As a clergy person who has spent many days down at Occupy Oakland over the past three weeks, I am so saddened to see the true peaceful nature of this movement ignored and minimized and the continued focus on the small and regrettable acts of violence from an unaffiliated group of a few dozen people.
For so long, we have all been mindlessly complicit in the violence the system we participate in necessitates. And now, just as we are making real progress with the Occupy movement on unifying our voices and trying to change the system that allows this, we are being told that the real problem is this one spasm of violence from this tiny group of unaffiliated vandals.
I ask you this: Where is the violence really coming from?
The idea that Occupy Oakland, or the Occupy movement itself, is the source of the violence is ridiculous. But please do let me tell you about the violence we all are very much responsible for, so long as we continue to allow it in our name and on our dime:
I am talking about the violence of war, in Iraq and Afghanistan and the permanent war machine we continue to feed an obscene percentage of our tax money.
I am talking about the violence of poverty that has been done by Wells Fargo and Bank of America when they illegally foreclosed on the very people who paid for their bailout and golden parachutes.
I am talking about the violence of environmental abuse that has been done to the Gulf of Mexico and countless other natural treasures by BP, Exxon, Shell and Mobil to feed our cheap fossil fuels addiction.
And it is this violence that the Occupy movement is trying to address.
And now, just as we are beginning to wake up to our power and our ability to stop this insanity, we are being sold the false narrative that the violence is coming from the Occupy movement. Because we must be kept divided. Because they are starting to take notice of this movement as a threat.
But the idea that the violence is coming from Occupy would only be laughable if the stakes were not so high. Because this is our moment. And these moments do not come along all the time. But right now that once-in-a-generation window is open, the entire people of the earth are suddenly and powerfully becoming reunited with each other. We are waking up to the truth that we are not on an unstoppable road to division and destruction. It's actually quite the opposite. We can change the narrative. This spring we witnessed one Arab country after another removing their longstanding dictators in an unprecedented struggle for freedom. This sudden change was made possible by our new technological powers of democratized social media. And as more and more of the worlds' 99% are united by this new technology and the illusion of the power maintained by the few over the many is exposed for the lie it is, their power can fall just as quickly
And we must begin by reversing the narrative that is being told about this movement. This movement is not creating the violence, just as Martin Luther King Jr. taught through his non-violent work: as more tension is created, the underlying violence of the system is brought to the surface. And it is ugly. And those in power, those threatened by the upset of the status quo will call the movement that is causing this stress to the system all kinds of ugly names. They will slur us and blame us for the system's violence. Because the few benefiting from our division are desperate and finally feeling their unrealistic grip on power slipping. But we must remember, it is their violence. And it must be surfaced to the healing power of the light of day.
And we must start telling this truth, that this violence is not directly caused by Occupy. It is merely bringing it to the surface so that it may finally be dealt with. So that we can build a system grounded on the principles of justice rather than this false promise we have been enabling like an abusive codependent relationship for too long. It is time to finally live up to the promise of our greatest values; that we truly are all created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights and that amongst these are the freedom to pursue a life of liberty and happiness, a dream that has become an impossible one for far too many.
So please, join me in flipping the violence narrative. The next time you hear someone say that the Occupy movement is creating violence, remind them where that violence is really coming from. And then invite them to join you in believing in a better way.
Peace - Rev. Jeremy D. Nickel
Update: This is the kind of violence in Oakland we need to be worried about: 2nd Vet beaten by Oakland Police.