occupy wall street

The Morning News: Monday, Dec. 5, 2011

Democrats See Opening To Attract Religious Voters In 2012 Election; Does Inequality Matter?; From Occupy To Progressive Renewal: Demanding The Just Society; Occupy Movement A Reminder Of What We Value; The Annual 'War On Christmas' Shows How A Faith That Once United America Now Divides It; Religious Leaders Target Repeal Of N.C. Death Penalty Law; Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church: Kentucky Congregation Overturns Ban On Interracial Couples.

From the Editors

Even while Occupy Wall Street and the worldwide movement it has helped ignite captured the public’s attention this fall, some observers claimed not to understand what the protests were all about. They wanted a clear list of demands, or a detailed plan for fixing what ails our economy and our society in general.

Many of the attacks on the Occupy protests seemed a bit disingenuous. After all, it’s pretty much impossible to deny the destructive role played by an under-regulated financial sector—that would be the “Wall Street” that’s being occupied—in sparking the Great Recession. But the transgressions of Wall Street itself are really only the tip of the filthy-lucre iceberg, as the gap between the super-wealthy and the rest has grown to titanic proportions. The statistics, which should serve as icons for our reflection and enlightenment—they’re that crucial—tell a heartbreaking story. What does it mean when the country’s top 1 percent has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent? It means that many, many people are suffering, while (and because) a very few thrive.

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American Spring?

“THIS IS THE American Spring,” roared Eric Seligson, 65 and a veteran of Students for a Democratic Society, “and I am a born-again revolutionary!”

The man in charge of the Occupy Wall Street library said he’d been waiting years for this day, and that describes the spirit of many of the older people who came to Zuccotti Park in New York City to volunteer by day and be part of the General Assembly meetings at night.

I was one of them. Together, Seligson and I watched the young people spreading out on their sleeping bags, holding up their signs (“Defend Public Health Not Corporate Wealth”), sweeping the grounds. Together, we silently contemplated the mystery of wonder. Was the awakening of America’s progressive slumber really happening? Or were we both dreaming the way two old men dream, filling our minds with wistful collages of unfinished business?

I was told that the heroes of Tahrir Square twittered their embrace to the youths of Occupy Wall Street who, on Sept.17, made the financial district their unexpected home after staging a protest against Wall Street greed.

I was struck by how many of the protesters, like their counterparts in Tahrir Square, were unemployed students, first-timers at saying no to their country’s power-holders. If nothing else, Occupy Wall Street is a living illustration of one way the First World/Third World dichotomy has narrowed in recent years. Because of the unhappy globalization of joblessness, some in these two worlds are finding themselves on common ground.

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What's Next for the Occupiers?

Sign Seen at Occupy Wall Street in October (Image by Mike Fleshman via flickr)
Sign Seen at Occupy Wall Street in October (Image by Mike Fleshman via flickr)

I was also struck by their refusal to simply announce a set of demands. Occupiers aren’t dumb—they’ve read and heard the many calls from the media and politicians that they simply say what they want. It would be easy enough—but in some sense it would detract from the greatest usefulness of the campaign, which has been to articulate a sense of despair bordering on rage. Because they didn’t quickly say “we want this bill passed,” commentators have had to grapple with the actual message of many Occupiers: Our economy is unfair. It gives too much power to corporations who abuse that power for their own ends. They’ve not just cheated us financially; they’ve cheated us of our democracy.

Thanksgiving at Occupy Wall Street

If you thought all of the occupiers would go indoors for Thanksgiving, think again. In spite of the recent police raid, hundreds of occupiers, activists, and community members are breaking bread together in Zuccotti Park. 

The OWS Kitchen working group estimates over 3,000 meals will be served with the support of local families, restaurants, and organizations who are opening their kitchens to the movement. 

When I got down to Zuccotti Park around 2:30pm there was a joyful calm in the area—friends and strangers eating together on the now bare marble benches, others walking around offering pecan pie, vegan meal plates, and other holiday snacks to anyone interested, and a small group of folksy looking people singing “This Land is Your Land” and “We Shall Not Be Moved” with guitars and cymbals. 

A nice reclamation of the Thanksgiving meal—less like the oppressive tale of pilgrims and native people we learned about in school; more like Jesus feeding the thousands, the beloved community, etc.

What Next for the Occupiers?

Group meditation in Zuccotti Park, October 2011.  Photo by Cathleen Falsani.
Group meditation in Zuccotti Park, October 2011. Photo by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.

One of the highlights of the fall for me was undertaking a kind of Occupy Tourism. I was spending most of my time on the move, working to build the broad coalition that eventually won at least a temporary victory against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta. In almost every city I visited, I tried to stop by the local encampment, in part because Occupiers were among our most reliable allies, and in part because it was so much fun.

I’ve gotten to speak through the human microphone in lower Manhattan and tour the D.C. campsite just a few blocks from the White House. But I’ve also gotten to sign the copies of my books in the library tent at Occupy Boston (a quiet tent, staffed by honest-to-God librarians from Boston Public Library, with everything arranged by subject). I even made it to foreign occupations—standing beneath a giant stone lion in the grand Vancouver encampment. Happiest occupation goes to San Luis Obispo, California, where I got a hug from a fellow with a huge “Free Hugs” sign. The most chic, not surprising, was Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they arranged not only a campfire for my talk, but a rising full moon in the desert sky.

The Afternoon News: Wednesday Nov. 23, 2011

The Afternoon News
The Afternoon News

Older, Suburban And Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle The Census. OWS Campers: What Can We Occupy Next. Social Conservatives Hold Covert Meeting To Stop Romney. In Season Of Giving Thanks, Signs That Gratitude Is Back. What Christians Want In A President. Could Gingrich’s Immigration Stance Boost His 2012 Chances? And States’ Immigration Laws Fill Leadership Void Left by President and Congress.

Occupy St. Paul’s: Thanks Be to God

Jim Wallis visits the Occupy London at St. Paul's Cathedral, 11/22/11.
Jim Wallis visits the Occupy London at St. Paul's Cathedral, 11/22/11. (Photo courtesy of Ed Thornton/The Church Times)

LONDON — It looks like the stage of a West End theater. The tents are gathered around and almost up against the steps of the historic St. Paul’s Cathedral. Each night, a General Assembly is held on those steps, and the sermons on inequality have a biblical ring to them.

This is Occupy London and the Occupiers were having their discussions with each other and visitors in the protective shadow of the Dome of St. Paul’s — as they should be. What a picture of the Incarnation, I thought, marveling at the scene.

What makes Christian faith most unique among all the religions of the world is, indeed, the incarnation. In Jesus Christ, God hits the streets — that’s what Incarnation means.

So here is the church in the midst of the international conversation that is changing the world — right where we should be.

The Afternoon News: Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

Is The Bible A Reliable Moral Guide?; Why I Got Arrested At Occupy Wall Street; Unemployment Rates Drop In Most States;Black Friday And The Importance Of Sabbath Rest; Poor People To Get Poorer; Coptic Christians Living In Egypt Speak Out (VIDEO); Wall Street Will Never Be The Same Again; Occupy Wall Street And The Crisis Of Choice (OPINION); Candidates Face Foreign Policy Challenge; Don't Surrender To Laws Of Market, Pope SaysOut To Lunch: Congress Puts The Food Lobby Above Child Nutrition; Supercommittee Failure Puts U.S. At Risk (OPINION); Would The World Be Better Off Without Religion? (AUDIO); 'Thanksgiving To Almighty God' Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations From George Washington To Barack Obama.

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