I’ve found myself writing to the Albuquerque Journal a number of times lately. They’ve published my letters quite a few times in the past, but I don’t think these have made it into print. It occurred to me that, hey, I have a blog. This will be a little introduction to what I hope to say about the Occupy movement and what the spiritually aware person might choose to think or do about what’s wrong with our world.
The Journal‘s coverage of (un)Occupy Burque has not been a model of accuracy for the most part, but right now I do want to encourage them, and for once, in today’s letter, I’m not yelling at them.
Thank you for today’s coverage of Albuquerque’s (un)Occupy activities. The front-page picture of the march that took place yesterday as part of the Funeral for Our First-Amendment Rights did a great job of showing the positive, hopeful atmosphere, and Olivier Uyttebrouck’s article was clear and useful.
Our Albuquerque experience yesterday was certainly a contrast with that of Denver and so many other places, and with the eviction from Yale Park last Tuesday. The APD officers who accompanied us on bicycles were pleasant and friendly, and they were a big help in directing traffic so that both marchers and cars could get through the intersections.
Citizens on the street, in businesses, and in cars were mostly enthusiastic and supportive. There was one especially clueless young man in an SUV, though, who yelled, “Get a job and invest your money!” Yes, both of those things have been working out great for Americans lately, haven’t they. (And many of the marchers were students juggling both school and work, and bothering to give volunteer time as well.) It’s too bad he didn’t follow us to Civic Plaza, where a gigantic banner proclaimed, “Americans Want to WORK!”
I feel compelled to respond to Ned Cantwell’s amusing but largely clueless column of 10/23 with the headline “Be Sure To Wear Flowers in Your Hair.”
Mr. Cantwell writes, “I am not sure why the banks are the centerpiece of frustration.” Duh– because they had such a central role in wrecking the world economy. “If you don’t like Bank of America’s $5 debit card charge, don’t use that service.” I hardly know where to start with that one. At the very least, it’s a kick in the pants to all of us taxpayers who kindly saved the banks’ own behinds, then watched their top executives skim off as much of our cash as they could.
“Banks make money? We can only hope so.” I don’t think anyone is complaining about banks or any other businesses making money ethically. We are complaining that many corporations have made money, tons of it, by squeezing American workers dry and/or shipping their jobs to Asia. We aren’t too thrilled with banks that profit hugely on shady mortgage deals, often heartlessly and mindlessly foreclosing on families who are actually making payments and doing their good-faith best to keep their homes.
“Nothing has changed much since hippies roamed the land. There have always been the rich and the poor.” Mr. Cantwell needs to look up a few statistics. There was a period of time in which America had a genuine middle class. That middle class, and in fact most of our citizens, have been steadily falling behind for decades now. This is a matter of hard numbers. The difference is more than just hope, which seems to be the only thing Mr. Cantwell thinks we have lost. Objectively, things are worse for a great many people, and they were already getting worse before this latest economic meltdown hit us. (Even though nowadays we have new toys like Mr. Cantwell’s nemesis Netflix.) America was not supposed to be just another place where the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, was it?
The Tea Party focused on the role of government in creating the present mess. The Occupy movement is focusing on big business. Most people who pay any attention realize that it’s government being owned by big business that’s the real issue. This is far, far more than some kids with guitars hanging out in parks, folks. This is about deep, fundamental changes that we desperately need. Take a look at the subjects of some of the past week’s teach-in lectures held by our local movement at UNM:
“Our Constitutional Republic: The need to get our money and sovereignty back under control”
“The need for deep electoral reforms at all levels”
“Beyond Corporate Health Care: the Single Payer Alternative”
“Globalization, corporate governance and causes of world financial crisis”
“Globalization and its discontents: The abuses of human rights”
And most ironically, in light of Mr. Cantwell’s column:
“Wall Street Rage and Soundbite Simpletons: Why the Media Just Don’t Get It”
I appreciated Diane Dimond’s Saturday column about US citizens being arrested simply for taking pictures. The case of the woman who was put in jail for taking photos of a public display of helicopters to use on her “Support Our Troops” website was particularly horrifying. We have allowed the development of a police state in which, rather than having greater “security,” we are all more at risk than ever from the very people we have hired to protect us. Video and photos may be our only line of defense, yet we are punished for trying to use them.
The past few days’ events at the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City– which have received amazingly little media coverage– have made this all the more obvious. Peaceful protesters have been sprayed in the face with pepper spray from only a foot away, dragged across the concrete by their hair, handcuffed so tightly that their hands have gone numb, and packed into police vans with their pleas for air and water refused. Americans have cheered on the uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere, but we mistreat our own citizens who attempt to bring attention to injustices here at home. If video coverage by those on the scene were not available, we wouldn’t even know this was happening, and we might not be willing to believe that it could happen here.
If police are doing right, videos will protect them from unjust charges against them. If they are doing wrong, we, their employers, need to know about it. Cameras on police cars are a great idea; whatever happens will be clearly seen, with no argument about who did what. There is no reason whatsoever that citizens should not be able to use the same tool.
So much effort these days goes toward so-called security measures that accomplish little or nothing while invading our privacy, annoying us, and costing money. A small example: I was astonished to find that purses were required to be opened for the eyes of security guards at the gate of the State Fair this year. Even after 9/11, that wasn’t done– what’s different now? I was carrying only a 4 x 6” passport case, not even a purse, but I had to open it and show the guard. Exactly what dangerous item could I have been carrying in that little case? If a weapon of some kind could fit in there, couldn’t I have had one in a pocket or somewhere else on my person? (An underwear bomb, perhaps?) Going through bags without adding even more invasive searches is essentially useless, and what would more invasive searches do to the atmosphere of the fair? The week before, the same guards had even been confiscating water brought by fairgoers. Why? So that more wasteful, trash-generating bottles of water could be sold at $3.50 apiece by fair vendors? So that more attendees would be uncomfortable in the heat? Can’t we use the security guards to actually patrol the fair and look for trouble?