As a writer it is imperative not to be beholden or completely devoted to any movement or cause. A writer must maintain some distance, as no other calling will exalt or condemn a writer like the revelations of an enlightened future. I was passionate about the Occupy movement, and in the ranks throughout the NATO protests, because there was and remains common cause against the perversion that corporatized militarism represents. Particularly when military budgets are untouchable even as social programs are being eviscerated.
I still believe the movement, and those within it have the power and in many cases, the vision to transform the nation towards a more humane place consistent with the ideals of men like Martin Luther King jr.
Which brings me to a critical point where I differ with the Occupy movement. I believe that it has lost sight somewhat of itself. It is poorly provisioned to combat a corporate and status quo media aligned quite purposely to denounce and destroy it. In Chicago, where it was bullied and bloodied by the media and authorities, it has retreated, lost focus and focused its energies more on imprisoned martyrs than on the sorts of challenges to authority and corruption for which it was originally enlivened. During NATO it was co-opted to a degree to personalities who drove policy and messaging and then abandoned the movement, and finally it is arriving before the elections with talk that fundamentally stands at odds with the original spirit and strength of this movement: diversity.
Please be clear, this is not a conscious policy decision on the part of those still in the movement, and who still undertake work and protest in the purest heart within the community. But there is talk of opting out of the presidential elections, and of burning voter ID cards. Burn it down! Crash the system! If the powerful won’t concede, overturn it all! Raze society to the ground and rebuild it anew!
And while from a philosophical level, I can see their argument, I fear in reality the movement is marginalizing and isolating itself. A small group within the movement espouses that, but within the movement, much smaller than at its peak, when it conservatively sported hundreds of thousands of activists, and many times that who sympathized with the movement, that is a strongly influential cadre. The causes Occupy championed remain, but now remain un-championed by Occupy any longer.
The arguments for and against taking part in what have become money and media driven elections are substantial. Occupy had an opportunity to get out the vote and support substantial candidates from within its ranks, such as Ron Varesteh in California and Green party candidate Nancy Wade in Illinois. the sheer numbers they were able to rally last fall would have made them a force to contend with and would have won them the fullest attention of both parties. the poor and minorities found a partner in Occupy, and could have benefitted from joining in a substantial voting block powerful enough to overcome money interests and to maintain precious and hard-fought voting rights for those minorities. Sadly that hasn’t happened.
Perhaps no group in America understands the precious nature of the right to vote better than the African-American community. Certainly no other group in America, except perhaps hispanic and latino voters, is experiencing such a naked assault against those rights. The Republican party and the Right, tacitly and blindly enabled by a misinformed white majority, mean to interfere with or revoke in any under-handed, backdoor way it can the ability of Blacks and minorities to vote in this election. By burning their voter cards and refusing to take part in the election process Occupy is ignorantly supporting the white fear spread by the status-quo media, not maliciously or consciously, but most certainly. The Occupy of today is hardly as diverse as it once was, and that narrowed perspective is problematic.
This right was only part of a centuries-long struggle from the bonds of slavery. It was bought and paid for in untold lives, black and white-but mostly black-in blood and tears and lynching, and spirits eschewing defeat and oppression in hopes that one day those rights would be theirs, secure and protected by law. Despite any argument that might be offered, I think it is unlikely that the black community would ever easily relinquish or withdraw from that right.
Occupy, in this short-sighted and narrowly focused potential action, is unconsciously playing to the status quo and putting itself directly at odds with those minority communities that should remain as allies and comrades towards common justice. It is not too late to chart a more productive path. We are still the 99%. We are still a force. rather than millions holding up burning voter cards is disdain for the process, those millions should raise those cards high and demand to be heard and properly represented in the loudest and most sustained voice possible.