For over a month now, hundreds of thousands of people have been taking part in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Starting in New York, the protests have spread across the United States and the world. There's even an Occupy Bend event, with demonstrators camping in a vacant lot on (where else?) Wall Street.Compared to the Vietnam-era protesters, the Occupy Wall Streeters are a strangely mixed ideological bag. Their gripes are about everything from home foreclosures to the Federal Reserve to the high cost of gasoline to the alleged cover-up of the real story behind 9/11. Critics of Occupy Wall Street - mostly Wall Street's Masters of the Universe themselves and their shills in politics and the media - try to use this lack of a single sharp focus to discredit the movement. "It's just a ragtag mob of lazy socialist communist hippie trustafarians with too much time on their hands and no idea what they really want," their rap goes.
That indictment is not only inaccurate (the protesters represent a wide range of ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds) but unfair. Although you can't write a neat bullet-point list of policies the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators support, the basic things they want are abundantly clear.
They want an end to government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.
They want an end to a system where billionaires get tax cuts and bailouts and everybody else gets lectures about "personal responsibility."
They want an end to policies that have enabled the top 1% to grab six times as much of the nation's wealth as the bottom 80%.
They want to change the game so working Americans stop seeing their real incomes shrink even as the incomes of the 1-percenters astronomically grow.
They don't want to impose "socialism" or "communism" - they want to make capitalism work for everybody, not just the privileged few at the top.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators understand that, as Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi writes in his book Griftopia, America "is fast becoming a vast ghetto in which all of us, conservatives and progressives, are being bled dry by a relatively tiny oligarchy of extremely clever financial criminals and their castrato henchmen in government."
And they know that's got to stop.
The two big dangers facing a populist movement - and Occupy Wall Street, unlike the billionaire-funded, Washington-lobbyist-managed Tea Party, is a real populist movement - are that it will dissolve before it accomplishes anything or that one of the major parties will co-opt it and subvert it for its own purposes.
It's too soon to know whether Occupy Wall Street will fall into one of those traps. But for now, those who are out there marching and camping to call attention to the monstrous corruption and injustice of our political-economic system, including those in Bend, deserve our thanks - and THE GLASS SLIPPER.