Why Occupy Wall Street Matters — If It Lasts

Many questions have been raised concerning the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests and camps that have spread across the country. In a nutshell, these questions seems to boil down to: “So what? A lot of people are camping out and whining…therefore I ask again, so what? Why should I care? Why does the OWS movement matter?”

With an entrenched foe who considers you to be the unwashed and unworthy rabble, protest doesn’t seem like it’s going to make one whit of difference. Armed revolution might, but the backlash on the Tea Party protests a couple of years ago pretty much showed that the public really doesn’t have the stomach for that. That really only leaves a social solution — which means a political solution.

That’s really why OWS matters and, if it holds together for an extended period of time, why it will eventually have power drawn from public sentiment and the ballot box. Long-term, there is the hope that men and women of good conscience, wanting to serve the public instead of profit from it, will return to the political ring and make changes from within. But that’s not going to happen quickly. There are too many well-entrenched scoundrels out there. In the short term, the importance of OWS is that it is the one significant lobbying force the people have to tell policymakers that all they want is a fair chance to make a living and not be destroyed by the criminal greed and power-narcissism of a few.

This populist lobby doesn’t have one definitive, focused policy because so much is broken. Healthcare. Taxes. Corporations considered to be people. Job outsourcing. Military conflicts of dubious worth but extreme expense. The excessive zeal of the TSA in achieving questionable results. Of money buying access. Of CEOs being rewarded handsomely for failing and/or cooking the books. Of Congress becoming a puppet to money while being a bumbling, ineffectual fool to the electorate. And so forth.

In the end, the message is simple: it’s a plea to listen to the words Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That is what OWS is lobbying for. That the nation, paid for in blood, doesn’t perish. That everyone who loves this country deserves the respect of their government to rein in the malfeasance and deliver the legal promise stated in the law of the land which is summarized with remarkable clarity:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Justice. Security. Fairness. Prosperity. This isn’t just for the gentry. Our founders had more than enough of a class-based society. This was for the vast masses…eventually. Everyone (more or less) deserved fair treatment. Based on what they wrote into law and in their own journals and publications, they too would be marching in protest over what the United States has become. They would have squat in camps, and yes, maybe even tossed a shipload (or three) of tea into a harbor to make their point. Fairness. Having a voice. Marching in protest to give the people, the common folk, a measure of power. That’s what OWS is about.

Will it succeed? Only if it persists. 2012 is a major election year. If OWS is still relevant and visible come spring, they will have earned their power. If, as most in the executive suites are assuming, that these malcontents disperse and fade into the countryside once the weather becomes inclement, never to gather again in force, then their strategy of waiting around for the mobocracy to be distracted by the next Kardashian wedding will will have worked. They’ll then rule the day and continue to rule the election booths.

One last thing: that fraction of ordinary people who think this is about being on the dole instead of investing sweat-equity in the nation need to recognize that fairness doesn’t mean “socialism”. It’s a fight for fair rules, not a tilted playing field. It’s not about party. It’s not about religion. In fact, it really isn’t about money per se. It’s about how the money is gained and how it is used. If it had been used well, no one would care that the rich were rich. But, they instead have been playing a shell game with us as the suckers. OWS is saying that we all want to have our turn at the table, but it better a fair table without magnets under the wheels or marks on the cards.

Will Occupy Wall Street matter? It can provided reasonable voices are raised long enough to be heard. It’s America: it’s what we’ve always done.

Photo credit: OWS Todd Blaisdell (CC Attrib)

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