For a month now, everyone’s analyzed Occupy Wall Street and its clones almost to death. The diehards are still there, of course, but the encampments are disappearing from the front pages and the nightly news. We’ve gone there out of curiosity, or driven by long-held convictions we’ve stood in solidarity. And we’ve gone there with cameras and notebooks and iPads, talked to the protesters, put them on camera and occasionally watched the cops haul some of them off.
We’ve come away with some answers; we found real and justified anger built brick by brick from lost jobs, lost opportunities, and lost hope. Seen on the screen at home after work by those of us still personally OK, there’s a sadness. How could our country be so off track that this happens?
I share the sense that something’s wrong and am glad there’s someone out there standing up against wars and economic inequality. I don’t know what to do but it’s nice to see people out there trying to figure it out. It’s wonderful, messy — and mocked.
It’s better than nothing. But it’s not hard to think OWS is going nowhere, seems to be fading already. After all, how long can anger keep people camping in the park or on the plaza at City Hall, at least those who were not already living on the streets?
The OWS protestors' message about injustice and economic inequity — the consistent core of meaning in the grab-bag of causes — has resonated widely. All those concerns nagging at us? We weren’t alone.
At 7 am the day after Parks Department staff and the police moved the campers and their gear out of Westlake Park, I ran into an acquaintance, alone and waiving a sign a the corner of Fourth and Pine. Her sign had it right: “Separation of Corporation and State.” And in Ellie’s sign, I thought, is the germ of action, the idea that OWS could set aflame: Get money out of politics.
The trick will be getting that idea beyond protest into politics. After all, if we actually could pass laws (or an amendment to the Constitution if it takes that) limiting political contributions to a modest amount and requiring that each come from an actual, living individual person — not a corporation, union or organization of any kind — and be given only directly to a campaign during a specific period…
Well, far-fetched as that is, you see what it would do.