I wrote this statement in response to someone opposed to the protests on Wall Street because of his faith that those on Wall Street were in fact actually working harder than others, and thus entitled to more. “Thank you for your post. Although I admire your faith in the system, the truth is, according even to those at the top of Wall Street, that the system is totally broken. It has reached its mathematical limits. The derivatives game, short selling, currency manipulation– this isn’t capitalism as most of us know it– it is larceny disguised through purposefully complex jargon, but in the end it’s plain old larceny that is so beyond the morality of most Americans as to make the actual conduct incomprehensible. The system is broken. Why Occupy Wall Street is so important for all is because the system has broken precisely because of Wall Street’s belief that the people’s apathy and ignorance is so deep– that not only is conduct that is not for the good of all met with impunity, but that we will pay for it through taxpayer-funded bailouts, which is what has happened.”
Well, for all of you that may not agree with me, I hope that you at least respect my refusal to be silent in the face of something I believe must be said. I understand that there are different views on what’s happening in New York and across the US with respect to the Occupy Movement. We will always have differing opinions. What is not guaranteed is that we will always have freedom.
It means that there is a fight going on right now for the real meaning of our rights.
We all gain by ditching the labels that we’re continually baited to use when looking at each other and talking with each other. Martin Luther King Jr. used to tell the story of “Old Pharaoh” who used a trick to keep the Israelites as slaves– which was to keep them divided and bickering with one another. We need to consider what it means to all of us as well as the world our children will live in, when today the police in cities all over the US are using brutal, violent force against citizens of the United States.
What has really turned me into feeling even more strongly in support of the Occupy Movement is the level of violence directed against fellow Americans. An example of this is the Iraq War veteran, Scott Olsen, a “Veteran for Peace”, who was protesting in Oakland who is now in critical condition after being shot by a non-lethal bullet and beaten by police.
In fact, we cannot afford to accept the level of police brutality that is being used to intimidate and thwart a sacred right that every American has– and that is the right to assemble, and to march, and to speak out against systems and institutions they believe are no longer working for them. In fact, if you do not do something to make your voice heard in support of those people who are being brutalized, you need to understand what your silence means.
We tend to think that our rights are naturally protected by written out documents like the Constitution, or institutions like the Department of Justice, or people like the President of the United States. That idea– that we are simply protected by these documents, these institutions and people– is complete and total bunk. It is an illusion for the lazy amongst us. The truth is that all rights depend on personal courage. All documents that were written in the hope that they would help secure liberty have always been and will always be interpreted by people just like you and me. How people interpret what our rights are, how the Department of Justice operates, how the President of the United States performs– is almost entirely dependent upon the conduct and values of individuals like you and me.
The true protectors of the freedoms of the people are the people.
In this sense then, the life and breath and existence of our rights are not secured by this “stuff” meant to be an aid in our security and freedom. Our freedom depends on us. So what does it mean when right now there are all over the US many places in which the police are arresting Americans like you and I who are exercising nothing more than their Constitutional right to assemble? It means that there is a fight going on right now for the real meaning of our rights. And for every person who remains silent or does nothing– there is that much less freedom for each one of us. There is a fight going on right now for how much power people have and how much power “government” has.
The fact that so much police brutality in the US has been captured on video over the last 30 days is absolute, irrefutable proof that people like you and I are not speaking up enough. It is when the police are afraid of the eventual condemnation by the public and once the power structure changes that they will respect the sacred rights of citizens to assemble, to march, and to speak wherever they feel like it. If you and I are silent, we are in fact collaborators with the police– we are no better– in fact we are worse because we are supposed to be the designers of our society– the true protectors of the freedoms of the people are the people. So I salute right here and now every journalist, every marcher, every policeman who has truly acted not in support of the “government”– but in support of the people.