I don't usually write from a personal perspective, but we live in a time when wealth and political power have merged to lock out the majority of Americans, including me, from the democracy that is our birth right; a time when the American dream has become a nightmare, a cruel joke. This was clear as protesters gathered at the Crack Fox for the march; young college students who will be entering an economy that has no use for them, middle age workers who are being pushed out of the middle class because of unemployment, stagnant or falling wages and rising prices. Most were progressives, but many were just frustrated at the system's failure and the inability the political class to act. There were hundreds of us.
There were also tea partiers there, supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. They were working the crowd, trying to convert people to their movement. 'It's a free country' I was thinking.
Inside the Crack Fox (a bar on Olive) the event starts with a poetry slam, with poets telling of struggling against corporate oppression. A station is set up for people to make signs, most of them railing against corporate greed, but one reads "Ron Paul 2012". Again I thought 'ok, it's a free country, if you want to advocate destroying the government so that Corporate American can do as it pleases (pollute the rivers, provide unsafe working conditions and sell consumers unsafe products) that's fine, but I don't think that's what the Occupy Wall Street protests are about.' The poetry dragged on a little too long, some of us went outside to escape the cigarette smoke. People were getting antsy. Next came the announcements laying out the ground rules; don't block the street, no violence etc., then the legal advice detailing what your rights are. All necessary stuff for a well organized political action.
As I reported on this blog a few days ago, the OccupySTL facebook listed a list of demands that mirrored the national movement. It called for ending political corruption, ending the death penalty, ending police intimidation and other, mostly progressive, themes.
Inside the Crack Fox the couple who are running the meeting are finally wrapping things up. The husband announced that we are marching to the Federal Reserve Building where "they print money that is backed by nothing". 'More Ron Paul crap' I'm thought. For those who don't know, the cult of Ron Paul believes that all our problems would disappear if we return to the "gold standard" and tie the value of our currency to the price of gold. Then he points out that the media have been saying that we don't have an agenda, "If the media asks you what your protesting for, here are our list of demands." He starts going through a list of demands that bore no resemblance to the ones posted on the facebook page, and in fact read like a Ron Paul for president pamphlet, 'balance the budget, pay off the national debt, etc.' It was standard Tea Party rhetoric and a corporate political wish list. When he said "we demand the repeal of the Federal Income Tax" I had heard enough.
I went outside where 20 or so protesters were patiently waiting for the march to start. Some of us decided it was time to start. As we started up the street a protester came from the other direction and asked "Where is everyone? About 12 of us have already gathered at the Fed and KMOV(channel 4) just interviewed some of us." And so a small group of us began to march. We called back to the others milling around in front of the Crack Fox to join us, "We have to be patient. We have to wait" they said, to which I shouted back "We've waited long enough."
I'll wait for poetry, I'll wait for ground rules and legal advice, but I'll be God damned if I was going to wait so I can be told to say I'm in favor of all the shit that I came to protest against.
While it's nice to say that this is a movement for everyone, I respectfully suggest that the Tea party movement is incompatible with our goals. More to the point: the Tea Party already has a movement. They have members of congress pushing their cause, they have corporate sponsors, well financed presidential candidates, they have a major TV "news" network dedicated to promote their cause, for craps sake. Their voices have been heard, and for the past few years, their voices are all that we have heard. It's time for the rest of us to be heard.
Three years ago the Tea Party harnessed anger over the bailout of the Wall Street fat cats and turned it into a political movement dedicated to allowing those same corporate fat cats to do anything they please to anyone they can. Their agenda is Wall Street's agenda. I don't think they will get away with it this time.