Friday, November 18, 2011

There’s Somethin’ Happenin’ Here – And What It Is Is Exactly Clear!

Today marked the two month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.  Since it began, OWS events have sprung up in cities and towns across America – 1,000 locations in all.  OWS has struck a chord among an increasing number, and an increasing diversity, of Americans in the “99%.”  And how was this anniversary celebrated?  With police…shall we say, “over-zealousness.”

It would appear that mayors from coast-to-coast have been on conference calls together (so says the grapevine) trying to figure out how to “handle” OWS – and have concluded that a paramilitary use of their police forces is the way to go.  Sharp, progressive, creative thinking, eh?

OWS – despite its lack of a “specific” agenda, blah blah blah – has been remarkably disciplined in its commitment to non-violence, all the more remarkable because, unlike during the Civil Rights movement of the ‘60s, they have not been formally trained in non-violent tactics.  Nonetheless, the original group in New York has been dispossessed from Zuccotti Park, their personal belongings confiscated, and their persons subjected to outright violence by heavily armed and shielded police.  (I guess it was too cold for fire hoses and all the dogs were busy elsewhere trying to sniff out marijuana.)

Has the OWS been messy?  Yes.  Have they inconvenienced and interfered with the normal comings and goings of others?  Yes.  Have there been legitimate concerns about public health and safety?  Yes.  Have municipal governments done anything to positively, non-violently and economically address these issues (allowing port-o-potties, for example)?  No.  And what has been the result?  Greater determination plus increased and more focused action by OWS.  Today was a National Day of Action for OWS; from sea to shining sea they left their campsites and marched, and occupied other locations, like banks and subways. 

The far-right has declared that OWS is dead, but they’ve already demonstrated considerable confusion about what constitutes life and death.  Indeed, OWS is very much alive, growing, maturing, and attracting increasing participation and media attention.  More than 30,000 people (including a lot of organized labor) marched in Manhattan tonight and nearly 300 were willingly arrested.  I know it’s been a while since we’ve seen one, so we may not immediately recognize it – but this is the beginning of a New American Revolution.

Something else happened yesterday that is also revolutionary.  Six representatives from a group of 200 very rich people known as The Patriotic Millionaires met with tax phobic troublemaker, Grover Norquist, begging him to release Republicans from their “no new taxes ever” pledge and finally increase taxes on those earning $1 million (or more) annually – acknowledging the disparity between their contributions and those of the 99%.  Norquist dismissed them as “Democratic Party hacks.”  They suggested that Norquist move to Somalia.   

The photo above is the iconic picture that has come to define the infamous Kent State Massacre, an Anti Vietnam War protest held at Kent State University in Ohio in May, 1970.  During that event, National Guardsmen responding to the “uprising” killed 4 students and wounded 9 more – and America was up in arms.

“Kent State” inspired Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s song Ohio, and, Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, which was actually written in 1967 in response to the LAPD’s assault on  hippies, over time has also become associated with Kent State.  Currently, the song’s lyrics* have been used as a denotation for OWS.  The message is simple: don’t respond to legitimate protest with military force; don’t dismiss earnest Americans as socialists/communists; don’t accuse sincere political activists of being dirty, drug-sodden, sex-crazed loonies; don’t demonize Americans demanding reasonable economic, political and social change.  In short, don’t allow Fox News to shape your views about what’s happening.

* There’s somethin’ happenin’ here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down…

…Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down…

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