I have been watching the Occupy Movement with great respect and admiration. Economic justice. Humane public policy. Care. Taking a stand. I believe in these things.
A little over a month ago I attended a rally for Occupy Cincinnati held on Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati. (I have blogged on many occasions about my connection to Fountain Square as a new resident of downtown Cincinnati.) I wanted to check it out for several reasons. 1. I campaigned for Hope and Change and I find drone planes, protection of corporate welfare, immoral and/or illegal actions at home and abroad, environmental roll backs, and the slippery-back-door-robbery of Social Security and Medicare to be the antithesis of what I want for my country. (I did not knock on doors and work hard to see these things happen.) 2. I am the 99% for whom they speak. I am thankful to have job today. I have held the same position for 8 months after a period of 10 months of relative unemployment. This job could end tomorrow. Budget cuts and financial insecurity are part of the air I breathe. 3. I have significant student loan and credit card debt that I struggle to pay every month. 4. I have a chronic condition that makes obtaining health insurance difficult. 5. I want a better world for my nieces.
I walked from my apartment to where the rally was being held. Several hundred people had marched through downtown and were convening in this space. People of all ages, races, and incomes stood on the square. Signs drew attention to the health care crisis, fair tax policy, peaceful foreign policy, affordable housing, and public election financing. There was strength in the way in which each of these issues was presented alongside the other. They do not exist in a neatly branded message in real life, and the Occupy crowd that afternoon seemed to understand that all these issues are complex, interrelated and individual parts of a global crisis in which we all have a stake. The problems are bigger than political parties and partisan distractions.
I heard a dedicated and eloquent man speak about the need for affordable housing. He had been engaged in the affordable housing fight for many years – courts victories, organized protests, and public policy advocacy. The statistics he quoted were astounding. The need for affordable housing is rising at an alarming rate. Whether it be in wide-spread home foreclosures or “urban renewal,” people are losing the basic element of the “American Dream.” He told the audience how no sector of society is immune from the disease of homelessness.
A nun spoke about the connection between economic justice and peace.
A musician sang a protest song.
I asked to hold a sign that asked President Obama to join Occupy Cincinnati. (I wanted to have my picture taken with it.) Despite holding that sign, I am not sure the political process as it now exists holds the answers to what we face. Money has infected the system to such a degree that even the good guys are bought, and they ones that aren’t are marked for destruction by a machine hell bent on preserving its power. I like the way the Occupy movement moves in a 21st century way toward justice – not relying (as bell hooks might say) on the master’s tools to tear down the master’s house. It asks us to seek new tools to build better world. Somehow I see Hope and Change there.