This past weekend, Occupy Wall Street demonstrations were held in over 951 cities in 82 countries as people around the globe joined in an international day of solidarity against the greed and corruption of the 1%.
The media, trying to discredit all the demonstrators, say we don't know what we are for, only what we are against. So I believe there is much to be gained were we to embrace the following 20 second sound bite for "what we are for."
- We want to replace a society based on selfishness and materialism with a society based on caring for each other and caring for the planet.
Ok, it was two minutes instead of 20 seconds, but we deserve that amount of time.
For direct action, we need to begin non-violent sit-ins aimed at disrupting the normal operations of those corporations that have acted illegally and immorally, but gotten away with it because their friends control the Democratic Party as well as the Republican. We can't just occupy parks, we need to escalate our activity in a totally non-violent way.
For a longer term strategy, we need to run a candidate or a series of candidates (different ones in different states) to challenge Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries, else the power-brokers will continue to ignore the progressive sentiments of the American majority, telling themselves that since we have no electoral alternative, we'll always be there for the Democratic power brokers no mater how badly they ignore the needs of the 99%. Unless we have a presence in the electoral arena in 2012, our voices will be totally marginalized and the already-far-to-the-right discourse in American politics will shift even more in that reactionary direction. But we have an amazing opportunity: we can use a challenge to Obama in the Democratic primaries (NOT the general elections, where many of us will end up supporting Obama and not making the mistake of 2000 in claiming that there is no difference at all between Dems and Republicans), to do in the Democratic Party what the Tea Party did inside of the Republican Party: push for a worldview that is coherent and clear, and policies that embody Our New Bottom Line.
The big problem facing us is how to take the millions of Americans who are ready to move in this new direction to work together coherently. Yet we can rejoice the first step has been taken: Americans coming out of the closet of despair and calling for a world of justice, peace and caring for each other and for the planet.
I'm particularly proud that young Jews participating in these demonstrations have created Sukkot, the temporary huts that Jews are supposed to live in for 7 days (the holiday started Wednesday night October 12) to symbolize detachment from the material security provided by our homes, to re-identify ourselves as a people that has mostly been homeless for most of our history, and to remind ourselves that all the accomplishments of material security are meaningless unless shared with everyone else. Tikkunista Jews (tikkun means healing and transforming the world) are challenging the establishment Jews, some of whom run the very institutions that all of us supporting Occupy Wall Street hope to see replaced by a more just order. Though right-wingers have followed David Brooks' attempt to smear the demonstrators as anti-Semitic, the truth is that the Jewish world can be proud that a high percentage of these demonstrators are Jewish -- and challenging the establishment Jews who have a disproportionate presence in the community of bankers and investment brokers.
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine and Chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Author of the New York Times best-seller, The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (Harper, 2006), his next book forthcoming in November is Embracing Israel/Palestine: A strategy for Middle East Peace. RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org