Occupy Wall Street has become something so un-American yet American all at the same time. Mass demonstrations happen frequently in countries around the world but here in America, not so much.
In America we protest on talk shows, twitter, facebook, and for those “radicals”, letter writing campaigns and maybe a demonstration with a dozen others in front of an abortion clinic or government building.
But 20,000 people with tents and kitchens camped out in a public park in front of the world’s financial capital?
Not in our back yard. OccupyWallStreet has taken off and now the movement is “occupying” cities all over the nation. This just doesn’t happen in America anymore.
You may have heard about these campaigns but what do these people want? What is Occupy Wall Street?
Whatever it is that they’re so passionate about must be a big deal.
The movement is a loosely organized campaign that has one main demand. “We demand that Barack Obama ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington.”
Doesn’t sound like such a bad idea does it?
They believe that money has become the driving force behind all policy making. They say that powerful corporate lobbyists are behind a lot of the political gridlock that is keeping Washington lawmakers from making large scale change and they want it stopped.
From this one demand, OccupyWallStreet loyalists took up other causes like the wealth divide in this country, Wall Street executives not held accountable for their crimes causing taxpayers billions of dollars, and much more as detailed in their manifesto.
The idea wasn’t theirs, though.
Inspired by the persistence of Egyptian protestors who eventually helped to remove then president Mubarek, OccupyWallStreet believes that as they persist their movement will grow just as it did in Egypt.
“If we hang in there, 20,000-strong, week after week against every police and National Guard effort to expel us from Wall Street, it would be impossible for Obama to ignore us.”
If there is one thing that everybody in Washington seems to agree on, it’s that they don’t agree on anything. Each party blames the other for being unreasonable in their demands.
While most Americans have sat by and watched the political wrangling in disgust, OccupyWallStreet hasn’t just watched. They’ve taken to the streets in protest and maybe it’s time for that.
Maybe it’s time for all of us to stop writing letters and protest just as they did during our country’s birth? We live in a country where free speech through peaceful demonstrations is a right that those before us fought for and won.
How does OccupyWallStreet affect the everyday citizen? The mom? The student? The executive? Why should you care?
It only affects us if we allow it and maybe it’s time that we do. Your money and your prosperity is largely affected by decisions or lack of decisions made in Washington and recent polling data shows that the majority of the country is unhappy with the performance of our representatives.
I’m going to admit, I feel the frustrations. You see banks get bailed out with taxpayer money for fear of the banks going bankrupt. Then the banks show huge profits with mega-bonuses for their top executives.
But small businesses and potential homeowners can’t get loans. Then the banks turn around and raise their bank fees (granted, the fees are a consequence of government regulation).
Is all of the protesting directed in the right place?
Perhaps some of it is. To say Wall St. and the government are wholly independent of each other, well, I just don’t think that’s accurate.
But maybe those that are frustrated and protesting need to find a leader, a voice, that can run a platform that can challenge the status quo come election time.
Occupy Wall Street has gotten lots of support as well. New York’s United Federation of Teachers, for one, threw their support behind OWS. In fact, the UFT is helping OWS out by providing them storage for their supplies and goods.
OWS gets donated supplies every day. So many supplies that Occupy Wall Street is able to donate 15% of their surplus to homeless shelters and community organizations.
Time will tell if Occupy Wall Street finds strength and unity in their message.
Maybe they have already accomplished something? Along with National Bank Transfer Day, Occupy Wall Street has brought attention to the practices of major banks, such as high fees. Record numbers of people switched their accounts from major banks to credit unions to escape fees. In response to this, Bank of America rescinded their proposed $5 debit card usage fee. Many other banks dropped their debit card fees as well.
Of course the question is how much of an influence did Occupy Wall Street have on banks changing their debit card fee stance?
According to The Guardian, Occupy Wall Street has three aims in their agenda:
- Stop the influence of money in politics;
- Restore the Glass-Steagall Act, which separates investment banks from commercial banks. This was a law that originated in the Depression and was eliminated during the Clinton administration. OWS, and others, believe the combination of investment and commercial banking is a big reason for our current economic climate; and
- “draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.”
On the other hand, we hear stories about how this movement resembles Woodstock, without the music, more than an organized movement with real goals. We hear about lewd acts. We hear about the homeless using the area as a place to stay.
Should the city have to pay the bill for returning the area to it’s original state once these protesters leave? Shouldn’t these protesters go out and truly create something rather than sit around, yelling about capitalism?
Regardless of what each of us believes, maybe we need to take direction from OccupyWallStreet and fight a little harder for what we believe. Peaceful demonstration without fear of harm is a decidedly American luxury not enjoyed by many other countries. People still have a right to their opinion and I think the media has been polarized in recent years. Ideas are black or white with little room for true discussion.
If people are talking about Occupy Wall Street then maybe we can get some real discussion opened up. I’d love to see people argue points rather than simply argue with each other.
What is Occupy Wall Street to you? Give your opinion below.
Here are some other articles about Occupy Wall Street:
Steve Jobs Creating Jobs
If You’re Going to Occupy Something, At Least Pick the Right Place | Thousandaire
About Us | OccupyWallSt.org
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream – To those who Occupy: We stand with you.
photo by People’s Open Graphics