I don’t care what you think about the protesters who were there first. Seems to me that a legitimate strategy for making a protest movement seem undesirable or inconsequential is to point out how the protestors lacked permits, how they messed up the area they were camped out in, what a logistical nightmare they made for the police and local governments who just wanted “to keep the peace.” And sure, some of them desecrated the flag in fashions much more imaginative than mere burning, and some of them didn’t know what the fuck they were really out there for - they were just shouting because it seemed cool.
But, just like the Republican Party has its Tea Partiers, Christianity has its Westboro Baptists, and Islam has its Taliban, so too did this movement have its outliers and “fringe.”
I am not one of those outliers or fringe people, but as of this morning, I’m ready to throw in with them, as are thousands, millions of others, because - as New York Republican Representative Pete King so eloquently put it - there was an inherent danger to this outlier movement gaining momentum and legitimacy.
What was the danger?
That people like me who weren’t yet willing to speak out and speak up would finally get a fire lit under our asses, and that there would FINALLY be a “policy-shaping” challenge to the way he and his fellow politicians have gamed the political system of the greatest nation in the world to further their own financial and political self-interests. People have given lip service to challenging the system for several years now.
For instance, “ liberals” like myself (I’m actually a centrist, like many Democrats) thought we’d found an answer in Barack Obama back in 2008. After eight years of watching George Bush play hacky sack with American foreign policy and the economy, we thought MAYBE someone would reign it in. But American politics has already become too corrupt, too partisan, too ingratiating to the interests of the corporate elite for anyone within the system to seriously challenge it.
As another example, there’s the misguided Tea Party, who took the other tack and decided it was those on the left who wanted to tax them to death in order to fund programs that weren’t necessary. THEY started a movement, and mistakenly filled Congress with even more assholes who in no way intended to help them. Sure, those Congressional newcomers vowed to fight any tax hikes, but they also wanted to cut obscene amounts of spending on programs that many of the Tea Partiers who voted them into office actually benefit from every day. Not quite the solution the Tea Party was looking for - although most of them don’t realize they’ve been duped.
I don’t think the people who voted for Obama were duped. I think we were let down. It turns out that Obama’s testicles haven’t descended or something, because on more than one occasion when he’s had an opportunity to actually stand up for the interests of the American people, he’s cowtowed to Republican lunacy. “Bipartisan” and “compromise” come out of his mouth on a regular basis, while he looks all sad-faced “across the aisle” at the likes of Eric Cantor, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell, who absolutely refuse to compromise on ANYTHING. Why continue to compromise with people determined to undermine your Presidency, and who are determined to shatter the economic backbone of the nation - and as a result, quite possibly the whole world - simply to protect the interests of a few thousand millionaires (a group to which many of them belong)? We could get into a lengthy discussion as to why, but that’s a tangent for another day.
So… we’ve had hope. We’ve had talk. But we’ve seen no change. Now, however, there arrives a movement that many have already compared to the protests of the 1960s - protests that career politician Pete King is old enough to remember as instigating legitimate changes in policy way back then.
That movement could have died.
It could have died the same death that the hope Obama gave us in 2008 died. It could have died the same death that the Tea Party movement is dying as it implodes. It could have become another footnote in history, the way the L.A. race riots in 1992 have.
But someone was concerned enough with the movement to take action against it last night. You see, over the weekend protests similar to the original one in New York sparked up in Boston, L.A., Chicago, Seattle, and right here in Atlanta. And last night a coordinated effort moved in to shut down pretty much all of them. Now, I’m not saying that law enforcement in all of the cities in question got on the phone with each other and said, “Let’s get ‘em at 11 p.m. TONIGHT!” Still, the crackdowns have begun, and in a few instances they’ve gotten ugly, and now… NOW that someone has actively taken steps to shut the protestors up, many people are awake to the possibilities of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I’m not here to try and justify the protestors’ right to assemply and free speech - although this does reveal some questionable decisions on the part of the local governments. I’m simply here to point out that the movement is very likely scaring the shit out of someone - enough that they are TAKING STEPS. And that, my friends, does pretty much the opposite of what they want. It adds legitimacy to the Occupy Wall Street movement - enough so that people like me are opening our eyes and seeing that perhaps there still is hope - that perhaps we can actually change policy (FINALLY!) by screaming and cajoling and threatening these clowns in Washington. They are supposed to represent US, right?
Gandhi has been quoted as saying this, although it’s actually a paraphrasing from a speech given by a union activist in the early 1900s:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Regardless of who said it, it looks like this particular movement is in phase three. I hope (See? I STILL have some hope!) that when phase four comes around, that average American citizens - and not American politicians or the millionaires to which they are beholden - are the winners. And I have decided that I will find something to do in the coming weeks that will make that happen.
What about you?