“99%?”
Occupy Wallstreet
State Capitol, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Sunday, October 16, 2011

iPhone 4s Camera, Panorama Collage

In light of my failed attempt to spend the weekend in NYC, where I would have come face-to-face with lots of marchers and rioters flocking to Times Square to join Occupy Wall Street, I drove to Harrisburg, PA to shoot and talk with people who were attending the 24 hour protest at the capitol building.

Upon my arrival, as I was setting up my video camera to shoot, an announcement was made in the rag-tag group of a 100 to 200 or so, that a woman who was attending the meeting was missing her wallet.  Within 30 seconds her purse was found.  “Yeah!”, went the crowd.  But when the woman opened her purse her wallet was gone.  Stolen.  She pleaded with the crowd to find her wallet, because she had no money to get home.  To my knowledge, her wallet was not found.  But this did not stop the young leaders or the protesters from reading messages off their cell phones about the riots in Rome and NYC and encourage the crowd to repeat their words of protest like a chant.  They sounded like drones repeating everything spoken to them.  I was reminded of a comment someone once made to me accusing many denominations of the Christian Church for encouraging members to repeat words spoken from the pulpit like a mindless chant.  It was an odd experience hearing it from these protesters.  One young man dressed in leather and sporting a mohawk said, “Sweet.  Riots in Rome.  Yeah, people will get hurt.  Oh well.  Get your guns.” And he said it with a steely grin.

A twelve-year-old boy dressed like a vampire and holding a “99%” sign, approached me and asked if I was from the TV studio.  I asked him why he was there.  He glowed and said, “Because we’re the 99 percent!”

I asked, “99 percent of what?”

He responded, “Of everyone!”

I asked, “Everyone who?”

He said, “Of us!”

I said, “Us who?”

He said, “The poor!”

“Do you know if anyone has a solution to the problem?”

His eyes swelled a bit and he signed.  “No.”

“Have you thought to ask anyone?”

He shrugged, “No.  But I’m sure they have a solution.”

And he turned and ran away, obviously confused by where our discussion led.  Grant it, he was a boy.  But I honestly began to see a trend among many who were there: Blame the rich.  Blame one or two corporations.  Blame capitalism.  And wonder who was in charge of the gathering, save those who asked for mindless chants.

Shortly after I asked another man, “What are you protesting?”

He said, “The rich! Wall Steet!”

“Does that include Hollywood or wealthy Democrats?”

He looked at me, perplexed.  “No!”

Another round of chants followed, led by the young leaders.

I continued.  “Who are the rich?”

“GE!  Big Oil!”

“Is it GE and Big Oil who are running the country?  Or our political leaders?”

He thought a moment.  “GE and the oil companies are evil!”

I responded, “So Hollywood’s money isn’t included in the evil rich.  Or Nancy Pelosi’s recorded 35.2 million net worth?  Or George Soros’ 22 billion?”

The man fumbled for words.

“No.  They aren’t using government monies as subsidies, so their money doesn’t count.”

“Ok,” I said.  “But doesn’t the government receive 62 cents per gallon of gas for doing nothing–while the oil companies who take all the risks, invest in all the research, perform all the hard labor, and extract, process, transport, and distribute all the product, only receive ten cents for each gallon of gas?”

“Yeah–but they receive subsidies from the government.”

“Okay, so is it their fault or the government’s fault?”

“They’ll all in collusion with lobbyists!”

“And Hollywood–and media elites–are not part of your evil rich.”

“They don’t have a megaphone to spread their political evil like GE and the oil companies!”

“Really? They own and distribute all the magazines, newspapers, plays and musical theater, art, photography, books, news programs, TV shows, and film–and they don’t have a megaphone to broadcast their political views.”

Okay, that last comment was in my head.  I didn’t really say it.  But this gives a flavor of my evening with the Occupy Wall Street group in Harrisburg.  I make no bones about being an Independent voter.  I chose to be such because of the rampant corruption in both parties.  And I want to stand on the side of the field, so to speak, in order to be able to observe both sides with a hopeful, Devil’s Advocate, objective, critical eye.

What perplexes me the most is this: This group appears to me to be very similar to the Tea Party.  Both groups believe that “corporations lobby for the government to have more power, and in return the government enacts laws and regulations favorable to large corporations.”  Occupy Wall Streeters believe “large corporations have way too much power.”  Tea Partiers believe “the government has way too much power.”  What is amazing to watch is how the Media represents each of these groups.  Tea Partiers were, and still are, painted by Democrats, Media, and even the President, as a dangerous group of ignorant racists toting guns and wielding religion.  This, as any rational person could observe most Tea Partiers were a mix of fiscally conservative young adults, families, and the elderly who sat rather peacefully, but passionately, at rallies across the country.  And that they generally and intelligently explain what they believe and what they are fighting for.  Now, as riots break out across the country, the Occupy Wall Streeters who, interestingly enough, are supported by the Nazi and Communist parties, are welcomed and encouraged by the Democrat leadership, Media–even by the President–as a good and healthy group of well-doers taking part in a political system.  Who are the rioters and who are the peaceful protesters?  Who are taking part in the political debate and who are a danger to our Republic?

I met some very good and kind people on Saturday night.  My conversation with Sue and Amit was stimulating and invigorating.  We exchanged views and concerns and respected each other’s point-of-view.  All while chants and singing of national, patriotic songs, rose in the background.  It is clear that many attending these protests are simply fed-up with corporate and political corruption.  But I can’t help but sense that many politicians are masterful magicians: They point with one hand at certain corporations, Tea Partiers, and political foes, as the Enemy-Of-All, while their their other hand is robbing the masses–including these protestors–blind.

There are good people on both sides of this debate and as long as we engage in tribal warfare–where each side “takes out” a member of the other side because the other side “took out” one of their’s, we’ll continue to go round and round in anger and hate, leading to cultural, spiritual, and national death.

We need a nation of humble and wise people.  People with knowledge and understanding.  And rising up from the collective whole, a healthy, humble, and wise leadership.

But it all begins with the individual.  An individual renaissance and reformation.

May it be so.

May it be so.

For the future of us all–and the coming generations.  And for the future of all that is good and true and beautiful.