Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Occupy Wall Street! And Then What?

    Occupy Wall Street!
    Somehow a protest movement has ignited without anyone really noticing, but there it is.  Day and night protestors are camped out in Wall Street as well as other centers in major cities around the United States.
    So is this a fad?  Or where do I sign up to occupy Morgantown WV?  
    I'm old enough to remember the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's and in fact I attended some rallies around the country as a concerned teen.  Later, as a seminarian at United Theological Seminary in the 1980's and 1990's, I had the opportunity to study the theological underpinnings of Civil Rights, and some of the practical considerations of protest.
    It struck me that, as far as I know, almost all of the operations initiated by Rev.Martin Luther King and other leaders seemed to have a specific objective.  The objective might be to end racial segregation on buses in Montgomery Alabama, or to allow African Americans to sit at lunch counters in Greensboro, or to end discriminator voter registration laws in Mississippi.  As long as they did this, they generally kicked Jim Crow's ass.  Other marches called for the end of the Viet Nam War, or to free the Chicago 7, or whatever.  The point is that they usually had a specific agenda to accomplish.
    By the 1990's, however, many of these protests had deteriorated into symbolism.  To cite a small example, in the city of Dayton, where I lived at the time, we used to have an excercise where people from the West Side (predominantly African American) would meet folks from the East Side (predominantly white) and hold hands on a bridge than spans the Little Miami River.  Then everyone would sing "We Shall Overcome" and rush home to see ourselves on TV.
    That is what I fear about the current protest movement.  I can't figure out what the protestors are seeking to accomplish, other than to register displeasure with people that buy and sell stocks.  I can think of lots of possible reforms that could be made, but so far I'm not aware that anyone has articulated any kind of demand for specific reform.  Mainly I see calls for increased media coverage, and to enlarge participation in the event with the help of celebrity protestors.  Perhaps its therapeutic to vent rage in this way.
    A lot of people are mad at rich folks for not paying their fair share of taxes (actually nobody is paying their fair share, that's why we have a 1.5 Trillion dollar deficit, folks.  But rich folks are benefitting most, that's for sure).  So is this whole thing about taxes?  By the way, that's how the Tea Party started, as a rebellion against what they perceived was too much taxation.  So is Occupy Wall Street a liberal version of the Tea Party?   I hope not!