Occupy Wall Street: Change Is In The Wind
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Occupy Wall Street is not our enemy. You shouldn’t fear the protesters.
Such protests are as American as mom and apple pie. Freedom of speech, of expression, is what this country is all about. I revel in such demonstrations. As a matter of fact, in the past, I was very much a part of the protests that helped shape this nation’s policies.
In the 1960s, I marched on civil rights picket lines and in the 70s it was anti-war. Both those movements showed that the people can influence national policy. Although still imperfect, blacks today have achieved an equality – or close to it – unthought-of in the 60s, and it was the people in the streets that made it happen. Sadly, some of the brave people, including one I knew, Andrew Goodman, paid the ultimate price; he went to Mississippi to work to change the system.
And the Vietnam War ended after Lyndon Johnson was driven from office, with Republican President Richard Nixon heeding the message of the people in the streets to bring our boys home. Sadly, some of those demonstrators in the streets also paid dearly – you may recall the four on the Kent State campus.
But we have a long and proud heritage of the people delivering messages of grievance to our government. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived and embodied the model of peaceful demonstration. He changed the nation. He taught us how, and we are all better off for it.
|Occupy Wall Street photo collage by Mark Levy.
And now, we have throngs in the street – small throngs right now — in a movement presently called Occupy Wall Street. And many of us really don’t know why they’re there, or what they want.
That is because there’s a difference between the demonstrations of the 20th century and what we’re experiencing today.
The Civil Rights movement demanded equality and equal access for all. Not so easily measurable but easy to say, write, legislate and put on buttons.
And in the 70s, all we were saying was “give peace a chance.”
Today, our brothers and sisters who have taken to Zucotti Park as part of Occupy Wall Street, have found it much harder to put a singular message on a button, poster or as words to a song.
John Lennon, where are you?
The iconic troubadours have yet to come because the message is cacophonous and confusing. More importantly, it is not a singular demand like “peace,” “equality” or “freedom.” It is a hodgepodge of reactions to an economic recession clearly impacting the middle class on down.
Two of my friends, Mark Levy and his wife Celine Keating, both Queens College grads from my era, participated in Occupy Wall Street. It was their effort which inspired me to share my thoughts with you.
The “Occupy” protests – here and cropping up elsewhere in our nation — target the wealthy, the corporations and the politicians who jointly are responsible for our economic situation and make the rules and regulations by which it runs or provides money. The money has bought access and the access has provided the rich and the big corporations with the opportunity to influence the regulating process and enrich themselves further while everyone else struggles or experiences financial disaster.
|Equality Pin of the 60’s
||Peace Pin of the 70’s
||Perhaps todays political statement
The unspoken first demand as I see it, is that the rich and the big corporations must pay their fair share – pretty damn simple. The unspoken objective here is to separate the 1 percent who continue to financially benefit from the system (a system which provides trillions to the banks which stop making loans to small businesses and foreclose on and discontinue mortgages to the middle class, but continue to provide their huge bonuses to the wealthy insiders).
Well if 1 percent is benefitting, 99 percent of us are not.
The “Occupy” movement needs to reach the rest of us – the 99 percent, because as we’ve seen before when the people take to the streets in mass, change is in the wind.
Look towards Wall Street and beyond.
The rich are watching; the corporations are concerned; Congress is biding its time.
Are you listening?
Now quietly shout: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Can you hear the winds of change?
Can you support the cause?
Follow me on Twitter @MSchenkler