by Jordan C. Humphrey
“The people united will never be divided”
“This is what democracy looks like”
“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out”
“We are the 99%”
Over the course of a few weeks, the number of those shouting these phrases have grown from a dozen students camped out in NYC into a global movement. Inspired by the revolutionary “Arab Spring” in the Middle East, they occupied the grounds of a global icon of capitalism, Wall Street. Originally spurned by the media and ignored by the public, they quickly grew in numbers. Instead of protesting a corrupt government, they protested a corrupt economic system recognized by the unprecedented gap of economic wealth between the countries’ elite, and the rest of the population. Rather than demanding a mere change of policy, they demanded an entire societal reformation, and started a peaceful revolution that seeks not to overthrow, but to overcome. As thousands of unions and protest movements from around the world began pledging support for the group, they realized the potential popularity of their movement, and donned the moniker, “The 99%”. This group, dedicated to achieving social justice, economic fairness, and political equality, sent out a rally call that spread from city to city. That word, with the help of social networking and a cautiously attentive media, soon reached Springfield, the capital of the state of Illinois.
The participants of the Occupation have been called many things; anarchists, terrorists, Marxists, hippies; no Ad Hominem is too horrid to use when referring to their “Anti-American”, “Anti-Capitalist” masses. Yet the movement has grown strong, in part because the corporate-controlled media can’t seem to get its attack strategy straight. The protestors are merely a bunch of disgruntled poor people, who have iPhones and cars. They are the remnants of radical hippies from the bygone age of Woodstock, and they consist of young college students. They are homeless drug-addicts who made poor decisions, which have homes and jobs and so have nothing to complain about. They are anarchists and separatists, which only exist to democratically re-elect Obama. They are a dangerous mob, and are completely harmless. They are entirely unorganized, and they are an insurrection created at the hands of George Soros….
So how is it that a college-level utilitarian Democrat came to join the ranks of a “traitorous revolution”? Rather easily, as it turns out. My first contact with the Occupation came from turning on the television, to see a live broadcast featuring Geraldo Rivera from Fox News. He began the typical Fauxian sport of chiding the protestors for their audacity, only to be interrupted by a cacophony of voices shouting in unison, “Fox News lies! Fox News lies!” With that iconic moment seared into my mind, I was catapulted into research; who were these protestors? Why were they protesting Wall Street and not the government? What were their goals? Why was the media dedicating itself to their defeat?
The more I learned, the more I looked inward at my own life, at memories that I had previously taken for granted. Memories of my family, ineligible for any financial aid, fighting constantly throughout the days of my youth over how they would ever afford my college education. Memories of my service as student trustee of my community college, visiting my state and national capitals and practically begging for the government to properly fund higher education. Memories of frustration at the lack of career prospects, of $100 pay-checks, of pointless elections and futile letters to the editor. Suddenly, the events of my life seemed a little less coincidence, and a little more insulting. I was being told by the country that, should I fail to achieve the American Dream, the fault was squarely on my adolescent shoulders. For so long, I had accepted this reality, until I decided to join the 99%.
There is a very specific reason why the Occupy movement is protesting large corporations and international banks. There is something genius about how the first Occupation took root at Wall Street, and why smaller Occupations like Springfield’s choose to meet outside of banks and chambers of commerce. It’s because the policies being presented for public consumption don’t originate in Congress or the White House. They come from those who fund the presidential races, from those who pay the media to favor certain viewpoints. Who specifically funded the media’s disdain for “Obamacare”? Pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Who pushed for the bail-out of the banks? Banks. Who works night and day to accomplish the end of all EPA regulations? Fossil fuel companies. Who urged us to start the war with Iraq and Afghanistan, and even now insists that we go to war with Iran? The military industrial complex.
America has long known that in politics, money is power. Yet Occupy is being criticized for seeking to solve our problems at their evident source. How can one possibly hope to change the balance of power? By protesting the imbalance of money, which leads to an imbalance of power. You protest the policies which allow those with money to have an undeniable advantage over those who do not. Just as we separated the influence of religion from the policies of the state, we must also recognize the need to separate the influence of money from the policies of the state.
So we protest to change the precedents set by Citizens United and the roll-back of the Glass-Steagall Act. We protest to free the debts of those who followed the directives of society and incurred terrible debt in student loans and home mortgages. We protest to de-construct the Corporate Democracy, and return to a Constitutional Democracy as the founders intended. We do so, at the peril of both Democratic and Republican parties, with the full intention of uniting this county under the idea that we are all equal in power.
My name is Jordan C. Humphrey. I am a part-time grocery clerk, and a full time student. I am studying to be a lobbyist for higher education and community colleges. I am ineligible for any financial aid, and I will probably owe money for the next 10 years after I graduate. I am the 99%.
And today, I Occupy Springfield, IL.