The American Autumn
Why Occupy Wall Street? The causes of the protest here and in the Middle East are not so different. People are feeling marginalized both economically and politically. The young adults who for the most part populate the demos are desperately worried about their ability to find jobs and support families.Their parents and grandparents are feeling the squeeze– 25 million Americans (16%) are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work and milllions have lost their homes.
Government policies promote the rich and powerful and not surprisingly the gap between the wealthy and the “99 %” continues to escalate. A new study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that income of the upper 1 % nearly tripled while the rest of us barely held ground. Recent polls showing public approval of Congress is at an all time low – in single digits. No wonder – leaders from both parties are beholden to their large donors rather than their constituents. The reckless mega-Wall Street firms that caused the 2008 collapse got the bailouts while families around the nation lose their homes.
Police raids: If you have any doubts about the brutal nature of police actions in Oakland, New York and other places, please take a look at the following videos: Esquire, Associated Press/KGO TV, ABC News
We haven’t seen anything like this since the Vietnam and Civil Rights eras. Tuesday night (October 25) was especially brutal in Oakland where police fired tear gas and reportedly used rubber bullets and flash-bang canisters to clear Frank Ogawa Park in front of City Hall.
American Hero, Marine Sargent Shamar Thomas: Crises always bring out both the best and the worst in people. Our Hero award goes to Marine Sargent Shamar Thomas who angrily berated New York City Police after they attacked peaceful Occupy Wall Street Protesters. In the following video he asks the police “how do you sleep at night” and “why would you harm these people. They have no guns” Sgt. Shamar, a veteran of more than 50 combat missions in Iraq, asks why the police are brutalizing unarmed American citizens peacefully practicing their constitutional rights. See: http://rt.com/usa/news/us-sergeant-thomas-people-639/
American Hero, Lisa Simeone: National Public Radio’s this week fired Lisa Simeone, the host of NPR’s World of Opera Program. Soon after a company that produces programs for NPR distribution fired Simeone from her position as host of Soundprint. The reason—Ms. Simeone participated in Stop the Machine demonstrations in DC – protests against federal funding for the war in Afghanistan, now in its tenth year. NPR cited its code of ethics: “NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them.” Sure reporters should refrain from making news, but it’s hard to see the connection between Simeone’s participation in an anti-war protest and an opera, say, Mozart’s The Marriage Figaro. But perhaps NPR’s executives are worried that some of the network’s donors might not like even a slight hint that NPR supports such protests. Lisa Simeone is an American patriot and we are sure that she be successful in her next ventures. A big loss for NPR, but especially for listeners.
My response: First, there is no excuse for the tear gassing, flash bang canisters and harming protesters. That has to stop. It only leads to an escalation of rage and violence. Secondly, the protesters need to know that public will continue to back their efforts if they are restrained in their response. Third, I will assume that most of the city officials involved are well meaning. All of this leads to the need for negotiations. There is surely common ground – protesters need to protest and city officials need to keep the place running. Moreover, cities across the nation have taken a huge financial hit and have had to layoff teacher and other public workers. As one protester told a cop, “You are just one pink slip away from joining our protest.” So its urgent to work out formulas in “occupied cities” that work for both sides. As many have said, “The whole world is watching Oakland.”
Where is the President? Once again we are not hearing much from the White House. Sure, Obama is preoccupied with winning a second term. However, he could play a leadership role in getting the occupiers and the mayors together. Come on Mr. President, why not a trip to Oakland?