A 31-year-old friend spent three days this past week amidst the Occupy Wall Street protest that is slowly building momentum. She had this to share:
- All ages are present, but “this is definitely a movement of the young.”
- It’s non-hierarchical, non-institutional, and open to whatever voices want to speak.
- Since loudspeakers are banned in New York, someone at the center speaks, then the next ring of people will repeat what the speaker said one phrase at a time, and the ring after that, until everyone has heard – and the message has gone deep through repetition.
- Bankers sit in upper-story windows and smirk, laugh and scorn the protesters.
- Police officers are caught in the middle, and she is praying especially for them. Street protests are fundamental to American rights, and yet they can bother the more institutional-minded.
- Finding common ground is the goal of the emerging slogan, “We are the 99%.” When seen that way, protesters and observers and police and all but the top few at corporate offices are in this together.
- News media pick up on the outlandish, but, as she saw it, these are mostly very serious people who are saying No to the 1% who control 90% of American wealth and personally absorbed 40% of all economic growth since 1983.
FAITH Q & A
Q: Besides prayer, how and with whom, do we amass our voices to combat this scary rightist tendency that steadily grows?
A: The “rightist tendency,” as you put it, has some patrons. Some are shadowy figures like the Koch brothers. Some are better known, like Donald Trump. They donate large sums to right-wing causes in order to bring about self-serving ends, such as anti-tax sentiment that will reduce their own tax bills, anti-government sentiment that will exempt them from regulatory oversight, and division among citizens that will hide their own bad business decisions (think Bank of America and Citigroup) and free them to widen the income-disparity gap.
Occupy Wall Street and its cousins in other cities are naming the patrons and exposing their misdeeds. The emerging slogan, “We are the 99%,” makes it clear that mega-wealth, not Democrats or Republicans as such, is the problem.
Name the patrons of right-wing extremism and name the victims – that strikes me as what we need to do. Religious folks probably won’t lead the way. Our credibility and energy are too low. But we can follow others, especially young adults, and affirm the naming.