With Bank of America the latest bank to grind its heels on the necks of patriots who paid for its bailout, something powerful and profound is happening in America.
Spontaneous support is rising in town after town, from sea to shining sea, for what is called the Occupy Wall Street movement.
We have entered an American autumn of protest that could bring an American Spring of renewal as the movement continues to gather steam. I expect the largest mass protest in history when millions of people ultimately descend on Washington to demand we return to the time-honored values of our good, great and hurting country that has lost its way in the corridors of political and financial power.
Thomas Paine wrote one of the great pamphlets in the history of freedom, calling it Common Sense. George Washington read Paine to fist-pounding patriots who crossed an ice-packed river on a freezing night to plant a flag for freedom. They did not do it for bailed-out banks to punish citizens with fees, for lobbyists to buy and sell our Congress, for Republicans to destroy any hope for a jobs bill or for Americans to be told the American Dream is dead in a nation doomed to a “new normal’ of permanent recession or depression for many.
I stand with the Occupy Wall Street movement for the same reasons I stood with Dr. King and Cesar Chavez and RFK when my youthful dreams were crushed in June 1968. For the same reasons I stood with Obama in 2008 and stood in spirit with young people from Tiananmen Square to Tahrir Square.
I hope to someday stand with those seeking an Israeli Spring, a Palestinian Spring, a Japanese Spring, a European Spring, a Chinese Spring and an American Spring where jobs and justice for the many will defeat the greed and selfishness of the few. Where freedoms will flourish and hatreds will fade. When wars against poverty and joblessness will replace inequity and carnage against those who are different.
Will I agree with everything done by the Occupy Wall Street movement? No. It is a spontaneous movement without clear leaders and detailed programs. That is fine. These things evolve.
I believe Thomas Paine would tell us today that is it wrong when so much of the wealth of nations is monopolized by so few. When the few with the most use their money to buy the government that was created to represent the many. When certain business titans fire thousands of workers while they pay themselves great fortunes to reward their failed performance. When some men are paid millions of dollars and then avoid their taxes while they attack pay equity for women.
The common sense of the matter is clear: These things are wrong. And it is wrong when Americans are asked to pay for bailouts and their patriotism is punished with bank fees. When teachers are called greedy and the jobless are called lazy. When elites make phone calls on thousand-dollar phones from million-dollar yachts while they hoard trillions of dollars they refuse to spend while their lust for quarterly profits and bigger bonuses destroys long-term value for 401(k) shareholders.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has opened a powerful, new chapter in an old battle. The 99 percent has only begun to fight. True change will never be easy, but the American Dream will never die.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at [email protected].