You are hereWashington's Revolution
If Wall Street is the ultimate symbol of greed and institutional corruption, then K Street in Washington, DC is the equally powerful symbol of how that corruption is able to freely continue doing business.
It is home to most of the lobbying firms who use their enormous influence, i.e., cash, to carry out the self-serving desires of America, Inc. Since the financial tremors of 2008, nearly ten billion dollars have made their way down I-95 from Lower Manhattan, into the pockets of government officials and the hired guns who advocate for their NYC-based clients.
While the Great Recession eviscerates the dreams of middle class families, there is clearly no shortage of corporate money to keep politicians in the pockets of their Wall Street Idols. Meanwhile, another of the vampire squid’s hundred suckling tentacles is being invested into a strategy that has worked for the powers-that-be for thousands of years: exacerbating every minor difference between peoples of the Earth, including religion, language, sexuality and, most especially, race to keep us artificially distracted while the Masters make off with our hard-earned treasures.
Just as the current political climate, more so than at any time in recent memory, is dominated by staunchly divided ideologies; the seat of Federal power is more of an experiment in social contradiction than an organic metropolis. A planned city curiously entrenched in the north of the South, where the youngest and most affluent members of white America commute in by the train loads to conduct the Nation’s business alongside an impoverished majority that falls on the darker end of the melanin spectrum. Unlike the melting pot of New York City, ninety percent of DC’s citizens fall into either one of only two racial categories.
In McPherson Square, adjacent to K Street and only a few blocks from the Oval Office, the Occupy DC movement has taken on a home base that comes with its own set of unique challenges.
A large number of the city’s 40,000 homeless were already living in the park when the occupiers, most but not all of whom are in their twenties and early thirties, began their demonstration on October 7th. Trying to live cohesively with the existing community has put a strain on both groups.
“In the shelters, they are angry that this group of white kids is allowed to set up tents when we haven’t been able to do so in the past,” commented one homeless gentleman I spoke with named Rodney. “They were talking about coming down to ‘’et them out of here’ and take the park back. But I asked them why don’t they just try to join?”
Several times during my stay in Washington, shouting matches broke out and it seemed no one was really sure how to handle the disruptions. Most tirades ended within a few minutes, although in the early morning of Friday the 21st, I was told the police were called to investigate an alleged knife attack.
Aside from the sensitive homeless issues, there is also the question of how exactly to facilitate the kind of changes most people here are talking about, especially by working within the current political guidelines.
Oskar Mosquito proposed a ‘Political Action’ sub-group to the ‘Direct Action’ Committee (responsible for coordinating demonstrations outside the park) at a recent General Assembly, though the reception to the idea was tepid. To try and build support for his idea, Oskar formed a working group with the intention of going back to the GA with more support at a later time.
The initial focus of this group, he told me, was a “letter to the editor campaign, to show support for the Lemonade Liberators,” who were arrested for vending without a permit and refusing to submit a urine sample. He hopes to find solutions that are more politically oriented, which is difficult amongst a group that has an inherent distrust for the corporate-government establishment, and he is willing to work within the outlined process of Occupy DC to bring his ideas to fruition.
The movement here is still in the early stages and many people are simply trying to lend their voices and their talents in any way possible. Spending some time in the media tent, I had a lengthy discussion with Craig Hudson, a photography student at nearby Corcoran College of Art & Design, on how just a single picture can dramatically alter the public’s perceptions of an event.
“The three photographs that, I think, changed the way people think about the world are Nick Ut’s photo (of Phan Thi Kim Phuc` fleeing naked from a South Vietnamese napalm attack during the Vietnam War), Kevin Carter’s shot of the starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture and John Filo at Kent State.”
What sparked our discussion was Craig’s own breathtaking work capturing an Anonymous member climbing atop the statue of General McPherson to suspend an American flag, with the field of stars arranged in a ‘peace’ symbol, and a painted wooden sign reading, ‘OCCUPIED’.
The contributions of others are more inspirational in nature, such as a visit to Washington by Shaymaa Zaghlool. Miss Zaghlool is a young Egyptian woman who was present in Tahrir Square this past spring when the call was made for Hosni Mubarak to relinquish power after forty years of US-backed dictatorial rule. Carrying her national flag as she observed the American protests, many flocked to her for pictures and information on what it was like to be in that revolutionary moment.
“All of us, when we heard Omar Suleiman, the Vice President, when he said Mubarak step down - I think all the people just laid on the floor and made a special prayer…and thanked God. After that we continued praying and started singing songs, exciting songs for us in Egypt, just that we did it. It was an inspiring moment for me and after that; I came here to the United States.”
Washington, DC is a complex place, where faces and agendas change in an instant. I spent three days here and if it had been three decades, I’m not sure I could have totally wrapped my head around it all. The vibe at McPherson Square is a perfect microcosm of that feeling.
It can seem chaotic in the Capital, but where some see disorganization and a lack of cohesion, I see the initial stages of an evolution towards fixing the one problem that most everyone here can agree on – freeing ourselves from control by the banking institutions that have infiltrated every level of government. Or, as they were described to me by William, a representative for America’s indigenous people, “the manipulative arm of the oppressive system.”
Very few here are ready to describe what the end-game looks like, and I’m not sure that’s a question that can be definitively answered quite yet, because we’ve never really seen the push for a viable alternative until now. Even lasting movements suffer disheartening trials – until the end of the War of 1812, the entire Northeast was vocally considering seceding from the new Union.
Yet this is no reason to brush aside the monumental efforts by a relative few, who are looking to shape the global community of the 21st century into a society which understands the benefits from the hard lessons of the past, as opposed to repeating them with ever-increasing consequences. There will always be cynics and skeptics and those who think that without a perfect message or slogan any social movement is destined to failure.
Still, I find myself wondering how many of them, fifty years from now, may be telling their grandchildren stories about what it was like to be at the center of the movement that changed it all? How many of them are the CEO’s looking down on Liberty Plaza right now, full of scorn, toasting champagne, blissfully unaware that they are on the wrong side of history?
>Patrick M Arthur> >image> thisisbossi>