Where to begin?
We’ve come to a point in this year of 2011 where every little thing seems to press the buttons of one group or another. Currently we have “occupations” going on in numerous US cities, we have a huge stalemate in congress that has all of the banks and corporations hunkering down to wait for the next election and we have a gaggle of Republicans traveling the country debating each other with flame throwers and anti-personnel mines.
The election of 2010 caused a wave of states to turn red, a 60+ Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives, and two handfuls of Republican Governors across the Midwest. These elected officials pushed through austerity legislation designed to slash public funding of numerous programs while at the same time attempting to weaken a perceived at-risk labor movement. What they didn’t reckon was that their course of action would serve to reenergize the movement and lead to massive protests in Wisconsin and Ohio, leading to direct targeting of the legislation and the officials behind said legislation. In a word, the people are pissed.
The dissatisfaction spans the globe. Since December 18, 2010 there has been a rash of uprising in the Middle East, including revolutions in Egypt and Bahrain, a civil war in Libya and minor to major uprisings in almost every other country in the region. In many cases they used the same civil resistance techniques that successful for Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., the South Africans against apartheid, the dethroning of Marcos in the Philippines and the Shah of Iran and the various revolutions that led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
We have all seen and heard the stories of the anti-war movement. Some still long for the days when tie-dyes and bell-bottoms were the armor of the moment, where in a time of great conflict love was the bottom line, where flowers had power, where young people would throw themselves in front of the Machine of government. They had their Woodstock, their Kent State, their draft dodgers and their disgruntled veterans speaking before congress.
What brought the people out to the streets in the 1960’s was a war, disguised as a police action, that even the most casual observer could see was futile and unjust. The young and disenfranchised marched in the streets, for the most part peacefully, and made their voices heard. They still feel the camaraderie to this day, the feeling that even if they didn’t get everything they wanted, even if their dreams went unanswered, they still put their asses on the line, got beat down, went to jail and in some cases even died to have their voices heard.
Fast forward to 2011. We have two wars that many feel are unjust. We have participated in the ouster of formerly friendly heads of state in sovereign countries. We have an incalculable unemployment rate because so many have given up looking for work. We have skyrocketing health care costs because of a powerful insurance and pharmaceutical lobby that bankrolls everyone who will take their checks. We criminalize a person’s sexuality and their use of recreational drugs. We murder condemned criminals even when the evidence shows that they are possibly innocent. And we are all prisoner to a banking system that cares not about the accounts of their depositors, like it used to, but only about the welfare of their executives and major shareholders. They foreclose on houses when many times an adjustment in payment would solve the problem. They speculate and lose ever-increasing lumps of our dollars, and then cry out that they are “too big to fail.”
If the banks are too big to fail, then what about the people? In New York City on this day in 2011, hundreds of protestors are “occupying” Liberty Park in Lower Manhattan. Many of them have been arrested and tased for their peaceful actions. They have been on the site for 19 days and show no signs of giving up. Today, some of the biggest unions in New York are coming on board to join the protests. What do they hope to accomplish by sitting in the lotus position and making signs and singing songs? They hope to shine a light on the banks that take the funds of their depositors and investors and run up their debt, profiting every time they trade it back and forth between them. They hope to shine a light on the shady maneuvers that manipulate the stock market and sink the retirement funds of thousands of Americans in a matter of minutes. Our own Ohio Governor took a $400,000 bonus for helping us lose $480,000,000 in the collapse of Lehman Brothers. While I’d like him to pay restitution, all that the 99 Percenters want is an honest banking system that works for everybody and not just the one percent at the top.
I have a confession to make. Early this year I criticized my fellow Americans as being soft in a time when we need to persevere. I pointed to the Egyptians in Tahir Square, the Tibetan Independence Movement, and even the Chinese in Tiananmen as examples of long drawn out resistance to the machine. I found myself disappointed that my beloved Ohioans couldn’t find a way to occupy our statehouse they way the people of Wisconsin did. I found myself doubting the validity of a movement that packed up and went home when the sun went down or the weather got cold. A funny thing happened on the way to the 2011 midterm election. The rabble got organized. Fifteen thousand people volunteered to circulate petitions. Over one million signatures were gathered. When it was obvious that Senate Bill 5 was going to get its day at the polls, the opposition attempted to suppress the vote with what amounts to a poll tax. So we gathered the signatures to get that put on the ballot as well. The people of Ohio (wo)manned up and stood up for each other against a government that is looking out for the One Percent.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in feeling echoes of the 60’s. In the immortal words of Stephen Stills and the Buffalo Springfield, “There’s something happening here…”
What it is remains to be seen. It’s encouraging, but the heavy lifting to get some real change has only just begun. Namaste, amigos!