Monday, November 14, 2011

America has unfinished business

Tea partiers and Occupiers sharing a common cause?

By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

Within the space of three years, two powerful popular protests have risen up in the United States — first the Tea Party and now Occupy. They are in one regard similar, but in another quite different.

Like Occupy, the Tea Party was also a spontaneous and democratic protest against the injustice of the Wall Street bailout, which the American people overwhelmingly opposed.

Yet, both political parties, their presidential candidates and Congress supported it.

At that point, the Tea Party should have been expected to redouble its attack on that injustice. It did not.

The Tea Party was in effect diverted, some might say hijacked, and its energy and anger were instead focused on the proposed health care legislation, and the members of Congress and the president who supported it.

Occupy has not lost focus. Despite the inability of fatuous talking heads to discover its “message” and an orchestrated defamation of its activities, polls indicate that Occupy remains broadly supported, while the tea party has lost support.

The American people well understand the larger issue from which the tea party was turned: the government of the people, by the people and for the people has been subverted, and become a government of, by and for the corporate establishment, led from Wall Street.

The other place at which the tea party and Occupy diverge is how each relates to the first American Revolution. The Tea Party adopted the symbols, while Occupy has taken the form.

The first tea partiers were, and some still are fond of donning the attire of 18th century American patriots and brandishing muskets and colonial flags. None of that is to be seen among the Occupiers.

And while the Tea Party quickly gained a central organization, staff and command, the Occupiers remain a loose confederation of independent communities, with one binding message.

“We’ve had it.”

The parallel to the first American Revolution is striking.

Occupy organizes and communicates through local and autonomous “General Assemblies,” a term which harkens back to the days of the Quaker founders of Pennsylvania, and their embrace of the concept of the common wealth.

And these General Assemblies function as did the Committees of Correspondence that spread throughout America before the Revolution, and led to a Continental Congress that eventually declared its independence from an oppressive and unrepresentative central government, then in London, but which like the central government in Washington today represents the overbearing and oppressive commercial interests of the age.

Now as then, there is as much or more communication among these independent local organizations within Occupy than there is with the external and increasingly anxious central authority of the established interests.

Now as then, those established interests, mostly corporate and led from Wall Street treat the American people as little more than servants to their wealth and power, deserving no voice in their government or future.

This is what Occupy seeks to replace, and the Tea Party initially challenged.

Now the pundits are waiting for some kind of “declaration” from Occupy. But Mr. Jefferson’s original will be hard to improve upon. It has rightly been called “American Scripture.”

In it we declared the rights of the people (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”), declared that the purpose of government is “to secure” those rights, and further declared “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

What Occupy is getting at is a need to update the U.S. Constitution, which in fact was suggested by President Roosevelt in an address to Congress at the close of World War II. FDR called it the “Second Bill of Rights.”

“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans ... of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people-whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth-is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

“This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights... They were our rights to life and liberty.

“As our nation has grown in size and stature, however-as our industrial economy expanded — these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”

The American people are now in the early stages of the Second American Revolution.

At some point, perhaps tea partiers and Occupiers will understand they all started out from the same place, will come together, and together end up at the same place: one nation, indivisible, with liberty, justice and economic security and independence for all.

The American people will need each other to prevail against the rank economic oppression and tyranny of the present age.

America has unfinished business.

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