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Occupy Movement

Militia Activism vs. Occupy

And: The Rained Out Revolution

 

I can’t help but ask myself, what if Occupy protestors in 2010 showed up with AR-15s?

On one hand, being armed may have given law enforcement pause before they use paramilitary tactics to take down the Occupy encampments all over the country.

On the other hand, Occupy was protesting economic injustice, a topic of interest to a majority of the population (albeit not really 99%) and a system of injustice in which the current elite have a multi-trillion dollar vested interest in preserving. Contrast this to the Militia/BLM protestors who simply want to steal from and defile the commons…which is really of no interest to the corporate elite (try riding an ATV through one of the Koch Brothers’ estates and see what happens). To protect their interests, would the elite have called in the military and assaulted Occupy with Apache helicopters rather than swinging batons, tear gas and rubber bullets?

This of course leads me to ponder the reaction of the right wing in the face of an armed Occupy Movement. They seethed with anger over so-called “hippies” pitching tents in public spaces. It’s hard to believe the right would have stepped up and defended these hippies’ 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. After all, commies and anarchists don’t have the same rights as good Christian ‘muricans.

I really don’t have an answer to these questions, I’m afraid. I’d like to think the former option would have been the case, but I fear that I’m wrong…and I really shouldn’t fear that I’m wrong.

For my part, I’m glad Occupy was organized as a peaceful protest. The conspicuous presence of guns would have completely discredited the movement.

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In related news, did you hear about the right wing revolution that didn’t happen yesterday? Right wing protesters organized a colossal protest against the government. The protest was announced as Operation American Spring, ironically named after the Arab Spring that swept North African and the Middle East. The expected outcomes were to be similar. 10 million-30 million real Americans right wing activists were to descend upon the nation’s capitol, set up camp (occupy) and remain until their demands were met. Their demands included the resignation of President Obama and the Congress.

Well anyway, it turns out that they fell a little short of the ten million person goal. Only a few dozen protestors showed up. Now, to be fair, it was a pretty icky day on Friday so…you know…how do you conduct a revolution in the rain? I mean tyranny must be overthrown, but it’s not worth getting soggy over.

Look, it’s really easy to scoff at these folks, but since the armed standoff in Nevada I’m inclined to take their delusional behavior more seriously. The presence of guns increases the probability that someone is going to get shot.

In earlier pieces I’ve described the right wing as being insulated into closed reference groups. With the existence of conservative radio, television and on-line media there is neither reason nor incentive for those on the right to experience anything but information that reaffirms the truth of their beliefs. Yes, this can also be said of the left, but the messaging of the right is qualitatively different from anything one will experience in left media. Right wing institutions have not only created an insular eco-system, but they’ve also reified an almost co-dependent paradigm that defines the knowledge produced by these organizations as the only source of truth. Only FoxNoise is fair and balanced. Only conservative sources are honest. Anything that contradicts Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity is liberal propaganda not to be trusted. It doesn’t matter the source; ninety-eight percent of climate scientists know that the Earth is warming and that human actions are largely responsible, but that’s a grand conspiracy on the part of enviro-socialists who want to overthrow capitalism.

So these protestors know, they just know, that everyone hates President Obama and the dictatorship he has installed. They know, just know, that they have lost their rights as Americans and they must fight and die (but stay dry doing it) if they are to get their freedoms back. If they just announce the revolution, then millions of people will heed the call to arms and take back our country from this Muslim usurper.

When it doesn’t happen…well…it rained that day. And there’s nothing anyone can say, there is no data that anyone can produce, that will change their minds.

Delusional people who act publicly on their delusions may be funny—and I’ll admit that I had a fair chuckle at the title “Tens of People Descend Upon the Capitol To Drive the Obama Administration Out of Office.” However, delusional people with guns who act on their delusions are potentially dangerous. We really need to keep an eye on this.


 


2011 a Difficult and Honorable Year

…A year for the history books

 

For me, 2011 will always be the year that democracy took a deep breath and long stretch on its way to awakening. That this was a global movement inspires me with awe. That this awakening began with a fruit peddler in Tunisia rather than in an American university or political think tank is even more revealing of the nature of man and the tenacity of humanity’s greatest idea. Through this we learned that freedom, equality and a respect for basic human rights and dignity are the driving forces for all people all over the world, regardless of culture, religion or heritage. Democracy is not the exclusive domain of “Enlightened” western Christians; it is also the hope of a Muslim, North African working man who was willing to give his life for an ideal. From Tunisia, to Egypt, to Iran to Madison, Wisconsin, to Liberty Square, NYC, the principles of democracy have re-awakened after generations of repression.

The United States opened its sleepy eyes to its own anemic democracy. It became obvious that the game was rigged when the government stumbled all over itself to bail out corrupt corporations from their own financial malfeasance, then left common people to suffer while our so called representatives debated the most reasonable austerity measures for the struggling masses. In cities throughout the country, we heard protestors shouting, “They got bailed out! We got sold out!” What used to be the bailiwick of the radical left, that our government is nothing more than a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate elite, is now a topic of mainstream discussion.

This is thanks to the outstanding Occupy Movement. In the Occupy Movement many and disparate voices came together in assembly to redress their grievances. Perhaps they were anarchist, socialists, progressives. Often they were just young people wondering if there were any opportunities left in America; young men and women who did what they were told, worked hard, went to school, did their homework, only to be told that they were just going to have to settle for less than their parents had—austerity…times are tough, don’t you know. Some were the same folks who were shaking their fists in Chicago, 1968 and Seattle, 1999. There was union support, teacher support, even police support. Many voices added to the growing chorus of democracy throughout the United States saying, “here we are! You cannot ignore us anymore! We are not leaving!”

In some cases the homeless joined the ranks of the Occupiers, perhaps in solidarity, but more likely for access to food, shelter and security. After all, the homeless, regardless of circumstance, are still part of the 99% so lauded by protestors in the streets.

And yes, there were the dingbat Zionist conspiracy theorists and requisite loons that go with any movement and seem to get the lion’s share of attention by the media. We cannot, in fairness, discount them.

Regardless of who showed up for the General Assemblies, who populated the many and varied working groups, who arrived on the scene to showcase their own opinions, the underlying theme was the same. There’s something fundamentally wrong with our country when the overwhelming majority of people are left to fend for scraps that fall from the bounteous tables of a tiny, elite minority.

This is what Mohamed Bouazizi was saying when he set himself on fire, his immolation giving birth to the Arab Spring. There is something wrong with my country. This is the refrain of protestors in Madison, rioters in London, Paris and Greece. There is something wrong with my country that it does not represent me, my neighbors, or any universal principles of human decency when it demands that the masses suffer for the largess of the few. This was the message, which the media refused to acknowledge, of the Occupy Movement.

The corporate controlled media, the fourth estate, sneered at the occupiers, whining that a growing protest movement throughout the nation was without a message. Without a message? Without a message? Yet the corporate media could not explain how a movement without a message was spreading so rapidly. Of course, there was a message, one that the corporate elite refused to acknowledge. The message was, “there’s something wrong with our country.”

There’s something wrong with our country when we must bribe the “job creators” to create jobs; and after they take the bribe without creating more jobs the only suggestion made by our punditocracy and price-tagged politicians is—bribe them some more. There’s something wrong with our country when a corporation is recognized as having the same rights as an individual, but real individuals trying to speak, to assemble, to vote must struggle to against the state for a fraction of that recognition. There’s something wrong with our country when there are almost four million homeless people in a nation with eighteen million empty homes. There’s something wrong with a country that would sacrifice its teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, social workers before it will raise the taxes on the wealthy even one quarter of one percent. There’s something wrong with our country when politicians are willing to poison hundreds of thousands of people, countless ecosystems, just to maintain a dying petroleum industry. There’s something wrong with our country when those who crashed the economy of the entire world can continue to live in lavish luxury while thousands guilty of nothing more significant than smoking the wrong kind of plant languish in jail. There’s something wrong with our country when corporate executives, responsible for killing countless people throughout the world, destroying the lives of millions more are allowed, nay encouraged, to perpetuate their corruption, while men like Troy Davis are executed based on tarnished evidence.

For the most part, the assessment of what was wrong with the country was accurate. Our nations have put their faith in markets rather than in people. Our wealth has been squandered in search of short-term profit, investment schemes, dwindling resources rather than being invested in the long term best interests of everyone. We have so called republics that represent the smallest fraction of the top 1% while the 99% are belittled as lazy, uneducated, unmotivated. The economic crisis was blamed on poor people, black people, civil servants and teachers, rather than on the very culprits who caused the crisis. Not surprising. You don’t accuse your dining buddies of skullduggery, especially when they are certainly guilty. It’s uncouth. Our world is, more and more, settling under the thumb of a great corporate behemoth. Governments fall in line, becoming inconsequential in addressing the needs of common people.

The democratic demand of people all around the world was “represent us!” Again, the corporate run media refused to hear. Like idiots, mindlessly repeating the last thing they heard, they kept asking, “what are their demands? They have no demands.” And the people in the street shouted through the human microphone “represent us! REPRESENT US!!” and the mindless media trumpeted in return, “what are their demands? They have no demands.”

Last year also revealed what those of us who believe in democracy are up against. It’s one thing to gather en masse in tri-cornered hats, prattling nonsense about watering the tree of liberty and second amendment remedies. If you are regurgitating far-right, conspiratorial talking points about saving the country from socialism and Kenyan/Muslim Manchurian candidates bringing Fascism to America by taking over health-care, even if you are armed, then you are not considered a problem (and, of course, you shouldn’t be). Your rights are protected so long as you exercise them for nothing more than spouting absurdities.

If, however, you have the audacity to demand a redress of legitimate grievances, and you refuse to stop demanding redress, then all the power of the state will come down on you. Throughout the world tyrannical governments did everything they could, through propaganda, through violence, to suppress the democratic voice. The United States was no exception. Peaceful protestors throughout the nation were subject to ridicule and lies, called dirty hippies, spoiled children, criminals. They were tear-gassed, pepper sprayed, clubbed, beaten, shot with rubber bullets. This done in the name of “public safety and sanitation,” as if littering was an excuse for paramilitary assaults.

Regardless, the legacy of 2011 will always be the rise of democracy as a global phenomenon. This movement does not end with the coming of a new year. They are ongoing. In the US, Occupy has laid the groundwork and networks for limitless, innovative forms or activism such as occupying foreclosed houses. In Egypt, religious uncertainties and an entrenched military aristocracy challenge democracy. People are still dying in the streets of Syria. In Europe, people are waking up to the cold realities of failed austerity programs.

The foundations are set for a global mind-shift toward democracy, toward an awakening of human self-worth. Yet many obstacles remain in place, dented, but unmoved. It is impossible to know the direction this new route of history will take us. One thing is certain, however. Where democracy takes flame, where human beings act collectively to demand respect and a recognition of their rights you can expect that corporations and the states that represent them will use any means in their power to stamp the fires down.

It is also certain that such trespasses of power won’t work in the long run. We no longer quietly accept the lies and constraints of governments. We no longer have faith in markets. Thanks to 2011!

 

 

 

 


 


Dehumanizing “The Other” is the First Step to Violence

The dehumanizing rhetoric aimed at the Occupy protestors will lead to increased violence

 

My first impression when I saw the video from which this indelible image was taken was ‘my god, this person is showing absolutely no affect over what he is doing.’ An emotional or empathic understanding of a process that inflicts intense pain, and perhaps even permanent injury is missing from Lt. Pike’s demeanor. He might be spray-painting a fence post for all of the emotion that he is demonstrating. Look at his posture, his face. If you separate it from the context of the moment there is no way to discern that Lt. Pike is in instigating intense violence on other human beings.

One possible explanation is that Lt. Pike is a psychopath, completely void of an understanding or appreciation of the consequences of his actions on others. I think, however, that such an individualistic explanation is too easy, and not entirely fair to Lt. Pike. It’s more likely that Lt. Pike is an average guy, just like anyone else, who was out doing his job. Except his job happens to be enmeshed in a psychopathic sociology that motivates his behaviors and the behaviors of all involved. A psychopathic environment begets psychopathic behavior.

A symptom of psychopathy is the inability to recognize the humanity of others. Well, a psychopathic social environment is one in which the humanity of a group is denied, or in which the group is defined as being less than human. This is done discursively by expressly emphasizing inhuman or dehumanizing qualities when referencing the subject group. For instance, the establishment talking point among conservatives when discussing the Occupy Movement is that of “the dirty hippy.” This is a discursive formation designed to frame our knowledge of Occupy protestors as deviants. “Take a bath and get a job,” is the advice of such luminaries as Newt Gingrich and his crew. They try to define this courageous movement as nothing more than a bunch of deadbeats trying to sponge off the rest of us who are working hard through this economic crisis.

Other such formations link the action of the Occupy Movement with groups identified as being threats to the American way of life, communists and anarchists. Conservatives attempt to convince us that somehow, this democratic movement is the first step to a Stalinist dictatorship. When I attended my first Occupy rally there was one gentleman who admonished our actions as being what he fought against in Germany in the 1940’s.

Yes, the argument can be made that the above frames, dirty hippies, deadbeats, even anarchists are all humans. Indeed, but they are humans who are, culturally, not subject to the same level of respect of deference that would otherwise be granted to the groups of people who really are representative of the Occupy Movement. Therefore, they have less claim to the guarantee of rights and respect that might be expected of any other citizen.

In many cases, the movement is being defined as a “health hazard.” Instances of police brutality and vandalism are nothing more than the unfortunate necessity of the establishment having to move in and clear out the protestors for the sake of the public health. This is easy to believe if the protestors are defined as “dirty hippies.” After all, what would you expect from dirty hippies all camping out in the same place but for a huge health catastrophe in the making. Interestingly enough, though there is countless hours of footage revealing police brutality, I could find no footage demonstrating the health hazards of an Occupy encampment. I spent the first six years of my career in campsites. The last couple of weeks I’ve scoured videos of Occupy camps, specifically studying the background for any indication that the camps were haphazard or possibly hazardous to the health. I found nothing. Nobody has posted footage of health hazards in an Occupy camp that I’ve been able to find. Yet every time there’s a police crackdown on the camps it’s excused by the authorities as necessary due to public health reasons.

Disease is a central theme of many criticisms of the Occupy Movement, from an outbreak of TB in Occupy Atlanta (which was actually from a homeless shelter…imagine that) to the spread of STD’s, all of which are of dubious evidence. Regardless, linking a group of people to the spread of disease prompts the justification for any number of actions that dehumanize the target. After all, diseases do not respect the Constitution, so the Constitution is not a factor in attacking disease.

Of course, the next discursive formation to develop is to define the movement itself as a disease, which many commentators seem to be tiptoeing around, and a couple of blogs have stated expressly. This is the ultimate dehumanizing tactic. One that I’ve elaborated on this concept before. If a certain group can be defined as a disease, then the “eradication” of that group is justified, so a little teargas here and there is certainly excusable.

The dehumanization of protestors is the typical strategy of the establishment. Indeed, the establishment is strategizing the demise of this group as evidenced in this memo to the American Bankers Association. In order for this movement to be effectively silenced, those doing the speaking must be defined as less than human. Dehumanizing tactics provides the contexts in which the Occupy Movement can be ignored, marginalized and ultimately attacked by the power of the state/corporation.

Lt. Pike is just one tiny gear in this great, psychopathic machine. Within this machine he has a job to do. He recognizes teargas as nothing more than one instrument at his disposal for accomplishing this job. So there’s no remorse, no empathy for the human suffering that he is perpetuating. He’s doing nothing more than his job. However, this job is by its very nature psychopathic. Instead of recognizing the rights of students and citizens, instead of finding alternative means to achieve a satisfactory ends with regard to the Occupy protestors, the protesters themselves must be made to obey a system which exists to disenfranchise and exploit them. It is Lt. Pike’s job to make them obey.

Social psychopathy ensues.

Unless this psychopathy is addressed, expect the violence to increase. When it does, it is up to us to point out the humanity of those victimized by the state. That has been the rule so far. The young people being sprayed by Lt. Pike are demonstrably not “dirty hippies.” They are college students who, in any other context, should be hanging out at the frat house eating pizza and trying to pick up girls. We’ve seen Iraq War veterans getting the skulls smashed in. We’ve even seen veteran police officers hauled away for supporting Occupy. It’s hard to dehumanize our friends and neighbors. It’s our friends and neighbors, our brothers and sisters, who are trying to make themselves heard by occupying public spaces. If you hear someone refer to the Occupiers as “dirty hippies” make sure you let the speaker know that they are hating your brothers and sisters.


An Awkward Moment! On Hiding the Police from my Children

Police need to ask themselves, “what if children were watching us right now?”

 

I found myself in an awkward situation today. I was watching footage from the Occupy movement at Berkeley. Young men and women were linking arms in a line before a contingent of police officers. Suddenly the police erupted in a wave of blue violence, pummeling the protestors with their night sticks. Girls screamed and the crowd shouted in protest, but the line of young protestors held together despite what must have been damaging strikes about the head and rib breaking blows to the body. At least the line held as long as the footage ran.

In the meantime, my children were at the kitchen table doing an art project with mom. When I saw the broad blue line approach the protestors, night sticks in hand, I turned the computer screen away from the children’s view. I couldn’t get the volume down quickly enough, however, so the screaming was very audible. My wife asked me what was going on. “I’ll tell you later,” I responded.

My children have always been taught to respect the police, that the police were “community helpers.” They have been taught that if there is every any trouble that they can trust the police to help them. I haven’t changed my position on that. I still think that’s great advice because I know that it’s unlikely that the troubles my children may face will probably not run contrary to the whims of the corporate class.

Still, it’s a sad testament that I have to turn my children away from the actions of the police who are, quite obviously, not protecting or serving anyone but their corporate overlords. Anyone can see that the actions of police in these many examples, beating protestors with sticks, pepper spraying protestors who are doing nothing more than sitting on a sidewalk. Sometimes the actions of police are nothing more than gang behavior, heavily armed bullies pounding outnumbered young men and women for nothing more than a vague concept of “disobedience.”

My children are young, but they know what bullying is. So now, I’m in a position in which I have to hide actions of the police from my children lest they become confused about the role of “Officer Friendly” in their lives. I have to lead them through a situation in which police are admonished by a crowd to “stop beating students!”

It is the position of the Journal of a Mad Sociologist that the police are the 99%. We must help them understand that when they are beating, dispersing or “pacifying” Occupy members, they are hurting their brothers and sisters. Perhaps they need to understand that, in this postmodern, surveillance society where everyone carries their own security camera, it’s very likely that children may be watching their actions. I’d like to think that the police, in spite of the ingrained socialization through which they do their “jobs” would be inclined to do so differently if they knew that children were watching them.

To the police: In the first video I referenced above it appears that an order was given to strike out at peaceful, non-threatening young people. Perhaps you feel that you are just following orders—just doing your jobs. You do not have to obey. You do not have to raise your clubs or fire your tear-gas or rubber bullets when you know such actions would be reprehensible in the eyes of children. Like the Occupiers when commanded to leave and stay out, you can say “no!” You can join your brothers and sisters on the right side of history. You are the 99%. Serve and protect.


Attention Police Officers…

You are the 99%…

…and according to a Justice Department Report, twelve thousand of you will be out of a job next year.

I know you are acting out of fear, or coerced conformity when you attack your brothers and sisters with tear-gas and rubber bullets, but the state you serve (often valiantly) has made it plain that it does not serve you. Your bosses serve the 1% who pad their coffers.

Pretty soon you’ll be unemployed, replaced by private security, discarded. Don’t wait until that time to stand by the Occupiers you now oppress. If you will ultimately be standing shoulder to shoulder with us, why not start now.

Do your duty. Defend the Constitution of the United States, your own states and the principles they represent. Disobey your orders and stand for on the side of right. Stand with your brothers and sisters and occupy the city streets which you have sworn to protect.


This is What Democracy Looks Like!

Images from Occupy Fort Myers Rally, October 15, 20011

Yesterday was a great day for me and for participant democracy all over the world. The Occupy movement spread worldwide as common people everywhere shouted in the face of power, informing the top tier, the top 1% (and the minions thereof) that we know that we are being exploited. We stated informed the world that we are not going to stand by idly any more. While the global elite bask in the rewards that they reap from immoral labor practices, from the destruction of environments, from endless wars and manufactured crises, from perpetual economic catastrophes, from blackmailing taxpayers into propping them up because they are supposedly too big to fail, common people are opening their eyes grift and graft that is the lifeblood of the 1%. From New York to San Francisco, Tokyo to Sydney and yes, even little Fort Myers, this movement is catching steam like nothing seen before.

“This is bigger than anything I was in in the sixties…” one man at the Fort Myers demonstrated said to his friend as we made our way around the downtown area shouting “This is what democracy looks like.”

This is what democracy looks like, at least from my little microcosm of the Occupy movement. According to the News-Press, five hundred citizens from a very conservative corner of the country showed up to protest. I would estimate that it was at least twice that many, but the reader can be the judge.

We started out at Centennial Park. We arrived to a throbbing welcome of drums. It made me wish that I had brought my own. As can be seen from the pictures, this was an eclectic gathering. Every age group from infant to elderly participated. It was a largely white crowd, but not exclusively so. Were there “hippies?” There may have been a few, but the right wing, FoxNoise stereotype of the unwashed hippy looking for a handout does not apply, and never has.

A play and parody of the Tea Party.

Contrary to the imbecile ravings of FoxNoise and the right wing punditocracy, the Occupy movement is not asking for government handouts. We are asking for government representation. An overarching theme at this march is the collusion of government and the economic elite, for which “Wall Street” is the short hand. In this, the 99ers offer a much more sophisticated critique of government than anything the Tea Party has come up with. Instead of the “government bad” mantra of the Norquist Right, occupiers recognize the problem to be collusion between corporations and government. “They got bailed out…We got sold out,” was the rejoinder. It’s not about big government. It’s about a government that is responsive to the needs of the people.

I would offer that none of the people at the rally were “lazy hippies.” Perhaps if the Rushites actually showed up at these rallies they would see the truth. Of course, it’s doubtful that they would report the truth, but at least they would see it. Ahhh. Never mind!

We marched under the US 41 overpass. Here, a man in American Legion regalia heckled us. “You’ll be sorry!” He shouted. “This is what we fought against in Germany!” Well, there it was, the requisite Nazi reference. We can’t really call it a protest if someone doesn’t call us Nazis. In this case, we got it over with right off the bat. In fact, I have to admire the gentleman’s courage. He was alone, facing a line of hundreds, speaking his mind. That is also what democracy looks like. In fact, there were very few critics speaking out along our march. Most of the response we received from passersby was supportive, beeping horns with thumbs up out the window. I only heard one person lean his head out of the car and yell, “Freaks!” while he was driving. I wouldn’t put that in the same category of courage as our American Legion friend, but again, this is what democracy looks like.

Five hundred my…um…yeah, it was more than five hundred.

Corporate greed and monopoly, unemployment, unresponsive government, economic inequality, critiques of trickle-down economics, anti-war sentiment, end the Federal Reserve, tax reform. These are just a few of the messages presented in this march. The mainstream media and the pundit class criticize the 99ers by suggesting that there’s no coherent message, that there’s no one thing that we are focused on. This is a false criticism, a rhetorical slight. All of the above are symptomatic of unchecked excesses of corporate power, the imbalance between the representation of the elite and voice of the people. It is a single message for anyone who has the wherewithal to examine the issues, a wherewithal that the corporate media is lacks. Sorry pundit class, the message of the 99ers cannot be boiled down to a single-sentence sound bite. I guess your viewers will actually have to analyze the issues. We’re not trying to sell advertising space; we are speaking to the ages.

Interestingly, one thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the expressed conviction that those who didn’t understand the Occupy movement were brainwashed by the corporate media. Of course, this is the very same critique made by the Tea Party and the right wing, only they use the terms “liberal media” or the Palinesque “lamestream media.” If nothing else, this demonstrates a consensus that there is something awry with American media.

Nobody wants to do away with corporations. (all right, maybe some want to do away with corporations, but not all of us) We want corporations to stop corrupting our government.

Wow! Poignant. Almost a Foucaultian critique.

Our first stop was the Bank of America building. If there is a company that is emblematic of corporate excess, it is Bank of America.

This dog was off the leash and walked with us the entire way. I’m not sure who the owner is, but what a good dog. I think he was hoping to take a bite out of bankster.

So much for the America hating hippy stereotype.

This was a huge gathering, but very organized. We made room for drivers who were just trying to go their own way, often stopping our march to let them pass. Some of us at the head of the line even picked up a fallen table at one restaurant before the line of marchers reached that point. On one hand, it was a helpful thing to do, on the other hand, we did not want the Occupy movement to be accused of “knocking over tables at a local restaurant.”

Our next stop was the Wells Fargo central bank.

This gentleman’s t-shirt caught my eye. It’s a picture of Bush W stating “I screwed you all. But thanks for blaming the black guy.” Poignant. A reminder of this crisis’ origins as well as a racial critique. To what extent does race play in blaming Obama for an economic collapse that happened before his administration?

Past the Federal Building.

Notice the critique of big government. Liberalism is not about a big government that takes care of everyone, as the right-wing punditocracy would have you believe. Liberalism is about a government responsive to the people. There were two masked gentlemen on this march. The other wore a shirt labeled “socialist.” According to the right wing, one person identifying as a socialist means that everyone was a socialist. Of course that’s ridiculous. Everyone, however, did have their say. Oh, and socialists are against big government as well. Critics of socialism often know nothing of this philosophy.

The police presence was very light and very professional. Yes, in New York and other places there are plenty of examples of bad police behavior. I’m sure there are also examples of bad behavior among the Occupiers. Where there are enough people involved, there’s going to be bad behavior. We must remember, however, that these police officers are also part of the 99% (so to speak. I’m not statistically comfortable with the 99% designation). These officers followed us the entire way, conversed warmly with some of us, but otherwise maintained their distance and their professionalism. Kudos.

Indeed, US Senators are the most highly inflated commodity in the world thanks to Citizens United.

And this is my nomination for the best sign at the rally. This pretty much sums up the state of political debate for the last four years.

Overall, this moment was a wonderful and refreshing exercise in democracy. Who knows where this is going, but if hope has been in short supply since the end of the great anti-war movements of the Bush Administration, hope is renewed today. I had the pleasure of seeing two of my high school students on the march, supporting the cause, smiling and having fun. Maybe these students can tell their friends that participating in democracy is not the kind of onerous, boring task as presented in the classroom, but rather a fulfilling adventure. Having fun. This is the advice of the late, great Howard Zinn. Protest should be fun.

Another friend of mine, an immigrant from the former Soviet Bloc, told me, “I feel so energized now. For so long I was feeling so depressed. I kept asking, ‘why aren’t we in the streets?'” Well, we are now in the streets. Let’s stay there. Democracy is of the streets. Democracy is a movement of the people, not a function of government. This is what democracy looks like!


Occupy Fort Myers

For those of you readers who are in the Southwest Florida area, join me and many others at the first Occupy Fort Myers event. To my knowledge, this is not a protest, but rather a planning event. We will be meeting at Centennial Park, downtown Fort Myers at the picnic benches.

Please understand, this is not a liberal movement. This movement is open to all those who recognize that there are profound inequalities at work in our nation and that this current economic crisis, as with all other such events, is a direct result of these inequalities.