Many of us wondered when it would happen, what it would take to ignite a national outcry against those that are destroying the American Dream for millions for their own selfish gain. When would that magical tipping point occur when thousands, millions of those voiceless, "ordinary" Americans would come together to take back our country? That revolution has begun.
The fuse was lit in the Middle East this past spring, making its way to our country in the summer in Wisconsin and other states. Somewhere along that journey, urged on in July by ADBUSTERS Magazine in Vancouver, Canada, the movement seeds were planted. Then, in September, protesters came to New York, in small numbers that have grown larger as the weeks go by. Zuccotti Park near Wall Street became an occupied zone, seemingly overnight, with protesters taking up residence close to that citadel of greed called Wall Street, with its shady dealings and amorality that has brought America to is knees, dragging down the world economy with it. The protesters began to voice our national anger to the perpetrators of "the Street's" outrageous crimes, who have otherwise remained untouchable, since no one in our government has had the courage to make them pay for their transgressions and ship them off to prison.
We bailed out those "too big to fail " financial institutions, and today they are reaping an even greater harvest of ill-gotten gains. Yet they continue to refuse to pay their fair share of taxes to help our country, cowing a bought-off Congress with cries of "job-killer" and "over-regulation!" They should be gladly willing to return the favors bestowed upon them and bail out the 99% of Americans who bailed them out, so many of whom are now jobless, losing their homes or already homeless, unable to afford health insurance, hungry, destitute. Those Americans who once proudly were counted among the middle class - the engine that ran this country - are now withering on the vine in this seemingly endless economic drought.
Meanwhile, the inequities between the "haves" and the "have-nots" abound, and the re-distribution of wealth to the privileged few continues unabated, while soup kitchens are over extended and lines in Harlem are long for giveaways of free milk for children. Yet despite this obvious calamity unfolding before our eyes, The American Jobs Act still could not pass in the Senate, and now must be dealt with piece by piece. It was at least a beginning to jumpstart the economy and finally place a fair tax on the rich. Unfortunately, any kind of tax increase, no matter how desperately needed it is, still remains a big "no-no" for this Congress. Clearly the money and the monied class remain firmly in control of DC, while ruining the rest of America.
And so the voiceless finally found their voice and have come by the thousands to Zuccotti Park in New York, as well as Freedom Plaza in DC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston and a hundred other cities across the country - led by a wonderful, spontaneous combustion of youthful exuberance that is being seen and heard around the world, bringing in supporters of all ages. The press coverage has been constant, as the sheer numbers of protesters appears to have awakened the until-now sleeping fourth estate. Corporate media is also covering this story, one too big for their right wing bosses to silence. Even Eric Cantor's fear-provoking shouts about "mobs" can't seem to dampen interest.
Much of this is because those young people at the heart of this peaceful uprising are so internet savvy, reporting the truth to the world as events unfold, before the smear machine at Fox News can gin up their lies. Occupy Wall Street has created a self-contained community, with its own improvised kitchen, cleaning details and media center - amid the tents and sleeping bags in Zuccotti Park - where ideas and issues are discussed and shared in the open. The protesters have also staged actions across the city, showing up outside the apartment buildings of Rupert Murdoch and Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Last Thursday they were on the Great White Way of Broadway outside a Schubert theatre with an association to the Chairman of Sotheby's Auction House, who locked out dozens of lower paid workers in a labor dispute. And on Saturday, 2 events, one targeting Chase and later in the day a celebration of solidarity in Times Square, a shared day of action and unity around the globe showcasing Wall Street and corporate greed. A staggering 1,000 plus events in 82 countries, with over 100 events taking place here in our nation.
New Yorkers have embraced these roving peaceniks, sending food and money and supplies, which are also starting to come in from around the world. $300,000 in donations have now come in, and new supporters are joining the protests daily, swelling the ranks of the movement.
With all of this positive energy and support for them, Occupy Wall Street must mature into a thinking, functioning body, with organized leadership and a clear vision of what it is they want to accomplish and change. It is time to create that list of demands, giving the movement direction and a larger purpose. All kinds of organizations and unions have offered their names in support of the movement, but Occupy Wall Street must be careful not to be co-opted. Indeed, they are surely aware that some of the names suddenly supporting them are nothing more than extensions of a sellout Democratic party that has become a branch office for the special interests, located right next to the GOP's.
These revolutionaries must move beyond just trumpeting the inequities, greed and the need to tax the rich. In order to succeed, they must demand a real change in how our government operates and functions, and they must continue to grow the movement and work towards a common goal. I might suggest two objectives around which they can rally - amending the Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and passing the Fair Elections Now Act, which calls for public funding for political campaigns. Here are two "yes or no" issues that can be used to clearly define those political "leaders" who are with the People or with the Corporations. And if Representatives or Senators do not sign on in support of these two imperatives, all of that youthful energy can be focused on getting the bums voted out of office and replacing them with new, responsive and responsible leaders who will support these initiatives. Our politics must be cleaned up. Otherwise, all of the shout outs about inequality and greed will be for naught. I see many potential candidates for office among these inspirational, peaceful revolutionaries.
About half of the states now have some form of law, resolution or stopgap in place to deal with campaign finance reform. Leading on this issue is Public Citizen, with its staff working on the ground across the country organizing in municipalities and states, pushing initiatives to reign in the out-of-control influence of money in campaigns. Move To Amend is a coalition of 185 organizations, along with Russ Feingold's Progressives United, that are also working to take on this monumental task.
This is the road to retaking our county, and if Occupy Wall Street will come on board and make this their issue, they will be unstoppable. Overturning Citizens United, now approaching its second year since passage, must become a national goal for all who seek a just society that serves all Americans. Otherwise, we can expect that things will only get worse.
- with Jonathan Stone