Occupy Congress

Occupy Congress November 20, 2011

If anything I think the Occupy Wall Street folks have been waaaayyy too passive in their approach.

Not that I’m calling for violence. I’m not.

But I think it is that passivity that has allowed incidents like the one that took place at UC-Davis this past week:




In theory, I support the Occupy Wall Street. I applaud their decision to protest the corruption that is coming out of Wall Street. Hellooo. I wrote an entire book about the corruption that is the prosperity gospel.

I take issue with the Occupy Wall Street folks in that they have not pressed for an “agenda”. They have been too namby-pamby in their approach.

To be an advocate for change, you have to identify what you want changed, and thus far, they have failed to do that.

The last time we saw protests of this magnitude in this nation was during the Vietnam Era and we were clear about what we wanted: An end to the draft. An end to the war. Get out of Southeast Asia.



That generation’s protesters believed that they could change American policy. They believed that when administrators & lawmakers acted irresponsibly — ordering the sons of Americans to fight in a war that most Americans did not support — that the voice of the people ought to be heard.

Occupy Wall Street folks are passive about their protests because they simply don’t know exactly what it is they are fighting for — they only know what they are standing… or sitting… against.

It’s not enough to stand against something.

You have to stand for something.

The response of the police at UC-Davis may very well be a defining moment for this generation’s protests. Certainly, the over-reaching arm of authority has helped define the source of the problem — an abuse of power. It is the very thing that has compelled thousands to join the Occupy Wall Street across this nation.

The officers who did the spraying have been placed on administrative leave. Students are calling for the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi. Katehi has said she will not resign. We’ll see.

It is important to note that the police are not the enemy in this fight. If anything, public servants are exactly who Occupy Wall Street should be fighting on behalf. To pit these two groups against each other is the wrong fight.

Perhaps the real problem with Occupy Wall Street is who it identifies as the problem.

Wouldn’t Occupy Congress have been a far more effective choice?

It is this country’s lawmakers, after all, who invited Wall Street into their boardrooms and bedrooms and granted the favors that created this environment of rampant corruption and greed.




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  • From a letter to the Oregonian yesterday: “I see clear similarities between the congressional supercommittee and the leaders of the Occupy movement. Neither group has been able to chart a clear path, articulate a strategy or institute ways to effect the outcome of the issues they represent. Walking in circles is not a skill.” – Gene Forsythe

  • AF Roger

    There are 58,200+ names on the Wall. The majority weren’t old enough to vote. 3.5 million Americans served in Vietnam, a majority of which weren’t old enough to vote until they had returned from war. Being considered too immature to exercise the full privileges and responsibilities of citizenship while simultaneously being eligible for conscription and service to the point of self sacrifice was just one of the ironies that brought people out during the war years of the 60’s and 70’s.

    For several years now, I’ve been wondering why young people weren’t en masse turning out to bring the entire country to a standstill until changes were made. What should they be calling attention to? Abject failure of leaders to ask the country to pay its own way and not saddle the future generations with unsupportable debt and insoluble problems. Since 1990, has our country:

    1) taken concrete steps toward energy self-sufficiency?
    2) taken concrete steps toward food and water security and safety?
    3) exercised leadership in mitigating the causes of climate change or laid plans to deal with disruptions and dislocations of major coastal populations?
    4) begun building the transportaion and energry infrastructure of the next 50 years?
    5) taken steps to moderate and control the costs of higher education and health care?

    Two years ago, author/journalist T.R. Reid was in town with his book on health care around the world. I heard him speak. He had personally met with Sen. Max Baucus and all 16 members of the Senate committee working on health care reform. He gave them choices and options. But the words of one member were these: “If we do this, or attempt to do this, the campaign dollars will dry up.” One by one, they all backed away from doing the right thing. The Senators feared being lynched by their own parties for loss ofcampaign dollars only because they were not in greater fear of people demanding action. The very scale of campaign dollars at work poisoned the public discourse about the cost of health care and realistic solutions with known track records in other industiralized economies.

    I concur. Occupy Congress will be the only effective tactic. but first, young people (and a few older ones) will have to care enough and be informed enough to do so.

  • Steve T.


    Amen to the post and also Roger’s response. As they say, its the money. But money as connected to the triplets of power, prestige, and possession. And the Occupiers are there for the working stiff cops as well … yet those standing on the side of immoral power always have a choice – “Where will I stand?” They made their choice at UC-Davis and rightfully deserve condemnation and scorn.

    Blessed are those who are persecuted …

  • I heard a stat this morning that eighty-something percent (sorry, can’t remember the exact figure) of people serving in congress are millionaires. Lobbyist control votes more than the people congress is supposed to represent, and it’s all perfectly legal. The system is broken. We need term limits. No more lifetime politicians.

  • Hbdreams

    Impose your own term limits. Join the Anti-Incumbent party. Hold tour nose on the issues and vote for someone new EVERY TIME.

  • Totally right, Karen. (In that top video, watch the face of the only officer seen without a helmet on. I’d love to hear an expert in body language and facial expression dissect that guy.)

  • Tracy

    Coming up on Advent, I’ve been thinking about John the Baptist. He provides an example, to my mind, of the role of the prophet who doesn’t have it all worked out, who doesn’t have a solution or a plan, but says merely, in effect, something here is wrong, terribly wrong. And it is time to prepare for something entirely new.

    Sure, I wish they had a plan I could get totally behind. But maybe it isn’t given to the OWS protesters to act as the Brookings Institution. (To quote the New Yorker.) To redesign our economic and political system. Maybe it falls to them simply to say, something is wrong, the world we inhabit is not fair.

    Gotta say, as I read down the comments here, I don’t think term limits would be on my “to do” list. Barney Frank can stay in the senate forever, far as I’m concerned. So, you see, if we tried to compose an agenda, we’d be off in different directions immediately. If serving in Congress became a 2-8 year detour off your career path — how would that stop you from setting yourself up for the best job possible — as a lobbyist– immediately after your short term. It sounds like a quick, easy, clear solution — but I’m pretty sure it isn’t.

    So what would the OWS people suggest, as an agenda we could all get behind? I’d like to suggest reversing Citizens United, the way money can flow into politics. Reinsituting the regulations that governed Wall Street from the Depression on. After that, I’m a little hazy. That’s why I support Elizabeth Warren (for example) as someone who will press for achievable goals that will even things up, and speak clearly, so the rest of us can follow.

    That’s because this isn’t a moment like stopping a war. (Although the same questions could have been leveled at those protestors — what should we do about dictators in the Middle East, how exactly should we enforce those UN provisions about weapons of mass destructions, and, what should we do about Israel? See, there is always more to discusss. “Stop the War” was clear, but who can pretend that was a complete foreign policy.

    • AF Roger

      Right on target here, Tracy. For a long time, major pieces of legislation have in fact been written out of sight by lobbyists and given to reps in Congress to introduce and sponsor. Those lobbyists may be working for whomever, whether a “family values coalition” or coal and oil producers. Term limits could actually weaken the influence of elected representatives and make the process of grooming future candidates even more arcane and corrupt. Every election is in fact a potential term limit, but always the question “In favor of what/whom else?”

      I do think the Citizens United decision was disastrous. The steps of the U.S. Supreme Court very much need to be occupied. An endless presence outside the homes of five justices is a tempting tactic to contemplate but wouldn’t be productive in the near term. Constitutional amendments are possible in theory but nearly impossible in less than geologic time. So it does come back to Congress–and our freedom and responsibility to make sure they hear us.

      • Cathy

        Agreed. But the “strategy” and execution here is close to appalling. In Portland, for example (which is the only Occupy location I can intelligently speak to, since I live here and have been closely monitoring the events daily, for weeks), the “protesters” have left two public parks in ruins…when they “moved on” they left mountains of their own trash and mess behind. If you want the Portland taxpayers to get behind your cause despite the fact that you cost those taxpayers $450,000 in police overtime (simply to keep the peace) in a single weekend, then you probably SHOULDN’T also cost the taxpayers $50,000 (so far) in clean-up costs…all WHILE you are screaming for accountability and fairness. Ahem. When you practice hypocrisy and act illogically, you dismantle your own argument.

        Every person in America, from the richest to the poorest, has a single vote on election day. This is where efforts should be focused.

        • AF Roger

          Cathy: Has anything I wrote implied that I advoacted or supported the strategy you describe here in Portland? I just want to clarify use of second person pronoun “you”. Do you mean me specifically or those who camped in the parks… who would actually be third person here? Thanks.

          • Cathy

            Ha! NO…I was not using this as a second person pronoun at all. I meant it in the generic sense. Suppose I should’ve said “one should” etc. 🙂

            It was not directed at you. Thanks for asking for clarification.

        • Tracy

          Seems like such a problem to disparage “the protesters.” I wouldn’t assume a single identy for everyone in my church — a much smaller and more homogenous group. In NYC, the police were actively encouraging the chronically homeless to join the protesters. Some of whom were upper middle class mothers of preschoolers and others were young anarchists. Pot smokers, Bible study leaders, — it was a pretty darn diverse group. To say the protesters created garbage — boy, I’d sure like more to go on than that.

          And I’m really sorry that protesters required extra money in policing — but what exactly is the alternative? That we stay home and write our congresspeople? Did that. There is a right of the people to assemble, and yep, assembly means that public safety issues come into play. Because whenever a large group of people congregate, there will be problems. Created by the group, or those who hang around. And even by those who would like to discredit a group.

          Labor marches, street fairs, protests. All create garbage, all require police support. This time it happens to be in protection of a constitutional right.

          And yes, the vote is important, but many of us think, while the Supercommittee meets and Congress contemplates other votes — we can’t wait 12 months for our ballots to express ourselves.

          • Cathy

            Tracy…I cannot speak to the situation in New York…as I said, I can only speak to the situation in Portland. I do not have the time and the space here to go into every facet of the Portland protest, which went on for weeks (and is still going on, actually.) I’m sure the situation in every city was a little different. The people here were not just “peaceably assembling”…they were breaking the law, and they were given much leniency in that (most people argued that they were given TOO much.) Many of them were also not very peaceable.

            My point about the trash was that there was a clear discrepancy between their “message” and their actions. You cannot disparage other entities for being “unfair” and “irresponsible”…and then be unfair and irresponsible yourself. Well, you can…but it gravely damages your message.

            Maybe it’s annoying to wait on the electoral system, and maybe it’s a lot of work to go about canvassing, getting out the vote, and drafting new ballot measures. But marching around in local parks causing lots of damage and hurting local businesses and the other members of the so-called 99% accomplishes very little….especially when you attract lots of hangers-on who don’t actually care much about your message.

            Of course I have no problem with public “assembly” – no reasonable person would. But if you’re going to picket, then picket the steps of your local or federal government. Shout at your elected officials, in person and on paper – especially the ones who allowed taxpayer “bailout” money to be used for executive bonuses – and then shout via your ballot on election day. Don’t shout at policemen, shoppers, businessmen, and bank employees.

            Use clear thinking. Have clear goals. Engage in efficient actions. Be passionate, but also be logical. Ignore the weak, dead-weight issues (such as foreclosures) and focus on the main problems.

            Pounding the table is not enough, as a plan of action.

            And again, Roger…I’m using the general “you” here! 🙂

          • AF Roger

            The letters to Congress continue, but they increasingly fall on deaf ears, blind eyes and tied hands. Everything, everything is now couched in terms of how it will affect the outcome of the next election, whether two months or 2-4 years off. And we know that elections are today about raising enough cash to do the required advertising to assault the opponent. Long espoused rigid positions make it impossible for office holders and candidates in the current system to change course when either conditions change or the rigid position has been shown to be incorrect/delusional. A colleague describes our current Congress as beyond gridlocked or dysfunctional. This year, Congress clearly (to us, at least) has moved into the realm of malpractice, Congressional malpractice. What else could we call it?

            Partisan and Congressional dithering in August cost me a bundle in meager retirement funds that shrunk further. I don’t even want to think what’s going on now in the wake of the Super-non-commital’s inability to act. Now, even more Congressional and Presidential stasis are sure to follow. Civil disobedience looks increasingly more reasonable and, honestly, seems to be the only course of action left to us. We could attempt to withhold their pay, but since the majority are millionaires most wouldn’t go hungry or homeless. A long road ahead…

            Cathy certainly has valid criticisms regarding the costs here in Portland due to the Occupy encampment. But we can’t quite equate these with the normal costs associated with a rally or march. The encampment that follwed the initial rally/march activities here in Portland went on for a full month longer than it should have been allowed to, in my opinion. I lay the expense for that clearly at the feet of a very weak and ineffective mayor who was caught red-handed in blatant lies during his election campaign. He openly admitted these things shortly after his election but did not have the moral clarity to resign so that a person worthy of the public’s trust could take the office and get things done. He, in my opinion, is a man who has so totally lived his life inside of city government that he seems to have no other sense of his own identity. As a city, however, Portland (a city I dearly love and do ministry in despite living just over the boundary in a ‘burb) has no one to blame but ourselves. Two efforts to recall this disastrous and ineffective mayor failed. So I guess we deserve him. He couldn’t imagine manning up and moving to a life outside of politics. And we couldn’t “city up” and imagine a mayor better than he.

            Things won’t get better until we can begin to imagine better.

  • Sherwood8028

    “God does move in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform…” I believe that as I have seen what others have believed are “strange” happenings over the years and more often, you can “see” the hand of God in the process.

    I would like to suggest we are about to “see” it happen again.

  • C

    Why are you feeding this insidious notion that goals and objectives are unclear? They couldn’t be clearer.

    As for myself, I belief the Living God requires the destruction of capitalism, an intrinsically exploitative system. I believe it and its supporters are as unregenerate and evil as chattel slavers and that the capitalist church is the church of the anti-Christ.

  • Sherwood8028

    I think we are getting off track. Christianity was never meant to become an economic system. It is – in fact, an effort by our Creator to redeem us and sit our feet on a path that leads away from economic dependence towards the Cross that can and does deliver us from such worldly notions.

  • Rsfred

    Ronald Frederick This person is confused. The reason Capitalism is the only system that actually works is because it takes advantage and works with the natural human tendency toward greed and power as opposed to fighting human nature (e.g. the USSR). The problem that people are not voicing correctly is that government and appropriate regulation should clear the path for all Capitalists to have an opportunity for success as opposed to the system we have now where government is choosing the winners through influence peddling, tax advantages for only certain corporations, legal insider trading by members of Congress etc. We need a real Capitalist System where people can succeed or fail based on their own creativity and initiative and not because of favoritism, connections, or tax advantages only available to the designated winners. There will always be winners and losers but government should not be picking them. Some people are still navigating the current system successfully, but too many are gaming the system which has had the result of dragging down our economy.

  • Amen. Shared on my facebook!