I’ve been put in mind, over the past several days, of a song by Woody Guthrie called ‘Jesus Christ’. I’ve posted it at the end, but the essence is fairly simple: Jesus Christ as a working man’s prophet, preaching peace, ultimately murdered by ‘one dirty coward called Judas Iscariot’ and ‘the landlord and the soldiers that he hired who nailed Jesus Christ in the sky.’
For weeks now, crackdowns on the Occupy Wall Street protestors (and I put into that category everyone across the country, from Oakland to Denver to Atlanta to the campus at UC-Davis) have reached an all-time high. Although I am well aware that there are some bad elements in those protests (there always are, no matter where you go), I am appalled by the behavior of the police and the civil authorities. Everyone with a heart is. The protestors have been called terrorists for exercising their constitutional rights. They have been lambasted, insulted, beaten, and pepper-sprayed. The cops, whose job it is to protect the people (not the oligarchy), have committed violence that I did not believe I would see in this country. I am waiting for the Kent State of my generation. We almost saw it at UC-Davis, when the police pepper-sprayed and forcibly arrested peaceful protestors. There is no justification of this. I don’t give a damn how long a cop has been working or how frayed his nerves are. There is no excuse.
This marks out the true and great divide in this country. The landlords are still the great power, politically, socially and economically. Fuck the middle class (let’s not even talk about the working class); to hell with people in poverty, I want my bonus check. These people must be anarchists, hippies and unemployed slackers. In reality, they are students, moderates, professors and even the occasional police chief. These are not socialist revolutionaries; they are people who only want fairness, who protest that we cannot call ourselves Americans and this the land of liberty when the 1% control the wealth. And not only the wealth. The police.
The police in this situation do have a choice. So far, they have chosen to work on behalf of the oligarchy, to take their orders from the rich and powerful. They are not paid well — certainly not well enough. They are all members of the 99%. Why do they persist in defending only the rights of the 1%?
Why is the Tea Party permitted to carry weapons to political meetings and the OWS is met with police batons? Why is pepper-spray being used on 18 year old students? Why are heads being broken? Why are peaceful protests met with riot gear? Why is there blood on the ground at Zuccotti Park? And why, in New York City on the day in question, was the New York Times more concerned with Herman Cain’s sex life than with the violence occurring down on Wall Street?
This is not to say that there are not undesirable elements within the OWS. I’m certain that some of the arrests have been completely lawful and justified. And there are many good cops who have not responded with untoward violence.
I went down to Zuccotti Park a few weeks ago, long before any kind of violence had erupted. A police officer talking with a reporter stood at the side, staring into the morass of tents.
“They’re Americans,” he was saying. “I might not agree with them, but this is their Constitutional right.”
The OWS are not exactly Jesus Christ. But they are the disenfranchised. They — as much as Fox News, the political parties, the Tea Party and Mayor Bloomberg would like to deny them — are the much vaunted People. When they bleed, when their rights are violated, we all give up a part of ourselves. The Constitution guarantees the rights of the People; it does not specify which people. It’s time we took back those rights.
I fear that this will get worse before it gets better. Occupy Wall Street has been dismissed, time and again, as a leaderless movement without a clear message. But the oligarchs are running scared. There is a seething anger in this country. The American Dream was long ago co-opted by the greedy. But this country does not belong to them. It’s ours. And we have to take it back.
“If Jesus was to preach like he preached in Galilee, they would lay Jesus Christ in his grave.”