"Get a message and clean up your act."
That's Tea Party advice from Tea Party Officials Rep. Allen West (R-Fla) and Steve King (R-Iowa) to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. Then King continued, "If they knew what their grievance was then maybe one could have some sympathy, but I can't really identify their grievances"
With that comment he not only missed the point but the Tea Party apparently missed a singular opportunity join forces with an element of American citizenship that shares its frustrations and anger. A different tonality perhaps, but both committed to a vision of an America that functions to the benefit of all its citizenry and not just parochial special interests.
To get a first hand sense of what the OWS movement was really about, I ventured early Saturday morning to Zucotti Park, at the edge of Wall Street, gathering place of the OWS movement. There amidst sleeping bags, occupied mattresses, community kitchen lines were the huddled masses bestirring themselves for another day of political protest. And there leaning at the edge of sleeping bags or nearby, resting on the pavement, was the signage that spelled out as clear as anything I had come across from the 'chattering classes', the sinews of the movement. My camera ready I took pictures of a plethora of messages that made the ambitions and goals of the OWS clear to most any observer. Let me quote messages painted on the signage strewn about the site, ready to be raised and paraded during the day or held as banners and placards in demonstrations to come:
-"If Voting Made a Difference It Would Have Already Made A Difference"
-"Work, Consume, Be Silent, Die -- I Rely On Your Apathy"
-"The Empire Strikes Back"
-"We Are The Tired Poor Huddled Masses"
-"Corporate Greed is Un-American"
-"End Corporate Welfare"
-"Another Mother Against Greed"
-"Obama Let Wall Street F***k Yo Mama!
-"Why Bail Out Wall Street Than Sell Out Main Street"
-"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them - Albert Einstein"
-"I Will Not Let Food Stamps Numb My Hunger For Righteousness and Justice"
-"You Are The 99%"
-"Plutocrats Go Back To Your Planet"
-Talk About Campaign Finance Reform!
Stop Lobbyists, Occupy K Street Washington"
-"No More Bailout For Executive Bonuses
No More Money For Wars
Take Care Of Our Vets
Campaign Finance Reform
Stop Raising Tuition/ Stop Attack On Teachers &
-"1 Out of 5 American Children Live in Poverty"
-"Guilty Bankers Should Be In Jail"
-"The Worker Class Too Big To Fail"
-"Let Us realize A Society Based On Human Needs Not On Hedge Fund Profits"
-"Give Me My Future Back"
And then ominously the placard emblazoned:
-"Class War Ahead."- A failed result of our misguided leadership. President Obama set this dangerous tone by painting all successful Americans with the same brush "millionaires, billionaires, incomes over $250,000, and on".
Clearly there is anger across the land at those who did well but did it unfairly, destroying much of our faith in what we once viewed and admired as the 'American meritocracy'. Obama, in his rhetoric, is kindling dangerous depths of the nation's psyche; the politics of envy. Any wonder then that this thread has been picked up by the "huddled masses."
And here our government and all of us must do the needful to earn back the respect we all once had for a system that was a meritocracy and a beacon of opportunity. Where success was celebrated in that it was, with exceptions of course, earned fairly, through hard work on a level playing field, and from which we all benefited. It is the outrage against the corruption and destruction of our once heralded system of meritocracy that is the core of Occupy Wall Street. The Tea party would do well to take heed.
Follow Raymond J. Learsy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/raymondLearsy