Saturday, November 12, 2011

99%


In my humble north bay town of Santa Rosa a tent city has grown on the lawn of City Hall. They are Occupy Santa Rosa. I never thought that a town like mine would see an Occupy encampment, after all....we are not a center for banking or finance. What is there to "occupy" really by a few square feet of grass on the grounds of a  city that it probably of like mind to the protesters. Much has been speculated in our local news as to how long the city will allow them to remain camped out. Everyone talks about what happened in Oakland as if it could happen here. I know that it wont, but everyday I drive by them and wonder that this movement has hit my hometown.

I have been debating writing this post for some time. Partly because it will be unabashedly political, but also because I wanted to wait and see what the Occupy Wall Street movement would become. Lately, it seems it has been in the news for all the wrong reasons and the core ideas that drove so many to protest are becoming lost in divisive and demonizing tactics on both sides of the picket line. I think it's time to weigh in because we as a gay family and a law enforcement family are a part of the 99% too.



It is all of us who do not fit within that top 1% of the wealthiest Americans....ALL of us. Not protesters Vs. police....And thats were I feel the Occupy movement has got off track. The initial days of Occupy Wall Street were very clear in their anger over financial corruption and the governments willingness to bail out corporations, but not the common man. Poor, Working poor, middle-class, upper-middle...whatever name you may give yourself...chances are you have lost a job, a significant portion of your income, your health benefits, savings and retirement funds you relied upon. You may have a home that you still owe more on than its worth...or had to give up and let the bank take it. The same 1% of highest wealth holders in this country can afford to find ways to avoid paying taxes on the actually amounts they earn while those in middle to lower tax brackets shoulder a much higher tax burden. Corporations can now be regarded as people and give as much money as they want to a political campaign. Money and greed are slowly strangling us.

Coming from my parents home which was filled to bursting with the fear mongering of conservative pundits I have come to know for a very long time that Americans are being pitted against Americans. The "Culture war" is as much to preserve the sensibilities of those frightened of gays and the false specter of socialism as it is a handy distraction to keep the bulk of America not paying attention to what is happening to their freedoms and protections.  It is funny however, that no one  began to occupy anything until it started hitting us in the wallet. Vote that corporations are people?....fine. Can't pay your mortgage because you lost your job?....now we have a problem.

When I think of Occupy Wall Street, to me it seems like the public slowly waking up....it is the dawning of the awareness that we have been divided against each other in order to steal our government right out from under us. Even if the Occupy movement amounts to nothing more than a footnote about protesters camping out on sidewalks, it serves as a sign that the awareness of the nation has shifted....and if the occupy movement stalls out here there awareness it fostered will grow until it becomes something larger next time.

But what are we seeing on the news. The Oakland protests....violence...and characterization of the movement as a bunch of angry neohippy college age kids confronting police. All of this played upon by news outlets and politicians that have a stake in making the Occupy movement look like a bunch of angry reactionaries instead of the everyday people standing on dire financial precipices that most of them really are.

And to all the protestors who see the police as some sort of neffarious arm of oppression...And there have been cases of police abuse. However, there are also many cases of protesters need to remember that most of them are 99% too. In anger over actions of abuse some have come to see the police as the enemy to be resisted when likely many of them would be down there in tents and sleeping bags as well. Just as many police and law enforcement have lost homes, jobs, and health coverage as have anyone else. And not all the protestors who come out for these events have peacefull demonstration in mind. Some come out with the intent to confront. Those kinds of people will be at ANY legitmate protest and they detract from the credibility of those who are really out there to make change because they make it about the spectacle and they make people like my husband out to be the bad guys when he has every right to be right down there with them.

How so?....We own a home we owe more on than it is now considered to be worth. We have tried numerous ways to refinance to alleviate the debt. but there is no program that allows for that given the amount of money that Jay makes...and since the government does not acknowledge our marriage and that Jay is supporting a family of four....that means they attribute all of that income to him. In short, no refinance. Now....we got into this loan knowing what we were doing. We are NOT one of the people that banks lent to with no collateral or ability to adequately repay our home loan. We have been struggling with paying the loan on the inflated price for almost three years now even though the cost of living for our family nearly dropped us into bankruptcy early this year.

Jay's job is constantly under attack. The rash of union busting that has been sweeping the nation has not spared many law enforcement officers. The City of San Francisco is separately trying to figure out how to pay it's bills....and one of the ways it does that is by periodically taking it away from law enforcement officers. Benefits, sick days, and wages are always up for grabs when its time to renegotiate with the city or hold an election. In the last election our family just lost 7% of our income....money we can not afford to lose. What makes this all the more disgusting is that most of the law enforcement and emergency services personnel that the city depends on in the case of an emergency can not even afford to live in the city they service....many commute from as much as an hour away.


All of this is over and above the hoops that gay couples always have to jump through because the federal government does not recognize our relationship. Tax time?.....don't even get me started about that....

Yet, somehow this has turned from a protest over the corruption of our financial and political system into a stand off between protesters and police. That's not were the true conflict lies and so far I have noticed individuals practicing abuse on both sides of the picket line. I think it's time that we stop looking at each other as the enemy and remember what got us here in the first place...letting banks and mega corporations infiltrate our government and steal it right out from under us.

and for goodness sake people. My birthday falls on November 4th which is usually election day. So I am always reminded about what I need to vote on. It is one thing to exercise your right to pull up a patch of sidewalk and refuse to leave. That;s all well and good. But please....PLEASE....if you want to change the world get your ass up off that side sidewalk and vote. That really cheeses off the 1%

Until next time dear readers....


10 comments:

  1. So glad to see this post and you make so many good point, especially about law enforcement being part of the 99%. I to think that has been lost on some protesters and most definitely on the news media, then again the news media are all owned by the same mega corporations that are now people, and that the public is so angry at.

    I think that their will aways be a faction that sees every thing as an either your with us or not view point that basically equals out to be so extreme that if you work in law enforcement enforcing the laws that have been enacted that are also a part of the problem (like protest permits and limits on peaceful protest gatherings where they can be in public space and how long they can be) but they also seem to take this view of the other parts of the 99% that are employed by the big corporations. The scream about the evils of big retail and urge people to not shop it, with out giving thought to the fact that many of the 99% depend on their job at said retail companies. (me being one of them, being as I work at a Fred Meyer store which is part of the Kroger family of stores,a big company, and the store I work in is a regional big box "one stop shop" store)

    I know I have been luck during this Great Recession, even though I did not lose my job (had no coworkers that where let go because of the recession) did not have my pay cut, but instead the union managed to negotiate a contract with pay increases over the next 3 years, have not lost my health benefits (although the premium, deductible and out of pocket keep going up) and by most standers they are quite good things could easily change. Especially if the Canadian dollar takes a sudden nose dive in value or the Canadian economy suddenly tanks, as it is that cross border traffic that makes the store I work at one of the highest sales store in the Zone and the company. How ever if something where to happen that caused me to lose my insurance (hours cutback etc) but one accident or loss of insurance coverage and I could easily eat right threw my savings and be in debt which scare me to death.

    I wish you guys luck, and to stay strong.

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  2. I have to agree with most of what you say. Voting is very important to making change and most of us are in the 99%.

    I think the deeper issue is not so much the banks and corporations being overly greedy as in the society we have created. There is a culture of greed that has been building and now we are reaping the seeds we have sown.

    A bank may be greedy but who do they answer to? the investments they hold and their borrowers. The 99%.

    Corporations may gouge and be carelessly money hungry but who do they answer to? Stockholders. How many actually monitor their own accounts and ethicly invest them? The 99%.

    We have a society littered with pawn shops, adds to buy old jewelry, even selling our parents houses when they can no longer live in them or die. What ever happened to generational wealth that we passed on to the next?

    Do I dare delve into casual law suits that drive insurance rates up creating even more costs? How about politicians who have voter apathy so they go to those who do bother to talk to them?

    It all adds up. The problem is not the 99% vs the 1%. It begins with each of us choosing to live a more ethical life, holding others accountable, and looking out for those around us as much as our self.

    It took 100% of us to get where we are and it will just as much to fix it. You want true impact don't buy those outrageous priced items. Demand accountablity. Be the solution. You can protest but as you said Bryan get up and be the solution. If you can't do that then your just chanting in the wind.

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  3. Well said Bryan! Last election day I RAN to the polls. Last year the voters elected a "Tea Party" governor here in Ohio. John Kasich tried along with his fellow Republicans to strip state employees like police officers and teachers of their collective bargaining rights. They passed "Issue 5".. BUT..it backfired!! You DON'T PISS OFF TEACHERS AND POLICE OFFICERS!!! They started a huge campaign to repeal this law. They got more than enough signatures and it was put on the ballot. They won!!!!! OVERWHELMINGLY.
    The media in this country seems more concerned with sex scandals than what politicians are secretly working on in the backroom promoting their own corruption and greed.The average American needs to wake up and see what is going on around them. Our living standards are at stake.

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  4. I LOVE this post, Bryan. And I LOVE the very first image you put at the top. SO TRUE!! What T writes is just as right. I love his response too. Being part of the solution is really THE ONLY ANSWER to this crisis. Start caring about people. Start considering the infrastructure (railways, schools, energy suppliers, banks, administration) and the natural resources YOU rely on YOUR OWN and then you might wanna protect it or – even better – improve it. How? By voting, making yourself heard and volunteering your time to projects YOU find important. Sometimes I get frustrated with the lack of interest in politics and policies among my immediate family members. I drag them all to ballot boxes. So often they just look at me, shrug at my talking and tell me I’m naïve. So it’s almost natural that those who do regard this whole world as their golden cow take what’s available. We, the 99%, make it available! And thanks be to God, we’re slowly waking up and are starting to protect His blessings.

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  5. It is unfortunate that those whose job it is to stand on the front lines and carry out orders are too often blamed for decisions made by others in back rooms. People lose sight of the real issues because it is so much easier to just be angry.
    I hope your dad is doing better.

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  6. The pic with the sign form the guy with cancer is heartbreaking. I lost my job and am now working at a temporary job making less than half of what I made before and no insurance. I may get full time in January. Here's hoping.

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  7. It's been interesting here in Providence. The Occupy folks are STILL camped in Burnside Park.

    And the mayor is LOATHE to send in the police. I think it's because he knows that the cops might just side with the Occupy folks.

    After all, the police have been shit upon by not one but now TWO mayoral administrations.

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  8. I have joined up with a growing occupy movement in Federal Way, WA. because I felt a calling to be part of a solution instead of just bitching and being part of the problem. I believe the movement is about pointing the finger towards the corruption of money in politics, the robbing of the American people through the Federal reserve watering down the worth of our money by printing more money without anything of value to back it up, and the siphoning of money from local areas because big corporations pushing out local businesses just to name a few. The goal is to point the finger at these injustices caused by the very wealthy instead of blaming illegal aliens, gays, minorities, etc. Our immediate goals is a peaceful one to try to get people to put their money in credit unions, support local business, and strengthen our local economy and maybe adopting a local currency. Our purpose is to inform, educate and give a voice to those who never felt they had a voice. We don't believe in having leaders because we believe we all have the capacity to take charge and leaders tend to become corrupted. I have great hopes for the occupy movement and so far we have not been bought out by big business interests like we have seen happen to the tea party. yes there is the possibility that the movement could turn violent, but it is up to all of us to steer the movement towards non-violence.

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