What started as a simple protest against Wall Street on September 17 has become a global movement.
Occupy Wall Street, a grass-roots campaign born out of a general discontent with the state of the American political and financial systems, has inspired a rethinking of our political discourse. From having President Barack Obama echoing its messaging during his recent Kansas speech, to having GOP hopefuls worried about aligning themselves too much with the 1%, Occupy Wall Street has profoundly changed our national political discourse, regarding income inequality, the plutocracy that runs the country, the way Wall Street operates, and the growing middle class that many claim will have it worse off than their parents. In 2011, Occupy Wall Street made an indelible stamp in American politics, one that will definitely not fade in 2012.
Though many OWS signs and placards were often disjointed, their message was clear. The rich are getting richer while the poor grow poorer. The inequality of wealth that has long plagued the United States must come to an end, and finally, the nation is responding.
They have made their voices heard during these initial months by demanding financial reform, and justice for the 2008 economic collapse. They have unified the unions and sparked movements not only nationwide, but on a global scale. Most of all, they have gained a voice in the current political discourse; they have focused the concerns and anger on “the country's growing economic gap,” and have “planted the seed of an organized voice” that occupiers from all walks of life can cling to. Their movement has forced us to reconsider the way in which our nation does business, and has set the wheels in motion to essentially change the nature of American capitalism.
Their movement sparked encampments globally, and showed just how far one would go to foster change. The sheer fact that the Occupy Wall Street movement went global means that the issues that they fight against are very much universal.
The Huffington Post noted that OWS was born out of the belief that “Citizens – and democracy itself –were expendable. The 1% and those that serve them were above the law.’”
The violent reactions by some police have inflamed protesters around the country. The idea that our so-called freedom is accessible so long as we do not disturb the status quo; that “We are free only so long as the comfortable remain comfortable,” and that “upsetting of apple carts will be punished.”
The idea that that our government, our financial institutions, and our democracy have failed us, and that the 99% of the citizenry cease to matter, is one that could enrage even the most apathetic on-looker. As a journalist, my time spent at Zuccotti Park watching the movement gaining both traction and growth at such a rapid speed was staggering, mainly because the grievances of the OWS movement were so valid, so legitimate, and so relatable. It gives a voice to the 99%, who subsidize the lifestyles of concreted greed on Wall Street, while nearly 46 million are on food stamps, and almost 50 million (16%) are mired in poverty.
In the face of privatized capitalism and corporate gain, what is needed is the distinction that life is worth more than money, and that human rights supersede the inherently flawed systems that have held us down for way too long, and that their message should be defended. In 2012, the members of OWS, like the other millions of Americans across the country, will wait urgently for a leader who will stand up for the American people — not just in stump speeches, but in action and deed. Occupy Wall Street will push the candidates to their limits, and distinguish who will really fight for the rights of the “99%.” OWS started the fight against the corruption and greed on Wall Street in 2011, but in 2012, it will launch an all out war against these things.
While the OWS encampment is no long intact, their message and their movement live on. Let us hope that 2012 brings about the change that all of us need, for the 100%, to get the state of our nation back to a place worth fighting for.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons