Thank you, Occupy Wall Street

I lived through the Vietnam Era.

Just a few of the consequences of that war:

It killed 58,220 U.S. soldiers. More than 150,000 were wounded, at least 21,000 were permanently disabled, and 830,000 suffered symptoms of PTSD. In addition, about 50,000 American servicemen deserted, and an estimated 125,000 U.S. citizens of military draft age fled to Canada.

Besides that, about 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides were sprayed over Southeast Asia, resulting in more than 4 million human victims of dioxin poisoning, and uncountable numbers of non-human ones.

The Veterans Administration, which oversees veterans exposed to Agent Orange, lists the known consequences of exposure to service members as prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, multiple myeloma, Diabetes mellitus type 2, B-cell lymphomas, soft-tissue sarcoma, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, peripheral neuropathy, and spina bifida in veterans’ children.

Meanwhile, oh man, were some U.S. corporations making profits on it all. (And that trillion dollars or so spent on the war machine in Iraq and Afghanistan in the present day? Most of it went to corporate suppliers.)

The 1960s and 70s were also the heyday of war protest in the U.S. Whatever you might say about that movement, you have to say this: It made a difference. Lyndon Johnson left office on a downbeat, Richard Nixon ended up soundly hated by large numbers of Americans, and Congress finally acted to end the war in 1973.

For 5 weeks now, Occupy Wall Street has … well, occupied Wall Street.

The major news media, which has hungrily sucked the Teabagger tit for so long, hanging breathlessly on every little slogan, tri-cornered hat and misspelled sign, is – after refusing for weeks to recognize that Wall Street protestors even existed – finally beginning to notice that something non-teabaggery but even more significant is taking place. Protests have now spread to more than 900 U.S. cities and capital cities around the world.

One thing very few of us realize, most of the time, is that corporations, and government, and even wealth itself, exists largely as an elaborate fiction. We buy into this huge shared-universe role-playing game, and by our belief and actions, support the imagined power, wealth and privilege.

The wealthy and privileged are equally caught up in the game, failing to realize that the rest of us can pick up our toys and go home. Take away the respect and deference of the people surrounding you, and though your name is (for instance) Donald Trump, you’re suddenly nothing but a commoner with funky hair and delusions of significance.

What’s happening right now is that the respect, deference, belief and support that makes banks and corporate power brokers so effective and powerful is being withdrawn. Bit by bit, and worldwide, something subtle but deep is changing. High time, in my view.

Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. In fact, it is the only way it ever has. ~ Margaret Mead

You know me through this blog and hopefully through my book as a writer and thinker on atheism and other social subjects, but I’m also an insolvent, under-employed small-town nebbish with an aging pickup truck, a computer, some books, a few clothes, and not much else.

I don’t expect to be given anything, but I do expect the game players on the other side — the government, the corporations, the bankers and bigwigs — to play fair.

And that ain’t happening, fellow gamesters.

[ One little example from my own recent experience:  I got a check from one of my freelance writing clients, written on an account in Citizens Bank. I took it in to the local branch to cash it and was told that since I didn’t have an account with Citizens, I’d have to pay $7 to cash the check. Silly me, I had assumed that if a business owner deposited money into a bank account, and then wrote a check to someone, the bank would honor the check for the full amount. But some bright boy at Citizens Bank central office, apparently eager to screw even more money out of people they consider powerless to do anything but bend over and take it, decided that was not to be the case. —I walked out with a muttered ‘Eff you.’ ]

I say Bravo, protestors! Bravo Occupy Wall Street! I can’t get there, but I am sooo with you. Why? Because …

I am the 99 percent.

Beta Culture: Being Grownups on Planet Earth
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  • julietdefarge

    An excellent commentary. This movement will have many ‘tangents’ because the habits of mistreating anyone with less power than your business extend everywhere.
    I’m one of the top 10%, with regard to total wealth. I have a lot of money invested in bonds and mutual funds. When the crash came, the value of my investments went down by 23%, and that’s in a pretty low-risk portfolio. I’m continually frustrated by people who don’t realize how connected to the financial markets they are. I guess they think the money they have in the local bank, in retirement and college funds, in their town or county treasury, is in a mason jar somewhere.
    There should have been stiff jail terms when many municipalities went bankrupt due to having derivatives in their portfolios. Adults understand that no investment is loss-proof, but the dealers in investments have simply been lying about the nature of what they’re selling. I’ve been trying to get my county to have a requirement that anyone elected to the office of treasurer must have a degree in economics, but no luck.
    Since we confiscate ALL the property of a drug dealer, on the assumption that his personal goods were bought with illegal gains, the government should confiscate and auction off all the assets of CEOs and corporations that commit fraud, such as illegal foreclosures.
    Anyway, with my money, I should be able to relax and plan a care-free retirement. But I can’t, because I could still be wiped out by medical bills. If the Affordable Health Care Act is repealed, I could still face denial of insurance if I develop some chronic ailment. I’m sitting on cash, not using it to start a small business and employ a few people, because I don’t know if I will need that money just to survive.
    We’re all in this together.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    Even with money I think Donald Trump is nothing but a commoner with funky hair and delusions of significance. :-)

    I have it fairly good in life in that I’m decently employed (hell, I’m damn lucky and have an awesome employer), I have a very small place of my own (smaller than a double-wide trailer), and I have enough money to go to school at night, but I still have to agree with the Occupy Wall Street group. The deck has been unfairly stacked for over 40 years now, and it’s getting worse rather than better. I have no hope of ever retiring despite socking away 10-15% of my income and living fairly frugally. If I do have to quit working, then I expect I’ll have to sell everything and live in an efficiency apartment that only holds a bed and either die from heat exhaustion in the summer or hypothermia in the winter (utilities cost money). Already too many elderly die in exactly that manner. The way things are going, I expect this to be the future reward of anyone not currently earning at least 80k if single and over 120k as a married couple. I don’t expect there to be any health care for the elderly when I get that old.

    The future is very, very bleak, yet the bankers, CEOs of large corporations, and politicians get huge bonuses or pensions for failure. There should be no such thing as a bonus for failure. If anyone else fails, they get fired. If they don’t pay their bills, they lose services and their place to live.

    The rich keep trying to point the finger at impoverished people, but even if we adequately support every last impoverished person, it comes no where near to the amount of money and perks given to the wealthy. Sometimes we get as much back from a wealthy person as we do from someone who just sits in front of their TV all day and collects a tiny check. Not to mention, being poor does not automatically equate to lazy. It doesn’t equate to that even 70% of the time. There are plenty of poor people who accomplish a lot more in 1 day that I do in 2-3 days. I know when I was very poor, I was a lot less lazy than I am now, because I had to do every last thing myself and couldn’t afford conveniences.

    So, the poor aren’t actually lazy, the rich can continue being rich no matter how bad they are at their jobs, and the rest of us in the middle only see a downward spiral for our future. I can’t believe anyone wonders why everyone is pissed off.

    Quite frankly I don’t care what our country calls itself (capitalist, socialist, communist). I care about personal freedoms, survivability for all, and everyone being able to get a bit beyond just mere survival so they can actually live a life. On the last item, it means we all need to have a reasonable level of health and education. The things that take away those three things are social regulations (such as you can’t do this or that because you’re homosexual or female whether imposed by government or just society [religion]), and lack of money, health, and education.

  • feralboy12

    Congress finally acted to end the war in 1973.

    And then the war finally ended in 1975.
    I lived through those times, too; yes, the protests made a difference.
    Although I must add that Richard Nixon was hated by large numbers of Americans long before he became president.

  • Pablo Sr.

    Well done. You have twanged a nerve who’s resonance has been long still, but now, freshly twanged, will not rest. As a fellow Upstater I share the longing to join a larger crowd, but enjoy the semi-isolation – the contradiction of past and future.
    In 1966 I was drafted, served my country and did my bit in Vietnam, like many of the day. Once discharged I served my conscience and protested the war, like many others of my day. Now, 40 years later and retired, those memories have been seeping back. I’ve joined Veterans For Peace and found more time to muse. (As an approximation I would posit that 20 years at GE produces as much social awareness as one year in the military.)
    These Occupy Wall Street protests remind me of the marches of protest during the Vietnam war, but they do not resemble it. At least not now. The beginnings of the anti-war movement were lost to me, being occupied with, you know, fighting a war. But the power of the protests I participated in will never be lost to me. A tremendous and enthusiastic feeling of common cause shared elbow-to-elbow with total strangers stretching across the capital, hundreds of thousands strong. Those marches took place over years.
    It will be accelerated this time. The news media will stop depicting only the dirtiest protesters captioned with arrest statistics as the story and start repeating the message, and it won’t take years. Too much has changed in social media, and their own polling will tell them who’s side to take. The 99%ers know that they are right, just as we did in 1968. This brings me to a bold prediction: fall is just beginning, but I’m really looking forward to a more exciting bloom next spring.

  • Chakolate

    Just a footnote: did you know that if you take a check to the bank it’s drawn on, they have to certify it for you for free? Then you can cash it anywhere – it’s a certified check. Just FYI.

    • Hank Fox

      Didn’t know that. I’ll definitely try it next time I get a Citizens Bank check!

  • Ken

    I am of the same era as you, and served as those who were in Vietnam were coming home. I saw the personal devistation first hand. I also saw that the war protestors made a difference.

    Today I am supporting “Occupy Wall Street” for my sons. Two adults working multiple part time jobs and going to school trying to make their way out into the world. They still live at home because it is impossible for them to afford to move out on minimum wage jobs. Where are the job creators??

    This is not a fight along party lines. The democrates are just as bought and paid for as the republicans by big business. I say, hit the streets and be part of the change we really need. “Occupy Wall Street” is, and will continue, to make a difference. Be part of the change!!! Get involved!!!

  • carolw

    I give a big salute, hat tip, and hug to those of you who served in Viet Nam, and protested against it. I was barely out of diapers when it ended, but it informed my life subconsciously I suppose. My brother had to register for Selective Service right before the first Gulf War. My family was terified that he might get called up. I’m totally behind the Occupy movement. I’m what you’d call the Working Poor, I guess. My husband is unemployed, and we barely squeek by. I’d love to see real change. The system has been broken for a long time, and it’s time for a fix.

  • F. Bacon

    Fifth-Third bank in Grand Rapids has been this way for years. They now refuse to honor payroll checks drawn on their bank unless you pay the fee or have an account with them. They also seem to be the only place in the area that sells Euros, but they refuse to buy back the remainder from those they sold to, unless you have an account with them.

  • astrosmash

    I have a friend trying to get me to go with the Va credit unions instead of banks. I think i will. Maybe that should be a new meme to get started. Get people to put their $ in state credit unions…Hey…That’s a good Idea. Wait…

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