Sunday, October 23, 2011

“I’m so angry I made this sign!”

“Bro, I’ve been lied to so many times I don’t know who to believe,” Mr. Alandt said. “All the world’s problems run downhill, and I’m at the bottom.” Mr. Arandt, an unemployed worker, joined the “occupy” movement in New York City last weekend. He sounded a lot like those who joined us in “occupy Cheyenne” at the Depot Plaza last Saturday.
One fellow at the depot hoisted a sign reading, “I’m so angry I made this sign!”
Admittedly, the focus on “anger” is as troubling an element of this movement as it is with the Tea Party. Anger leads to a focus more on pessimism than on hope. Anger alone is unlikely to provide the foundation to meaningful, lasting change. Author Parker Palmer has written a book entitled “Healing the Heart of America’s Democracy.” Palmer’s premise is we claim to be “angry” because we are afraid to admit we are actually “heartbroken.”
Palmer is on to something. We are heartbroken because on our watch, in our time, Democracy in America has come to this. While we took it for granted  those with selfish motives took advantage. During our lifetimes America evolved from a nation willing to sacrifice for the common good to one the Old Testament prophets would recognize. Isaiah occupied the public square of his day, shouting, “God expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry! Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land! Ah, you who are heroes… who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of their rights!” (Isaiah 5).
You ask the intent of those who gather on Wall Street, in Cheyenne, Casper, Thermopolis and throughout the country? It is to occupy the ground loyal Americans ceded to right wing radio and TV entertainers like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. It’s to occupy the public arena we surrendered to the talking points of self-serving politicians and the distortions of political action committees.
We are “occupying” ground once abandoned by those who care about the future of the nation. Special interest groups have made an art of occupying the spheres of public debate once available to all. They buy the airwaves of local and national media. They write the talking points our congressional delegation uses to respond to the letters of concern we write.
Their lobbyists assure legislative bodies are about solving their problems, not ours. Their lawyers occupy the justice system so the courts are places where justice is experienced so infrequently that when it does Hollywood makes a movie about such rarities.
Those with wealth and power have corrupted the public arena persuading much of the middle class to vote against their own interests, fronting issues like state’s rights, abortion, gay rights and others knowing many of us could be diverted by those hot buttons long enough that they could take control over the economy, tax law and the political system.

If any of those issues “got your goat” in the last generation, what did you get for voting for their candidates? Not much. But while you were looking that way, they “robbed” the bank. Craftily using terms like “the death tax” they got those who would have never had to pay it to help protect their ill-gotten gains from it. The United States had a surplus until they got their taxes cut. And although their tax cuts created the deficit, they want you to sacrifice your social security, healthcare and the education of your children to solve the problem they created.  When we complain, they accuse us of class warfare.

You ask why some of us have hit the streets to “occupy” Cheyenne? The real question is why you haven’t? Why are you not as heartbroken about what has happened to our country?

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