Occupy Wall Street, a movement which swept the nation and the world, began on September 17, 2011 in Manhattan. According to the mission of the movement, the organizers aimed at replicating the actions of fed up citizens in countries such as Egypt and Greece, and rallied thousands of Americans to appear in front of Wall Street to voice their distaste for the imbalance of wealth and power in our beloved country. Occupy members call themselves “The 99%,” referring to the one percent of Americans who hold a majority of the country’s wealth.
The movement has spread to include most major cities in the United States, including Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, and reaches countries beyond our borders. Outspoken celebrities and social activists such as Michael Moore and Cornel West made appearances and gave speeches. The internet has captured many of the voices at the protest, and their reasons for attending were varied. Some people stated that they wanted to be part of getting to the heart of what’s really wrong with the country. Others said the movement was necessary to regain our empowerment and abolish greed and corruption. Deborah Sweet, director of New York’s World Can’t Wait, an anti-war organization that was founded initially to obliterate any and all traces of the recent Bush Administration, stated what Occupy Wall Street meant to her when she said, “Uniting with people who refuse to accept the way the world is and have a vision of how it could be; it could be a world worth living in.”
Many people are gathering, clogging up the arteries of our country’s financial heart. But the police are there too. They show up every day in riot gear. They are spraying pepper and locking cuffs. They are threatening, bullying, and arresting the very same people who pay their salaries. The people who took an oath to serve and protect are serving warrants and protecting the interests of the one percent in the ivory towers. The cops, the men and women in blue, who represent a large part of the 99%, are caught in the cross-fire. As much as they may agree with the protesters, they also appreciate that they’re currently employed and may have a pension in their future.
Unemployment, vanishing pensions, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and plummeting home values have pushed many of the 99% over the edge. For people who have psychological issues, the added strain of economic uncertainty can be an intolerable stressor. Going to bed every night not knowing how to put food on the table or pay the mortgage at the end of the month can cause an immense amount of mental anguish. Millions of people are experiencing depression, anxiety, and other stress-related mental health issues. But sadly, many of the people who need help dealing with their current circumstances have lost the very job that offered them health insurance. No wonder they’re angry.
I am not old enough to remember the protests of the 1960s. I was not present for bra-burnings and didn’t march at Kent State. I do remember when the Million Man March was organized, but didn’t qualify to participate. This, however, is different. This is a state of affairs that is affecting nearly everyone in our country, either indirectly or directly. This is a situation that impacts how we live, day to day. This is a powerful and political climate that has slowly usurped the respect and dignity from its lifeblood. This is a violation of our unalienable rights, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
This is a demonstration of democracy. This is an exercise in independence. This is America.
© Copyright 2011 by Jen Wilson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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