This week I posted a question on Facebook, asking people what the latest protest was that they’d attended. I heard about the May Day March, the Rally for Sanity, and Occupy Wall Street. But unsurprisingly, the protest on everyone’s mind right now is #Occupy Seattle.
I’ve had requests to comment on #Occupy from Facebook friends and Twitter followers, so I want to give a brief response.
First, I think it’s exciting to see a Twitter handle making front page news in America. The potential for new technologies to help people organize and make their voices heard is thrilling, and while I love Glee flash mobs I’m delighted to see Twitter being put to use in the service of democratic self expression in this country.
I look forward to seeing more, much more, of this kind of technology use, and I am glad that it promotes communication between citizens and their electeds.
Next, I empathize with much of what the protesters are saying. They (and I) are frustrated that the US ranks 93rd in income disparity (behind India, Iran and China,) and that wages constitute the lowest percentage of the US economy in memory. We are angry at seeing the funds we DO have going into waging war overseas instead of making jobs at home.
They are on the street to express these emotions, gather support, and feel like they are doing SOMETHING. I am in my office trying to make the change they want become reality.
Now, I would make a request of these courageous protestors. Convert your energy into power. Don’t squander it. Use your facility with new technologies to direct all your supporters to the systems in place to make your voices heard by the people who can act on what you want. I know there are thousands who support you even though they may choose not to join you outside in the rain night after night. Invite them to join you in spirit and action.
Craft a message that sums up your goals and make it easy to find, copy, and paste on the Internet, and then urge everyone in your movement to take the following actions: Write, call, and tweet your representatives at the Federal level who are making decisions that affect Americans’ ability to live productive, healthy, educated, and secure lives. Flood their websites.
Work together to tell your Congressmembers to step up and lead.
Here’s what I might say, if I were writing that message to Congress: Get out of your comfort zones. Quit reading polls. Raise taxes on the wealthy, close loopholes that allow corporations and the wealthiest to avoid paying taxes. Use our nation’s revenues to wisely invest in infrastructure and education. Spend more up front to put people to work now, and make a long-term fiscal reform plan to address our debt problem. Open up immigration and invest in scientific research. This is America’s traditional formula for success; it’s worked before, let it work again.
We’re doing our best on a local level. You know we’re in budget time and we are facing painful cuts. You already know Seattle Parks always takes a hit when times are lean. I chair the Seattle Parks and Seattle Center committee. We’re doing everything we can to trim our spending responsibly, maintain our assets, and keep investing in the future.
That’s a good start but it’s not enough. If we’re going to make Seattle the city where people want to come to start something productive, where people come when they’re brimming with ideas for how to make a city that’s beautiful, safe, healthy, educated, and secure, we have got to raise revenues. To some, those are fighting words. To me, they make sense.
I invite you, #Occupy protestors, to send your local elected leaders this message as well.
Find your representative in the US House of Representatives:
Find your representative in the US Senate:
Find them. Write to them. Call them. Flood their web sites. And let me know how it goes.