Salted with Sharks

Mini Million Mask March in Benzonia

In Activism, Gov't Watch, Law & Order, Politics on November 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

By Robert Bruce Bushway

UPDATED 11/7/13

On November 5, supporters of the activist group Anonymous rallied all around the world to protest corporate greed and government corruption. Here at home, while some citizens in Benzonia were lined up at the fire station Tuesday to cast their ballot in the general election, 9 14 protesters of Occupy Benzonia stood on the corner of River Road just across the street, holding signs and urging drivers to honk if they loved freedom. I had a chance to speak with a few of them and listen to their grievances.

One member held a sign that read “Freedom Isn’t Free.” He expressed his concerns about the NSA, government corruption, and economic inequality. This young man is 23 20 and has three children. He spoke of an upcoming interview for a minimum-wage job.

The protesters were mostly this man’s age or younger. One woman said she suspected the Sheriff’s department of purposely making more arrests to make it appear that crime has increased in Benzie County, as a way to justify more funding. A young man chimed in with the claim that members of local law enforcement are dealing drugs and have a vested interest in keeping drugs illegal, adding his opinion that tobacco and alcohol, though legal, are just as bad or worse than some illegal drugs.

One young woman said the rich are not only not looking out for the interests of the poor, but are actively trying to make them poorer. A different young man said he was most concerned about the government spying on citizens with drones.

One young man said a National Guard recruiter told him that when they recruit, they sometimes ask candidates whether, if they were “ordered to, under martial law, would they shoot American citizens?” If the prospective recuit says no, he’s not accepted. He added that the National Guard recruiter told him martial law was coming and the US would be seeing military on the streets soon.

I can’t substantiate any of these claims or beliefs, some of which seem outlandish to me. But it’s clear that these people came out to the polls in their way, today, with an urgent feeling of dissatisfaction with their government and their prospects.

While passers-by on US-31 honked their horns in solidarity with the protesters, we discussed the basic idea of the vote as means of power or change and debated whether we as citizens have any say when we’re unable to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or Monsanto. These young people generally felt their vote didn’t count at all.

One of the chief complaints of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, William Binney and Chris Hedges is that the citizenry used to have a mechanism for validating electoral politics while also pointing out wrongdoing by the government—the press. But when media decisions are made in the service of the power elite without the public’s knowledge, the fourth estate is no longer serving its crucial function as a tool people may use to govern themselves, to participate in a true democracy.

Unfortunately, argues Chris Hedges, a former war correspondent himself, the press, like the legal profession and other institutions, has collapsed under what he calls a “corporate coup d’état.”

The existence of the so-called “One Percent” arguably situates us in a kind of neo-feudalism, in which economics trumps politics, rendering average citizens impotent and government incapable of responding rationally to legitimate grievances. Incremental reform is impossible when only a few loud voices can be heard.

Furthermore, disparate voices within the Occupy Movement have been consistent in arguing that the only mechanism left to save ourselves is civil disobedience. That same voice has been equally critical of the current administration’s treatment of whistleblowers, activists, and independent journalists: the current administration speaks in faux-liberal “feel your pain” language and yet has abandoned the very constituency they purport to represent.

Nonetheless, today marked a day when some members of the 99% proclaimed their resistance, even here in little Benzie County. Tens of million of Americans to date have not come out to protest, despite and/or because of their financial dislocation, the effects of climate change, and feelings of powerlessness. But the tinder is gathering here and there. Some have said we should consider Occupy not as a movement, but a tactic: like Rosa Parks’s singular resistance on a bus five years before the Freedom March occurred. Next time around, it could be a seemingly small event—an elderly woman foreclosed on in Utah, or an activist mother with a stroller assaulted by a police officer, that ignites revolution.

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