Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today's Reframe: Protests and Working Together

Now that the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken off and is garnering huge media attention, the push back has begun.  In fact, it was announced today that a conservative group is trying to counter the OWS movement with a "We're the 53%" movement.

What's interesting about this and other counter-movements and criticism is that they fail to see that they have more in common with the OWS protestors than they think.  Unfortunately, they are blinded and brainwashed by the typical THIS vs. THAT mentality we have been subjected to over the past few decades.


The prevailing thought is that these OWS protesters are young and liberal.  Because the media reports it that way, the standard response is for conservatives to say the whole thing is hogwash and dismiss it.  This was not dissimilar from the Tea Party movement and how liberals reacted.  Although you may not have liked the ideas coming from the Tea Party, you had to give them credit for taking on the establishment and making themselves heard.

Now, look a little closer at the demographics from ANY news story about the OWS protests and you'll see that participants are of all ages, races and colors.  I've even seen reports that some identify themselves as Tea Partiers, others as liberals and progressives and yet others and Democrats and Republicans.

Nevermind that craziness, however, we have to paint this picture as us vs. them!

It's also become the standard mentality in the US that protesters are "crazy" and "radical."  It wasn't too long ago in our history that people took to the streets the way they do in Europe, Asia and South America.  Remember fighting for Women's Suffrage?  How about more recently with the Civil Rights protests?

Sadly, all that protesting got in the way of other interests of the wealthy, so protesters have been branded with negative connotations ever since.  Group think helps to quell large outbursts like we see in France or other countries where the right to protest is still sacred.    But I digress...

Luckily for America, those participating in the OWS events are from all walks of life.  And THAT is the power of this movement.  The Tea Partiers and Progressives disagree on many topics, but they agree that the greed and excess--both in government and private enterprise--at the expense of the average American has hit a tipping point and they are going to fight against it...together!  Indeed, it'll be a great moment for Democracy if these two groups can work together to make REAL, powerful change.

For those still confused about what "these people" are out there doing, I'd like to break things down very simply.  A lot of cliches and hyperbolic expressions have been thrown out into the discussion; the result is a message that begins to lose its power and meaning.   Here's my simple description of the matter at hand:
  • Business 101 class teaches that the sole responsibilities of a corporation are to make a profit and protect the interests of its shareholders.
  • Government 101 class teaches that our Government is "of the People, by the People, for the People." Our Constitution begins with "We the People..."  Using the word "People" so much seems to make it pretty clear where the focus should be.
Political campaigns are increasingly funded by corporations; Money flows en masse from private enterprise to political leaders.  Given the two bullet statements above, it appears that those elected to political office (ie: Government) now look to protect their interests:  Corporations.  Corporations are the "shareholders" of elected officials.  

Throughout the history of the US, we can find many illustrations of leaders who believed the People matter.  They also believed corporations had their place in our society.  For example, Woodrow Wilson said:
"America was established not to create wealth, but to realize a vision, to realize an ideal:  to discover and maintain liberty among men." (and women, too, of course!)

Theodore Roosevelt said:

"Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism, and the effort to destroy them would be futile unless accomplished in ways that would work the utmost mischief to the entire body politic. We can do nothing of good in the way of regulating and supervising these corporations until we fix clearly in our minds that we are not attacking the corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them. We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth."


I truly believe everyone has an interest in this movement, regardless of political affiliation.  There are so many common interests here for Progressives, Tea Partiers and those in between.   This doesn't need to be another fight, pitting conservatives against liberals.  Nearly everyone agrees things look grim.  If we work together as Americans, everyone will be better for it, especially the USA!

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