A lot of conservatives in the news are dismissing the Occupy Wall Street movement as nothing worth taking note of. Conservative experts claim that the movement that consists of thousands has not managed to develop a coherent message and is failing at its attempt to bring attention to a single issue. As proof, they ask the question what’s the purpose of the movement. Who are the leaders? Where is the mission statement? Where are the headquarters?
I saw an interview with the latest conservative front runner for the White House, Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich was able to benefit from all of pizza mogul Herman Cain’s troubles, the previous front runner who was able to take advantage of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s troubles, the front runner before that who was able to take advantage of Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann’s troubles, the front runner before that who was able to take advantage of conservative business tycoon Donald Chump’s troubles, and so on and so on and so on as long as the front runner wasn’t former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Anyway, Mr. Gingrich has been making a lot of political rhetoric against the Occupy Wall Street movement. He has accused these people of having hygiene issues saying that they refuse to take a bath. He also said that they refuse to get a job, refuse to understand how economics work, and refuse to do anything to earn a living. It is Mr. Gingrich’s impression that the Occupy Wall Street members, the 99%, believe that the 1% owe them something, everything. Needless to say Mr. Gingrich has no sympathy for anybody who isn’t in the 1% and is not ultra conservative.
People can dismiss the Occupy movement as nothing important. But I saw a panel discussion about the Occupy Wall Street, and one of the pundits made an analogy comparing the Occupy Wall Street movement to the civil rights movement of the sixties. People protesting race based discrimination didn’t have a formal leadership structure or a mission statement. Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other influential black people eventually became the face of the movement, it started with a mass of people protesting institutionalized unfairness that was the norm in America.
The civil rights movement never made a charter. Our ancestors and elders who participated in the movement didn’t have a governing body listing all the demands to be negotiated. It had a slogan, “What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want it? Now!”
People knew what the problem was without somebody pointing it out. Black people were not equal to their white counterparts and the racial discrimination that had become part and parcel of the United State’s social fabric was no longer acceptable. The unfairness had reached a critical point where it was not going to be quietly tolerated any longer. Enough people said enough was enough and it was time for change. It took years, but the environment of brazen open hostility towards blacks became a thing of the past. Racism and discrimination had to go underground.
To put the prerequisite of such officious steps as a single mission statement and other such nonsense in order to deem the movement successful is just a distracting tactic meant to minimize the potential of the movement. A few weeks ago the message bandied about in political circles was that America’s deficit was getting out of hand and we had to put everything into getting it under control at the expense of everything else. We need to reduce taxes and reduce spending so that we can grow the economy that seems to be benefitting only the 1%.
While some of us still want to pretend that the federal deficit is the number one concern for the majority of America, it should be apparent that a huge chunk of the population is beginning to see things a little differently. In the past few weeks, a lot of attention is beginning to be paid to the income disparity that has become part and parcel of our American economic landscape. Like the inequality of racial discrimination, economic discrimination is beginning to take center stage of our national consciousness.
People can pretend this movement means nothing. People can dismiss the people as nothing more than a bunch of poor hygiene hippies that refuse to work for a living. But that’s really no surprise, it’s always how the establishment and anyone else who has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo responds to a call for change where the vast majority can benefit. Go ahead and dismiss all the rebel rousers as nothing important, at least until you can’t.
The Occupy Wall Street protest that is making so much news in the news media is entering its fourth week. It appears to be gaining momentum in both the news and in political attention. The series of images of police officers using their pepper spray against protestor have grabbed our attention like a tsunami grabs the attention of a beach walker. Conservative politicians who once sang high praises to the tea party demonstrations as an example of the democratic process and the strength of the public’s collective will to make their unified voice heard, is now judging the thousands of people protesting America’s gaping wealth disparity as little more than mobs that are inciting some kind of class warfare.
Conservatives participating in presidential debates are cheering the supposition that somebody in need of medical care without medical insurance should be allowed to die. These are the same people who protested the idea of President Barack Obama instituting death panels as part of his universal healthcare programs. Conservatives are telling people that if they don’t have a job or are unable to pay their bills they shouldn’t blame anyone but himself or herself. People are losing their jobs, homes, and shot at a descent future as deep pocket financial institutions and corporations are making record profits month after month and conservatives think that what America needs now is more tax cuts for the wealthy so that they can create jobs, even though we have had tax cuts for more than a decade now and our unemployment numbers are higher than ever. A Congressional Representative can complain that he only has four hundred thousand dollars at the end of the year and complain that half the country, the half of people without jobs or whose income is so low they go without paying federal income tax but pays a higher percentage of their income in other forms of taxes like sales taxes and energy taxes, don’t pay enough in taxes. But it is the people who participate in the Occupy Wall Street protests are the ones who are trying to institute some kind of class warfare.
Some conservative political pundits describe these protestors as a murderous bunch that is ready to pull wealthy people out of their homes and kill them out of jealousy for rich people’s success. The protestors have been described as shiftless and lazy. Some people conservative presidential candidates say that too many of these protestors could get a job anytime they wanted to do so, but just refuse to earn a living out of laziness or some undeserved expectation of a handout. One political pundit used his appearance on a television talk show to describe protestors who urinate in public and who openly use drugs. People want to see only the worse in people who are coming together to express their frustration and their belief that the American dream may no longer be achievable for so many. How unfair can this be?
The police have been accused of using violence against peaceful protestors. The images of the police suddenly pepper spraying peaceful protestors have already been mentioned. The police have been accused of luring the protestors into a gauntlet on the Brooklyn Bridge in order to conduct a more efficient means to arrest participants. The mayor has accused the protestors of trying to drive away business and to destroy the jobs of people who have jobs. A television news show even singled out a protestor and described him as a fugitive who was using the protest as a cover to lay low from the law.
After watching all of this and reading about it, it hit me that the Occupy Wall Street movement looks very much like the black community. A lot of people are upset over the fact that the nation’s unemployment rate is up to nine percent and the disparity gap is growing wider by the minute. The black community’s unemployment rate wouldn’t be as low as nine percent on our best day. The black community’s unemployment rate has hovered around seventeen percent. Maybe these people will have a better appreciation for the unemployment rate for blacks.
People are surprised to see police actually initiating an attack against the citizens they swore to protect. People seem to believe that what happened to Rodney King was an anomaly. Oscar Grant being shot in the back as he laid on the ground on his belly with his hands tied behind his back by a police officer was a fluke. Sean Bell ambushed by New York’s finest was just a misunderstanding. Black people being arrested by police officers and suddenly showing up at the police stations with a series of bruises and cuts because they tripped getting into the police cruiser is always an easy excuse. Maybe a lot of these people will now have a better understanding of what police are really capable of.
People who participate in these protests can see themselves maligned by politicians on national television who argue that the inequality and social injustice that these mobs are so concerned about are nothing more than self inflicted circumstances, the result of people not having a strong enough work ethic to do better for themselves. Without any evidence to support their prejudice, these people want to condemn these people as something to loath, while somebody in the tea party who operate with very similar tactics would get a pass. Although it should be noted that there are some noticeable differences between the two like people in the tea party are much more likely to take their guns to a protest. Who knows? That’s probably why the police are more apt to leave them alone.
I watch the Occupy Wall Street movement and I see a lot of people who should have a better idea of what it means to be part of the black community. These people are upset and feel like they can’t find jobs? With an unemployment rate that’s perpetually higher than any other segment of our collective, that’s a black community staple. Police are roughing these people up when nobody’s looking and protestors are getting arrested for exercising the rights that are theirs according to the Constitution? In a minute, statistics will show that more people in the Occupy Wall Street protest are arrested than the tea party protest and therefore any arrest is probably more than justified per capita. You will get used to it. People in these protests want to demonstrate against inequality in our society but people point to them and accuse them of playing the victim card and trying to split people up in the nation, even though disparity has been splitting people up for a good while now. The black community has been singing that tune since this country’s birth. Been there, done that.
I watch the Occupy Wall Street and I think and hope that some of these people will develop a real sense of what constitutes social injustice. It would be nice to think that this experience will open eyes and make these people more aware of social injustice and more sensitive to what is happening in the black community. After all, despite what may have been going on in these people’s lives to drive them to Occupy Wall Street, the condition of the black community is even worse and has been that way far longer. And if that happens, maybe something good will come out of the social injustice that has become part and parcel of this current social condition.