It’s time for Americans across the entire political spectrum – left and right – to turn off the talk radio, ignore all the “talking points”, and embrace the core ideals of the Occupiers.
After talking with some Occupy LA protesters one afternoon and reading about the movement online, I began to realize that when you look past the fringe elements, a few common demands begin to take shape: for a return to accountability in government, for corporations to serve their communities as well as their shareholders, and for an end to corruption in our public and private institutions.
These are not the radical demands of hippie freeloaders; this is a common-sense rallying cry for all Americans, liberal and conservative. Our government is broken. Corporations are increasingly focusing on their bottom line at the expense of their customers and the society that supports them. This is not a fight to destroy capitalism – it is a fight to save it.
A recent survey reported that most Occupy sympathizers blame corporations for our current mess, while most of those who do not identify with the movement blame the government. There really is no difference in these points of view. They are flip sides of the same coin, with a common root cause between them. This is why it is so important to ignore media voices that try to drive a wedge between the left and right for the sake of ratings. They are trying to distract us, and despite what they would have us believe, we all want the same thing: a government that is responsive to its citizens. We are Americans, first and foremost, and our country was founded of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is our duty to stand up for our country and demand something better of our institutions.
I am not advocating that everyone should throw away their political beliefs. Each side has different ideas about how to address the problems facing our country, and this healthy exchange of ideas is exactly what makes our democracy so vibrant. But right now we can unite behind a common cause, which is to end the paralysis in our politics, and demand accountability from politicians and corporations to the people they serve.
The Occupy movement embodies a classic conservative principle of individualism: the responsibility each of us has to create a better life for ourselves and our community. I have come to see that the movement is not about demanding handouts. It is about ending handouts to our country’s least-deserving, the so-called 1%. Do not confuse this with a redistribution of wealth. This is about leveling the playing field so our free market system can begin to work again.
Americans, left- or right-wing, need to ask themselves if they are happy with the status quo. If they are unhappy with the free pass our financial institutions have gotten after bringing the global economy to the brink of destruction, if they are unhappy with the record levels of unemployment, and most of all, if they are unhappy with how our politicians have become incapable of doing anything substantial to fix this mess, then they need to support what the Occupy movement is fighting for. They are giving a voice to all our grievances.
Perhaps the greatest gift these occupations have given us is the sense that individuals can still effect change. Ultimately, you may not agree with everything they are saying, but there is no denying that they truly are fighting for all of us and for our country. And through their sheer force of will and dedication, they have become a powerful symbol of what individuals can accomplish together.
Supporting Occupy does not mean giving up bathing and joining a drum circle. It means becoming involved in the political process. It means forcing our politicians (Republican and Democrat) to stop listening to their donors and start listening to mainstream Americans again. It means demanding that CEOs stop seeing their customers as nothing more than dollar signs. Simply put, this movement is about putting citizens back into the driver’s seat.
And if we can make our system start to function again and get our government to listen to people instead of dollars, we can then begin to have a proper, adult debate between liberals and conservatives about the areas in which we disagree, and move forward and prosper again.