Sherman Oaks, CA 10-30-11
The problem for “Occupy L.A.” is the same problem “Occupy Wall Street” or occupy anywhere USA has. I understand they were occupying Van Nuys, here in the San Fernando Valley, although apparently, they aren’t really occupying anything. They moved out of the Civic Center Mall after being told by the police that it closes to the public at 7PM and now have a demonstration set for one o’clock this afternoon near the Sherman Oaks Galleria. Apparently, according to the LAPD, the constitutional guarantee of the “right of the people peaceably to assemble” does not apply to the Civic Center in Van Nuys. And so, the “Occupy San Fernando Valley” movement seems to be moving around rather than occupying anything and settling down. Nevertheless, the Occupy phenomenon continues to grow, even without an agenda. And if you think they’re a bunch of pot smoking lefties or just the younger generation doing what younger generations always do just to get in on the action — then you’re dead wrong. There’s a lot of just regular folks out there. People like retired film editor, Steve Lewis, age 69. I found him standing on the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda boulevards with a sign in each hand.
When I asked why he was protesting, he was surprisingly (well it surprised me, anyway) specific. “My thing is getting the money out of politics” he said. “That has to happen for everything else to move forward.” What we have now, he said, (is) “legal corruption, which is terrible.”
Mr. Lewis, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I think you just came up with the perfect issue to give the movement a goal. Get the money out of politics. Stop selling our democracy to the highest bidder. Something everybody can understand and agree with.
Until they get one, a goal, that is, they are just a bunch of angry Americans camping out on public property. Which isn’t all bad, considering how badly the nation has been screwed by Wall Street in collusion with the federal government. In fact, I understand and support their point (s) of view. Most of them, anyway. I can’t say all, because there’s no telling how many there might be at any given moment, which is precisely the problem.
They have no single issue, no defined set of issues, just a lot of people with different complaints. They need to come up with something with some shape and form to it if they want to be taken seriously, if they want their movement to actually accomplish something other than giving those on the right something to snicker at — like the fight that’s reportedly underway at the main Occupy L.A. site with regard to smoking marijuana. A fight that’s divided the encampment into smokers and non-smokers and is a gift to pundits on the right.
I understand and support what the Occupy people are doing. I also understand that it can’t go on forever. Like Steve Lewis, I’ve suggested that they target campaign finance reform and shortened election cycles. People have been going after campaign finance reform for decades and nobody’s gotten it done. Not really. Not so that it made any real difference long-term, which is why we’re in the mess we’re now in with wealthy individuals and corporations having purchased much of the House, Senate and to a degree, even the White House.
Getting significant campaign finance reform implemented would be a meaningful and amazing accomplishment. But I haven’t heard any discussion about it, just a whole lot of conversation about a bunch of scattered issues, making it very difficult for some folks to support the movement. Except for Steve Lewis. Which is why he surprised me.
People need an idea they can hang onto, and the “Occupy” movement doesn’t have one. It has many. As many as the movements adherents want. And that won’t work forever. Maybe not much longer with winter setting in.
Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who likes experiencing what he writes about, spent a night sleeping out with the campers at Occupy L.A., and really nailed what’s missing. Lopez writes, “I’m down with the demonstrators’ basic notion that things are seriously out of whack in this economy. Why should financial institutions bailed out by taxpayers reap huge profits and executives collect obscene bonuses while common folk lose their homes, their healthcare and their jobs?
But I’m having trouble seeing how a camp-out is going to change anything. Sure, it was great to gather and make the point loud and clear, but now what?” –Los Angeles Times
There it is. They’re beginning to lose progressive thinkers and that’s not good.
Time for the Occupy people to focus. Until then, they have my support either way. Somebody has to take a stand against the injustice that permeates our society. What was it Thomas Jefferson said about the price of freedom being eternal vigilance? Take a look around. Jefferson may be long gone, but there are still patriots out there.
They’re not in the Congress or the White House or seated in plush chairs in council chambers. They aren’t appearing before the public because they are paid to do so on television, or they need the exposure to get re-elected. They’re sleeping in tents on the lawn over at City Hall and they’re carrying signs in front of the Sherman Oaks Galleria. They’re being chased off of public property by the police. They’re young, middle-aged and retirees, and I hope to God they hang with it long enough to save our system from the raw greed that threatens to devour what’s left of our democratic process.