Letter: Occupy Movement Not Just Angry

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I am writing to challenge Frank Cagle’s characterization of the Occupy Wall Street movement in his article “Coxey’s Army Marches Again” in the Nov. 10, 2011 issue of the Metro Pulse. He states in his article that, “It probably angers both sides to suggest any commonality between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street protests.” This is most certainly true, and one would think that given such a nonpartisan statement Cagle would give some positive words for both sides. Instead, Cagle goes on to give an extremely negative view of Occupy Wall Street for not having a clear message, lack of organizing, and failing to run candidates for office, while praising the Tea Party for peacefully “elect[ing] people to Congress to fix the problem.” He lastly gives an amazingly insightful opinion that the whole country is angry and that politicians should take notice.

Such a stance, taken by so many pundits, journalists, columnists, and the general public, does absolutely nothing to rectify our current economic and political situation. Writing off the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street as “angry citizens” erases the not-so-subtle differences and goals of the two groups that the American public needs to think deeply about. Moreover, this kind of analysis disproportionately benefits the Tea Party over the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Tea Party has massive backing from large corporations, conservative think tanks, and the mainstream Republican party. These three groups absolutely love the Tea Party’s ability to mobilize ordinary citizens to get behind rolling back regulations to protect the public interest, like environmental and worker protections.

Occupy Wall Street, in contrast, has none of these sorts of vast resources, especially party connections and money, which the Tea Party has in abundance. (This is probably the main reason that Occupy movements haven’t engaged in electoral politics.) In lumping the two together, you have the incredibly well-known, incredibly wealthy, and incredibly corporate Tea Party put into the same category as the Occupy movement. Guess which one suffers the most in the comparison? These sorts of comparisons are why Occupy Wall Street appears to have no coherent message. Instead of being allowed to vent legitimate grievances about corporate personhood, a tax burden which is increasingly being put on the backs of the middle and working classes, rising costs of living with no corresponding rise in wages, tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, and the persistent attacks on workers’ wages, benefits, and collective bargaining, the Occupy movement is instead pigeon-holed as just another group of angry citizens. By the way, those things I just mentioned are what Occupy Wall Street stands for, along with many, many more. The Tea Party may be angry too, but it sure is demanding a lot of things on the corporations’ Christmas wish lists and if you remember right, the corporations kind of had a lot to do with putting us into this financial crisis. You know, like when we paid them back after they went bankrupt wrecking our futures gambling in the real estate market with our life savings.

Cagle continues his superficially insightful article by agreeing with Herman Cain that Occupy Wall Street protesters should be in Washington demanding change. I disagree. Occupy Wall Street needs to be everywhere, organizing all over the country, both on Wall Street and in the capitol. This movement is going to continue to grow as more and more people come to see and experience it for themselves. Maybe then commentators like Cagle will stop writing off Occupy Wall Street as just another group of angry protesters.

John McCollum

Knoxville

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