By: Emma Shinn
Lately, I’ve been hearing people around our school and community commenting on the Occupy movement – the nationwide peaceful protest that began with Occupy Wall Street in September. I grant that there are people in Ripley who have formed their own opinions about the movement and it’s motives – negative or positive – from legitimate sources. However, the most common statements I’ve heard are “I don’t know anything about it” or “I disapprove because of [a reason that does not actually have anything to do with the Occupy movement].”
The briefest factual summary of the movement I can give is that September 17 of this year, a group of peaceful protestors gathered in Zuccotti Park in New York City to express their discontent with the imbalance of wealth in America. (The richest 1% of people currently hold 42% of our nation’s wealth). Protestors were also unhappy with the lack of legal actions taken against the corrupt bankers in charge of the banks that are largely responsible for our current economic crisis. Similar protests sprang up almost immediately across the nation, each with its own name depending on its location (Occupy Oakland, Occupy Seattle, etc).
While there are many misconceptions regarding the Occupy movement, the one that I am most interested in correcting is the belief that the majority of protestors and/or supporters are unemployed bums who spend their time mooching off the government. The fact of the matter is this: the Occupy movement represents “the 99%.” In other words, these protestors are fighting for the rights of anyone who is not one of the wealthiest people in America. Unless you can think of anyone in Ripley who rakes in billions of dollars a year, everyone you come into contact with is being represented by the Occupy protestors. Even the one who don’t agree with the movement.
However, our town may not be the best indicator of the overall tone of the movement and people’s response to it. National polls have shown that a majority of Americans either actively support the movement, or, while disagreeing with the protestors, contend that they do have a right to assemble if they want.
There seems to be a belief among some voters that they should dislike the movement because their favorite politician or their political party does. In many cases, however, this is not true either. Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Buddy Roemer, and Gary Johnson have all expressed support for the movement and its message. I have yet to hear a Democrat publicly denounce the movement.
There are also those who are actually a part of the 99%, but oppose the protests on the grounds that it isn’t fair to the 1%, and that people are being needlessly targeted just for being wealthy. Unfortunately, that argument falls apart when you realize that a large number of 1%-ers (including celebrities and business moguls) actually support the movement themselves and claim they would not mind using their wealth to help meet the demands of the Occupy movement. Ways of going about that would vary depending on which 1%-er you were looking at.
One idea that has been mentioned on both sides of the economic scale is reversing the Bush Tax Cuts which would leave the 1% paying higher taxes, once again proportional to their counterparts in the 99%. Another method would be for people such as movie stars, sports players, and high-ranking business associates to take pay cuts in order to free up money that could be used to create and pay for new jobs.
Basically, all I’m asking is this: keep an open mind about these protests. Nobody is being unfairly punished (except those Americans who work themselves to the bone and have next to nothing to show for it), and nobody is being unfairly attacked (except the protestors who have been subject to police brutality for simply sitting on a sidewalk or standing in a park, and starting the occasional chant). If the demands of these protests were met by our government, it would mean nothing but good things for the people in our community and people like them all across America.
For more information on the Occupy movement, you can go to www.occupytogether.org or www.occupywallst.org. And remember, sometimes things aren’t about party politics. Some things are legitimately about taking care of other people, and fighting for the best interests of all of us.