No matter how much the local corporate media mocks the local version of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it will not be able to change the fact that the protests have significantly altered the national political discussion.
For the first time in decades, economic justice and wealth disparity have emerged as potent political issues, and the potential ramifications, from their effect on electoral politics to the corporate welfare state, could represent a major, national paradigm change. These ramifications may yet be years away, and they may not even come under the rubric of “Occupy,” but the protests are a strong sign that our current economic system is growing increasingly incompatible with democracy.
Occupy OKC continues its protests, most recently with a march on city hall to protest the MAPS 3 initiative. The protesters voiced concerns that the city improvement projects, approved by voters, continue to be influenced by corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens. It’s not the biggest or most exciting issue, but it’s a nonpartisan local issue, and it concerns the quality of life for everyone in the metropolitan area. It also echoes the movement’s overall message that the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans have made it financially precarious for many in the bottom 99 percent.
The Oklahoman editorial page, of course, doesn’t get it. The newspaper’s editorial writers apparently keep waiting for the local protesters to produce a corporate organizational chart and a PowerPoint presentation with 10 demands or so. But the loose, changing rhetorical structure of the movement and its local concerns are the point, not a weakness.
In yet another mocking attack today on Occupy OKC, the newspaper’s editorial page called the protesters “churlish and childish” and “Occupy Sesame Street.” The protest, according to the newspaper, was a “toddler’s tantrum” and the protesters’ encampment is “Kerr Park day care center.”
The ugliness of today’s demeaning attack in The Oklahoman cannot be understated, and it shows just what the Occupy protesters face here and elsewhere as they call for economic justice.
The editorial makes the point that it was “corporate cash” that built Kerr Park as if the protesters should see that as a reason to stop protesting because the long-gone Kerr-McGee Corp was so nice to everyone here. But the point is to show the dangers of a political system dictated by corporate money. What better place to do that than in a park created by a corporation? The editorial also makes the point that some of the protesters don’t have “day jobs” like Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. Again, another point of the movement is that good jobs are scarce and many young people are either unemployed or underemployed. Many Occupy protesters, here and elsewhere, want good day jobs, too.
As an aside, the editorial mentions that Oklahoma City has been able to avoid violent confrontations between police and the protesters, and I hope that continues. At the University of California in Davis recently, a police officer calmly pepper sprayed protesters who were sitting peacefully in a particular area and had been asked to leave. Why would authorities treat the protesters this way? These are our students, our children. Among other things, they want good jobs, freedom from crushing student debt and educational opportunities. Why in the world is this viewed as such a radical agenda by The Oklahoman?
Let’s be clear: The Occupy protesters across the country have proven they’re willing to risk arrest and endure police brutality to get their message out just like in past, successful protest movements in this country. This collective courage is a powerful force, and the editorial writers at The Oklahoman and the ultra-wealthy people they protect know it, and they’re scared.