What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Meaning of September 17th.

September 17th - the start of the Occupy Wall St. protests - was the day that would start a true test for the United States of America.  Whether you believe in the message of the Occupy protests or not, what truly has been tested here, to me, is whether America still stands for the freedoms generally thought to be our founding values (the historical validity of those values/freedoms are an entirely different story).  Thus far, one year in to the Occupy protests, I do not believe that we do uphold our ideals.  Freedom of speech, the right to peaceful assembly, to march through the streets and act out against injustice and tyranny?  These are principles deeply ingrained within the America's principles tough to so many from such a young age.  These ideas are what we are said to be founded upon. 

What I have seen though, through my involvement with the Occupy protests, is a systemic crack down on freedom of speech, on protest, and on messages that the people ruling the cordons of American power do not seem to want disseminated.  From the top down, federal, state, and local governments have colluded and systematically squelched or failed allow the movement to be heard.  Most importantly though it is not just the government but the politico-industrial complex that has stifled what they consider atypical political expression.  Collusion and corruption of the corporate and governmental apparatus has been amazingly efficient and effective.  What have you heard of the occupy protests of late?  Maybe you heard something on May 1st, maybe you if you looked for it you read something last week about Occupy supporting the unionization and victory of restaurant workers at Hot and Crusty in NYC, or supporting stop and frisk protests.  Maybe if you get our newsletter you know more.  But most people don't.  It hasn't been covered by the main stream media, or even much of the marginally mainstream media, since not long after the park was cleared.  Occupy "was no longer a story", something without need to be covered.  Even when an unprecedented collaboration of labor, activist, and community contingents teamed up to put perhaps as many as 100,000 people on the streets of NYC alone on May 1st, the media's coverage solely reported a claim that Occupy snarled traffic and 25 people were arrested.  They did not report why, or the reasons for the protests that day.  No witness accounts, no ground level reporting.

The police were at the same time doing everything they could to suppress and divide the protesters on that May 1st .  The top down collusion between Mayor Bloomberg, police chief Ray Kelly, and the entire NYPD has been criminal.  It lead to a 200 page report by the NYU and Fordham law schools that universally condemned the police's response as continually violating the 1st amendment and human rights. 

Mayor Bloomberg of ourse has a tremendous amount to gain in all of this.  Worth billions of dollars, the message that occupy pushes - ending corporate and governmental corruption and bringing economic and social justice to everyone (the 99% & the 1% included) - is not something the wealthy and powerful in this country and world seem want heard.  We are looking for better schools, living wages, sustainable employment, and a functioning electoral system.  Regulation of the banks, public private collusion, and the environment.  Equal opportunity for all races, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, genders, etc.  We want a world where the 1% does not control everything.  Where power is dissipated more towards the rest of us.

Now I can understand that those in positions of power would not want this.  They like being in charge.  But I can also tell you that as per America's bespoke values and purpose their personal power-lust should. not. matter.  If we are a country based on freedom, equal opportunities  civil liberties, and justice, then it should not matter how much money you have, you should be able to have a voice.  That voice should be able to be heard - and not just once a year in the ballot booth where the electoral options are already rigged by the powerful.  We should be able to see and have solid ethical journalism that is not controlled by private interests, that covers real people's stories, and the way real people live (75% of America lives on less than $50,000 a year, 20% below the poverty line.  We are not the Khardashian's nor aspire to be).  We should have elected officials that we can actually chose, not a one on one winner take all corporately controlled election of the rich.  We should have economic and educational opportunities that include everyone - no matter their socio-economic status at birth .  I mean our America today does not provide basic healthcare 50,000,000 people.  We are diving down a long steep slope and need to be allowed to speak up and slow this process.  To stop it.

What I have realized over the last year are in fact that our oppressors are powerful and deep rooted.  But the minute you squelch free speech - in AMERICA - the "land of the free and the brave" - you are quickly nothing more than an oppressor.  Federal, state, and local, governments have done this.  Local and federal law enforcement offices have done this.  Corporate money and back room dealings have done this.  The media has done this.  Thus, the general public has done this as well - if you believe we live in a Democracy.

September 17th to me is the day that America tested itself.  And one year later, if I am the one giving out the grades?  We've failed miserably.  The top down control has managed the information and propaganda and its social control mechanisms, while the bottom up will of the people has not materialized.  Will we rise up to the challenge and make amends?  Will we recapture our core values and freedoms?  Even in the face of losing power for some, will they do what is right and say, hey, this is America "home of the free and the brave", we have to let these people speak!  My inclination is no, they won't.  They will not, and that is why Sept 17th is the start of us trying to take our country back from our oppressors.  Sadly, that oppression started in the 18th century when the country was founded by the same people stifling us today.  The same rich, white, monied interests that didn't see African-Americans, Native Americans, or even woman as people of equal merit, but as tools, pawns, or niceties.  Amazing how we are fighting the same fight today that we fought back then.  Maybe that should tell us something, that those ideals of freedom and such are not actually what America has always been about... but maybe still, what it should be about, and what it will someday actually be!