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I am obviously included in the 99 percent. I am not rich, so I guess that means I should be marching with Occupy. A movement I tipped my cap to at the beginning, but now… I am living day-to-day like the 17.2 percent of Americans who are either underemployed or unemployed as of December 2009; I am currently underemployed. As I fight the battle of addiction, I am working long hours and barely scraping by. I should be making more money in less time. That being said, I am very blessed to have work; so are roughly 92 percent of Americans.
Which is why I can relate to the Occupy movement more than the Wall Street thugs. At the end of the day, that is what they are: thugs who rig the system to benefit themselves, a system based on a constitution that put the power in our hands. We elect our peers to lead our government in a system of checks and balances. We even choose the people who count the votes from amongst ourselves. Somehow, at some point in this country, we learned to scream “foul” if something does not go our way.
I too have spent several hours in an unpleasant waiting room, where caseworkers were being verbally assaulted, to reinstate my food stamps. I have hung up the phone several times, frustrated with Mass Health representatives. I have hung up on debt collectors and even programmed one into my phone — which I am thankful I have. Yes, even though I quit drinking, I have still sneaked in behind someone on the MBTA to avoid paying two bucks. Most Americans are worried about a mortgage, car payments, their 401K, etc. These worries are just as stressful to them as reinstating food stamps is to me.
When I came out of detoxification, Spare Change was and still is a blessing. I do not know how I would have made it without the generosity of my readers. Thank you. And as it should be in America, with a little effort on my part, combined with some time away from my past, I found work. The opportunity to be able to survive is there for me. Yes, I still need social services, and I will forever be weary of the Republicans talking ill of these life-saving programs. However, I remain just as weary of Democrats pushing services onto people who may not really need them, like a salesman adding on that little extra feature to add a few extra dollars to the commission.
The problem is really not that complicated. The problem is the 99 percent. The problem was forecast by an American icon. President Washington was against political factions, which included political parties and organizations. We were warned. And what did the 99 percent do? Actually, what did 100 percent do? We broke off into groups based on our needs and interests. And now, political terminology is a whole other class. Washington’s fear about political factions was based on the fear of one faction gaining control over each branch of government. What is the point of check and balances if the same political faction is in control of each branch? We have seen time and time again in this country the ills that await when one party has complete control.
However, Occupy is now global; the movement is about more than just employment issues. At the end of the day, the issue here in the U.S. is about our officials who are elected by the 99 percent. Our laws are bought. Those with the money are hoarding money and oil to drive up inflation and costs. The masses are getting a raw deal. If you are not part of the 1 percent, you are a victim. If you broadly support Occupy, you understand that you have been victimized by the 1 percent.
The Occupy movement has received much criticism for not being unified or coherent enough; I agree. What exactly is Occupy protesting and what does it want? This question will receive many different answers from occupiers.
Pat Tracy is a good friend and a coworker of mine. He is an author and a Sloan reporter — he recently wrote several Occupy pieces online — and is a strong advocate of OWS. We often clash when it comes to politics. Before I quit drinking, the disagreements often got much more personal and severe. However, I recently allowed myself to see his point of view. We met for coffee on the evening of December 8, right before Occupy Boston faced the police in an eviction showdown. I asked him what the solution was. It is so easy to point fingers, which OWS has proven to be very good at. I agreed with a major part of his solution, which is to get money out of politics. Laws cannot be bought if leaders are not willing to accept the money. But how do we do that? It takes money to run a campaign … kind of.
Let me remind you, to become an elected official, no money is required, just votes. What we need is an electorate that is not easily persuaded by whose name they see the most or whose flyers arrived at their doorsteps. Just because you may not have seen a Gary Johnson commercial, or even heard of him, does not mean his name won’t be on the ballot. It does not mean that more information on him is not available. It does not mean he’s not presidential material. In fact, I’d argue that because he has very little campaign funds he would most likely make the best president of all, the out-of-touch Republican presidential hopeful. Here’s an idea: why don’t all of us, the 17.2 percent of underemployed Americans, actually vote, and vote for the candidate we see and hear the least?
I blame the 99 percent for today’s problems. Many of us allow ourselves to be brainwashed by the mass media. No one in the 1 percent can fully control your thoughts. They can surely lead your thoughts in one direction, though. America is extremely successful with this. Candidates would not seek money if it hadn’t been proven to be a deciding factor. Money wins elections.
The 99 percent can make money meaningless in campaigns by not letting it influence us. This is one reason why I was adamant about Sen. John McCain for president. He and Sen. Russ Feingold crossed party lines to write a bill that would have diminished the role of money in politics. However, because of the 1 percent’s influence, the final bill was convoluted, and was knowingly passed by congress as an unconstitutional piece of legislation that would be struck down by the Supreme Court. Yet, the 99 percent spoke very little of the McCain-Feingold bill. Why? Had the 1 percent once again effectively brainwashed us into believing it was not that big of an issue and freedom of speech was at stake? The 1 percent won, and guess what? Neither McCain nor Feingold will ever be president of the United States. The 99 percent is partly to blame for this. We are partly to blame for allowing Bush to become President and letting it get to the Supreme Court. We are partly to blame for every mishap in America’s history. And we have to take credit for our successes as well.
The 99 percent is partly to blame for today’s problems. And in this country, we have a lot to be thankful for. Aside from family, friends, God and whatnot, we should be thankful for the foundation of our country, our unique Constitution. This is our country. Over the generations, we have opened up voting to every citizen. We turned the Senate from members being appointed by the House of Representatives to members being elected by us, the 99 percent. This is our country. Let us work within the system our founders laid out for us.
And I have a solution. I call on the lead organizers of every city’s OWS to run for office in 2012. We need you. Please, run for office. The voices heard loud and clear on the stages of OWS throughout the country need to be the voices in Congress. All they need to do is build on the support they’ve already generated. More importantly, once elected, organizers should stick to their values and start fundamentally reshaping our government in order to take the influence away from the 1 percent. We need you. It is not to difficult to gather some signatures and knock on some doors. I offer my assistance here at home as I prepare myself to run some day. Who knows, possibly next year, if I can get some folks to run with me. One voice is not enough; it needs to be a national movement. If we can get several dozen ‘Occupiers’ to actually occupy a seat in Congress, then we can we remove the influence of money. As we get evicted from our town squares across the country, let us now move in legally and long-term into our state houses and the Capitol.
AARON JAMES is a Spare Change news writer and vendor.
Brown University professor Blyth speaks at the site of Occupy Boston