokescreen of stereotypes and false accusations, and if the protesters can outlast that, if the public can see through it to the truth, the protesters win and it goes down in history as a moment of change.
On this note I urge you, don't write these people off. These are the people in society that need to be heard. Over the weekend we saw dangerous demonstrations break out in Rome, and massive demonstrations break out all over the globe. I read reports that cited crowds in the hundreds of thousands in various parts of the world, and in the tens of thousands in many others cities across the globe. We were and are one of the richest countries on the planet, so naturally it'll take us longer to get there than other countries but we will get there, mark my words. If the hundreds of thousands across our nation protesting are ignored it's just a matter of time before they turn into millions, and then tens of millions.
Things aren't getting any better, they're getting worse. The average term of unemployment is now 40 weeks. Ten months it can take you to get a job. What's worse is there are currently no plans on the table for long term job growth. None whatsoever. The "American Jobs Bill" Obama is trying to push through right now is a very short term answer at best-and even that's being optimistic-and won't encourage long term growth. Many in the nation think the answer is to tax the top earners and the companies a lot more-another unwise decision. That will just push companies out of this country and into others. With logistics these days it wouldn't be hard. Very little is based off natural resources earned here, and at some point it makes more sense to transport goods than it does to make them here. And even if you jack up tariffs on imports, you risk isolating the country from the rest of the world. With something in the neighborhood of 6 billion people between China and India it wouldn't take much for the countries to work out a free trade agreement-if they don't have one already-and utilizing the massive work force and resources they have there, recreate America's 20th century in Asia.
I know that's a drastic result, but honestly-how far off do you think it is from what could be reality? America likes to think of itself as this peak marketplace, but is it any longer? Wouldn't countries with billions of residents and a fraction of the regulatory and tax cost be better hosts to huge corporations? While the popular thing may be to hate huge corporations, they are the people with the jobs are they not? There's nothing forcing companies to stay here, haven't we driven enough away already? Okay, I've followed this tangent longer than I'd intended. There will be other posts for this discussion-believe me, lots of other posts for this discussion.
The now international Occupy movement cannot be ignored. While the Tea Party had higher profile, higher earning members and followers, the Occupy movement has many more numbers-and those numbers will only increase as more and more of the middle class is hammered down to join the ranks of the poverty stricken. The stories at the movement were all similar in nature, frustration by the jobs market (or lack thereof) and frustration that while companies continue to get bailed out, the government seems to be doing very little to solve the problems of the people, and this whole trickle down theory just doesn't work when you're talking about literally handing money to banks and large corporations. That just allows them to continue floating along, it doesn't get to the root of the problem and provide a long term fix. This is what we need our representatives to talk about, and this is what the movement is doing-sparking conversation.