Over the past few months I've had a lot of mixed feelings when it came to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. On one hand, it was a breath of fresh air to see people interested in making a difference and wanting to change things that they don't like happening in America. In fact, it was only a handful of months ago where I was watching a documentary on the band Nirvana and there was an interview with Curt Cobain talking passionately about certain issues he had with media, politics etc., and it made me realize that there weren't many people like that anymore. Nobody seemed to give a damn in this day and age. With the economy in the shape it was in, everybody seemed to be more concerned about financial survival and holding on for dear life to what was left of the American Dream. Saving the world wasn't anywhere close to being on their list of priorities; indifference and apathy seemed to be rampant; dissent and discourse seemed to be dead. But then the Occupy Wall Street movement happened and it reminded me that there are, indeed, still people out there who want to save the world. It rekindled some of my hope in humanity.
That all being said, I didn't necessarily feel the need to join the movement myself. I feel like I protest in my own ways (mainly through writing) and going to an organized protest for me would be like a spiritual person feeling the need to attend Church for no other practical reason than to show off his spirituality. But I can understand why others would want to go to the protest. And it gives Washington, Wall Street, corporate America and the wealthy "one-percent" a good wake-up call - basically, that Americans apparently aren't as complacent as previously thought. They're not going to just allow Wall Street to get away with stealing billions of dollars from taxpayers in bailouts, run their shady credit default swap schemes, purposely destroy the economy to eliminate the middle class etc.
One thing I've found most fascinating (and frightening) about the Occupy movement is how the 'elite' have been responding to the protesters. The first thing they tried to do was demean the people by painting them as bums, misfits, menaces and outright criminals. I was recently watching an interview on TV where Newt Gingrich said - with the signature Republican smirk - that the protesters needed to "get a job and take a bath". Frankly, I can't believe that anybody would ever take a politician seriously who makes such childish, immature, negative and hateful remarks. What kind of America are we living in when protesters embracing their American right to change things and make a difference are made to feel like absolute shit? Bullying leaders like Gingrich are about as anti-American and unpatriotic as they come. At some point in his life, Gingrich made the cowardly choice NOT to be free and - out of sheer insecurity - he's now ridiculing those who actually choose to be free. This is a man who is a bigger "enemy of freedom" than any terrorist out there in the world.
But demeaning the protesters ultimately proved ineffective, so Gingrich and the rest of the elite then tried to lay a guilt trip on them. They started scolding the protesters because all the police presence at the protests was supposedly costing the taxpayers millions of dollars. This may very well be true but it's important to remember why the protesters are there in the first place. Maybe if Wall Street didn't swindle the American people out of billions of dollars in bailouts, run their Ponzi schemes, hand out all their bogus loans, bet against these loans in the futures market and generally fuck up the economy in an inexcusably malicious way, the protesters wouldn't have to be on Wall Street to begin with. Besides, what kind of America are we living in when protesters are made to feel guilty for simply wanting to change things and make a difference? A true America cannot exist if protesting is depicted as being something that's too costly. That's basically like saying freedom is too costly so you better shut up no matter what's going on, be complacent and save the taxpayers' money. If there's anything the taxpayers SHOULD be funneling money into it's freedom, not into "bailouts" for banks that are supposedly "too big to fail".
I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that true freedom is something being battled against by the ruling powers, whether it be Wall Street, Washington, corporate America or the wealthy one-percent. With the help of the media, they constantly chant "Never Forget 9/11!" and remind us about Al Qaeda and Bin Laden and Zawahiri and underwear bombers and "homegrown terrorists" and "lone wolves" to take attention away from themselves and their own hatred of freedom. The truth is that the only "homegrown terrorists" we really need to be afraid of are morons like Newt Gingrich who ridicule people for simply being free, tell them to get a job and take a shower etc. Gingrich talks a big game about loving freedom, but the truth is that the only kind of freedom people like him love is the kind that secures his position as rich and powerful while the other ninety-nine percent struggles every month to pay its bills. He is part of a larger movement to essentially redefine freedom as something that only serves the wealthy elite, destroys the middle class and prolongs a society where wealth is distributed in an absurdly disproportionate manner.
Whether you're for the Occupy movement or against it, one thing we can hopefully all agree on is that protest and dissent are essential to a society that is going to be truly free. Once we become hostile towards this kind of freedom or try to guilt-trip those who embrace it, we might as well be living in 1930s Germany.