Chick-fil-hAte: Religious Freedom Has Nothing To Do With It

By now we’ve all heard about Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s stance on gay rights and the subsequent outrage in response to that stance. For many of us the anti-gay beliefs espoused by Mr. Cathy and his company came as a bit of a surprise. Out of nowhere, or so it seemed, social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, were abuzz with posts and comments about Dan Cathy’s statements to The Baptist Press regarding the company’s support of  ”the biblical definition of the family unit.” For others, this news was far from out-of-the-blue. In March of last year, the LGBT rights group, Equal Matters published a report about the fast-food chain’s support of adamantly anti-gay groups, like Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, the latter of which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In May and September of last year,  LGBT rights activists protested the opening  of Chick-fil-A restaurants in Chicago and Hollywood, respectively; and in February of this year, students at NYU petitioned the university to close its Chick-fil-A franchise.

While, on the surface, the official position of Chick-fil-A and Mr. Cathy regarding gay-rights is, in the opinions of many, antiquated and unethical; dig a little deeper and that position moves from out-dated and wrong, to down-right fucking crazy-scary. Dan Cathy doesn’t just believe in the concept of traditional marriage (whatever the hell that means), he believes that we, as a nation, are inviting the wrath of his God for having the audacity to offer equal protection under the law to all of our citizens regardless of their sexual orientation. Or, as he puts it, for our “prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is.” Dan Cathy isn’t one of those misguided but otherwise benign Christians who is simply of the personal opinion that marriage should be between one man and woman until death parts them…No. He is one of those sinister and twisted Christians, like Robertson and Falwell, who honestly believes that there is some vengeful, wrathful force in the universe that will destroy us all for daring to treat people who differ from us with respect and dignity. That’s some scary shit right there, folks. Scary shit.

Now, to take matters from the scary to the mindbogglingly terrifying (yes, I am this freaked the hell out by this next bit), Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A are not merely funding groups that oppose same-sex marriage, (oh if only it was that bad) the two are funding a group that appears to support the systematic murder of homosexuals. In 2010, Family Research Council (FRC) gave $25,000 to lobby Congress to vote against a resolution, dubbed  ”Res.1064Ugandan ResolutionPro-homosexual promotion” by FRC, that would denounce Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill. Now, it would be disingenuous to insist, without irrefutable evidence, that Dan Cathy or the rest of the company knew about the FRC’s efforts to influence Congress’ vote on the resolution; but given that FRC is on the SPLC’s list of hate groups and considering that stories about the FRC’s lobbying efforts have been on the internet since 2010, it seems unlikely that Dan Cathy was unaware of it.

Contrary to what some people, particularly supporters of Chick-fil-A, might think, the outrage being expressed does not merely pertain to Dan Cathy’s statement to The Baptist Press, nor is the boycott indicative of an anti-Christian plot to destroy religious freedom. Yes, for those of us who understand that sexual-orientation is neither a sin nor an abomination, the position of Chick-fil-A and its president is offensive; but our outrage actually goes deeper than that. A lot deeper. We’re not just angry that some religious, rich dude disagrees with same-sex marriage, we’re angry that he thinks the rest of us need to agree with him. Dan Cathy believes that same-sex relationships and our support of them are going to cause his God to destroy this nation. Dan Cathy believes that his religion should get to define marriage for us all. And Dan Cathy and his company have provided substantial financial support to organizations that not only aim to impose theocratic laws on us all, but that appear to support policies in foreign countries that would kill gays and lesbians.  This is why we’re outraged.

We’re not telling anyone to change their opinions, we’re telling them that under no uncertain terms do they have the right to use their personal beliefs to dictate how other consenting adults live their lives. Just as they want to be free to believe whatever’s floating around in their head, so too do those of us who have different beliefs or positions. If one expects one’s personal beliefs to be respected and protected then that person *must,* as a member of a democratic and secular society, extend that same respect and protection to everyone else.

I want to make something perfectly clear to the religious right, to Dan Cathy and his ilk, and I’m asking the rest of the reasonable people in America to do join me in saying it: We don’t want your world; it’s a sad, lonely, hateful place. Personally, I don’t give a flying-monkey’s ass what anyone believes or thinks. Have at it, it’s your life. I do, however, care when your ilk tries to tell me and those whom I love and respect how to live their lives. Then and only then do your beliefs become my problem. Your beliefs are your beliefs, nothing more and nothing less. Keep it that way.

(Originally written by Karen Lyn for Elephant Ocean on August 2, 2012. © Karen Lyn, 2011-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author(s) and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

Is America the Freest Nation in the World? Hardly: A Few Statistics That Might Surprise You

 

While freedom is a concept that is, as any debate between conservatives and liberals reveals, subjective, there are several factors that must be present in order for freedom to be considered to exist. These factors include, but are not limited to political involvement of the people, freedom of the press, economic mobility/employment opportunities, human and civil rights (including but not limited to women’s rights and gay rights), access to quality education/food/water/housing/and health care, among a slew of other socio-political factors.

If we take these things into consideration and compare the US to other nations around the world then the answer to the question of whether or not the US is the freest nation in the world is an emphatic, “No. America is not the most free.”

Let us look at a few numbers for where the US ranks on such things as imprisonment, education, health care, freedom of the press, economic mobility/employment, and LGBT rights; all of which are, as far as I am concerned, essential factors in determining the extent to which freedom is present in any nation:

1) The US has the world’s highest incarceration rate per capita (no “The Newsroom” did not make this up). According to the Human Rights Watch 2011 report, the US has an incarceration rate of “752 inmates per 100,000 residents.” This, according to the ICPS, places America at #1 for the most imprisoned population.

2) The US’s track record for LGBT rights is terrible. While there is no official ranking as of yet, the US fairs worse than Mexico in the comparison of North American nations. This is as per the UN’s first ever study on international civil and human rights for LGBTs, which was released last year.

3) According to WHO, the US is currently ranked at 37th place for health care; we are 34th in the world for infant mortality, according the the UN’s 2011 report on Population Prospects.

4) The US received an overall ranking of 31st place for education in math, 17th in reading, and 23rd in science, according to OECD and the 2009 PISA exams. In college graduation levels, we rank 12th out of 36 countries studied. The outlook is pretty grim in many other areas as well.

5) For Freedom of the Press the US ranks at 27th place according to the 2011-2012 international study released byReporters Without Borders.

6) We’re trailing many nations in both employment and economic mobility. For example, our unemployment rate gives us an international ranking for employment is 44th out of 67 countries, as per a 2011 study published by Trading Economics. The CIA World Fact Book places the US at 103 out of 200 nations. The ability to climb the economic ladder is, despite our own perception, more difficult in the US than similar nations; according to the Economic Mobility Project, which compared several studies on mobility trends of the US and its European counterparts, “Americans are more likely than citizens of several other nations to be stuck in the same position economically as their parents.”

Upon looking at where the US ranks on the issues I discussed above, our nation is far from being the freest. Now, this is not to suggest that the US is the least free, as the data provided shows there are nations far worse off then the US. However, the belief held by many amongst us that the US is the freest nation in the world is, I am sorry to say, more mythology than reality. There are many nations that rank above us on every factor I have listed, and even those I have not. For example, on the level of democracy, which I am sure we would all list as being an essential factor in determining a nation’s level of freedom, the *most* free,  according to the Democracy Index, would be Norway.

In addition to examining the afore mentioned factors, I would also argue that looking at the overall happiness of national populations can provide some clue as to which nations are “freer” than the US, since  it is reasonable to assume that there is a correlation between the level of  ”freedom” and the overall happiness of a given nation’s population. If we look at the various studies that have measure national happiness,  we find that the US  fails to make into the top ten (seeherehereherehere, and here).

Do not take any of this to mean that I do not appreciate being an American or that I do not care about this country. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Love is not, nor should it ever be blind to self-destructive behaviors that threaten the object of its affection. When one sees the object of one’s love falling into despair and self-destruction, love commands that action to save it be taken. In writing this I hope to save this nation, to encourage it to live up to the promises made by the founding generations, by informing my fellow citizens that we are failing ourselves.

(This was originally written for by Karen Lyn for Elephant Ocean, on July 29, 2012.  © Karen Lyn, 2011-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author(s) and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

Natural Rights, Societal Rights, and The Social Contract

I was recently asked by someone on Facebook: “”What are your thoughts on natural rights unrelated to the concept of god?” (Sometimes I have some of the most interesting and thought provoking conversations on Facebook…sometimes)

My thoughts, as I responded, are thus:
Whether or not there is a god (after having majored in both History and Religious Studies in college I have come to conclude that the probability of there being such a being, given the utter lack of evidence and its lack of involvement in human affairs, is very low[read here to understand why]) is irrelevant to the concept of natural rights because people differ in their opinions as to its existence and how to best worship it. Therefore, when discussing natural rights it is always best to leave god/s out of the equation. Natural rights exist because life exists. It is really that simple. With that said, I consider there to be two types of rights: natural rights and societal rights.

Natural rights refer to those things that living beings require in order to be living: clean water, clean air, food that is safe and nutritious, land on which to live and grow said food, shelter, clothing to protect them from the elements, protection from exploitation and abuse, and access to medical care. These things are natural rights because without them people will die; be it from hunger or exposure or disease, they will die. Thus these rights are non-negotiable. People *need* them. Period. Beyond these rights we enter the realm of what I refer to as societal rights.

Societal rights are those things that exist within the context of a given society, they are “rights” in the sense that they are agreed upon liberties between members of said society and tend to change, typically in positive progression, as societies grow and change and become more advanced. These rights are things that, while not necessarily needed for one to survive, are needed for one to thrive. A thriving populous is essential for any society if that society wishes to remain strong and successful, and if it wants to progress and improve. These things include, but are not limited to: living wages for labor, the ability to vote for government, education, and access to certain modern conveniences (transportation, electricity). Societal rights, unlike natural rights, are negotiable because they are not static; they have varied across our history and they vary according to needs of the respective societies in which people live. This is why we have had and continue to have so many forms of governments; how groups of people choose to be governed changes as their concept of what they need in order to thrive changes.

How to best negotiate social rights without infringing upon natural ones has been a challenge for humanity from the moment we moved from egalitarian, nomadic tribes to stationary cities built on arbitrary hierarchy. The reconciliation of these two types of rights is the goal of the Social Contract. In an advanced society, such as the US, such a reconciliation is possible; however, we first need to be willing to protect and fulfill the natural rights of everyone in society before we can hope to reach an agreement on societal rights. As long as we are bickering about whether or not access to food and health care are rights then we cannot successfully progress as a society. Until we acknowledge and accept the innateness of natural rights so as to ensure the survival of our people we will be unable to negotiate the rights that will enable them to thrive.

([[Karen]] This post was originally written for ElephantOcean, my personal blog. I thought it was a fitting topic for our TBA blog, so I decided to repost it here. © Karen Lyn, 2011-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author(s) and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

Vote Responsibly

Folks, it is now June, voting day is now FIVE months away. This election, like every election, is important. It is time that we all begin to start seriously considering for whom it is we are going to vote. Luckily, the era of the internet has made this task quite simple and there are now a plethora of sites that compile useful information about politicians to assist us in making well-informed choices.

I will not attempt to sway any of you toward any particular candidate; although, I am not above encouraging you all to take a left turn. 😉 I will, however, offer a bit of advice that I think is useful and deeply important; as you research the voting records and personal stances of the candidates, both incumbent and non, also look into from where and from whom their campaign contributions are coming. If we as a nation can learn anything from Scott Walker‘s governorship, and recent victory, is that politicians who receive financial support from big business, especially those with long histories of being anti-Union (Walmart and Home Depot, for example), are going to vote anti-Union and anti-workers rights because that is what their owners –ooops I mean donors– want them to do. And this is true for all politicians: if one has received significant support from Wall Street, they will then represent Wall Street; if from the oil industry, then they will represent the oil industry; if from the corporate food industry, like Monsanto or Conagra, they will represent the corporate food industry.

Therefore, research each candidate’s campaign finances, as this, along with their voting records, will tell you everything you need to know about where his/her loyalties will really lie once they are in office. Chances are that the candidate with the least amount of money raised, especially from corporations and banks with a track record of greed and corruption, is going to be more loyal we the people. Just remember, though, that while whomever it is you choose come November is up to you, your vote effects the whole; so choose wisely and whatever you do, VOTE.

Vote because it is your duty as a citizen, but vote responsibly. It is your duty to your fellow Americans to vote not for the person who raises the most money or flings the best insults, but for the person who, upon research on your part, is best suited for the job. Who cares if they have an R or a D along side their name, or neither? No one should really because what matters most is what donors appear under their names, as this is a tell tale sign of who a candidate will truly be representing. The more millionaires, billionaires, corporate CEOs, and Wall Street bankers you see, the more likely it is that, once in office, we the people will be forgotten as the newly elected politician bows to the whims of his or her corporate sponsors.

It is essential that we put an end to the corporate puppet show in DC, and our respective home states, by voting responsibly come November. It is important that we take the time to remember those in Congress who have done right by the people and carefully research those running to replace those in Congress who have failed us. If we all do this, if we stand together, we have a far better chance of succeeding in reclaiming the political power.

Below you will find links to websites and articles that are designed to assist voters in making informed and responsible decisions.

This site provides the personal stances and voting history of each candidate and present office holder:
http://ontheissues.org/default.htm

This link provides information on which corporations own whom:
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/09/congress-corporate-sponsors

This link provides the personal finances of some of Congresses top members (this speaks volumes as to where their loyalties have and will lay):
http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/

This link provides information on campaign contributions:
http://www.opensecrets.org/

And this link allows you to not only view the political stances of candidates and office-holders, it shows you the bills and the votes each Congressperson gave to said bills.
http://votesmart.org/

© Karen Lyn and Take Back America, 2011-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author(s) and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Lyn, author post authors as listed on this blog, and Take Back America with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The New American “Other:” Why Islamophobia in America is Nothing New and Why We Must Stand Against It.

Following September 11, 2001, as we went to war to battle terrorism in lands many of us couldn’t have pointed to on a map before hand, we also began to battle another enemy here at home. It’s an internal struggle with an internal enemy that wields a weapon that, unlike terrorism itself, has the power to destroy the nation we all love. The enemy is hatred, its weapon is the manipulation of fear, and it’s a struggle that affects us all.  In the weeks, months, and years since that clear, cool September morning, we have allowed hatred to manipulate our fears and to turn American against American, reciting rhetoric about who is a “real American,”  and to strip of us of our Constitutional rights, passing such laws as the Patriot Act and NDAA. Since that unexpected and heartbreaking morning, we have allowed our fellow Americans to suffer hate crimes and discrimination at the hands of bigots, to have their Constitutionally protected religious exercise threatened by xenophobes, and to be propagandized as the epitome of religious fanaticism. Since that mournful day we have created a new “other,” a new group of Americans to scapegoat and shun: The Muslim. And it is a shameful violation of our heritage.

Freedom of religion is a fundamental principal of the US. The Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment, is the foundation upon which this nation was built; it is the reason the US became, and still is for many, the destination for immigrants from all over the world. When the Jews of Eastern Europe began suffering from the violent pogroms of the late 18th and early 19th century, those who fled chose America because they knew that here they’d find some measure of protection. When people, who dared to speak out against the abuses of their leaders in places like the USSR, Cuba, or Sierra Leone, sought refuge they came to the US where free-speech was protected.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve never been perfect. There have been times in the past, much like now, when we have forgotten what makes us a great nation; when a religious, ethnic, or political group was singled out, marginalized, and persecuted. For example, fear of Catholicism was one of the driving forces behind immigration quotas against  the number of certain European groups who could emigrate to the US; it was called National Origins Act of 1927, and it targeted Southern and Eastern Europeans, like the Italians, the Greeks, and the Polish, who were predominately Catholic. In fact, for much of our history Americans, who have been predominately protestant, willingly marginalized Catholics; hatred and distrust was so strong that JFK had to publicly promise that his allegiance lay with the US and not with the Pope. And during WWII, following the attack of Pearl Harbor, we allowed fear of being attacked again to give the government the power to round up over 100,000 Americans of Japanese decent,  across the West Coast, and place them in internment camps, violating their civil rights. Several times in our history we have, out of fear, allowed our free-speech to be limited; for example, during WWI, the fear of communism was so strong that we caved to it and allowed the US government, under the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act, to round up US citizens for simply voicing criticism of the government.

So, as you can see, this is not the first time we have faced this foe as a nation. It is not the first time that we have relented to it in the face of fear. But that does not make it ok, in fact it makes it worse. Why? Because we have been here and done this enough times to know better, to be better than what we have become. We have allowed xenophobia against Islam to erode so much of what makes this nation something of which to be proud, chief amongst them being the provisions of our First Amendment. Of this we should be ashamed and we should fight against it. This is why knowing our true history — the good, the bad, the triumphant, and the shameful — is so profoundly important. In learning from those times past we have the tools necessary to build an even stronger nation. In knowing the past we are less likely to repeat those mistakes with a new “other;” rather, we would be encouraged to strive even harder to protect the rights of *all* Americans and to endeavor to marginalize bigotry and hatred instead of our fellow citizens.

The Manipulation of Victimization: How to Use Police Brutality to Build a Populous Movement

September 24, 2011~ Unarmed protesters, already trapped within a police barricade, are sprayed in the face with pepper spray.

October 11, 2011~ Over 50 people, many of whom were violently treated by police, are arrested.

Late October (24-28), 2011~ Police in full riot gear launch an attack against unarmed protesters; firing flash grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. The attack lead to several injuries, including a skull fracture suffered by a war veteran.

November 4, 2011~ Unarmed, non-aggressive students are prodded and stuck with night-sticks, and many are violently thrown to the ground by police.

November 15, 2011~ An unarmed 84-year old woman and a pregnant 19-year old are among a crowd of people pepper sprayed.

November 18, 2011~ Unarmed students are pepper-sprayed at near point-blank range, as they sit, arms locked on the ground.

(The list is rather extensive, you can read more here and see more here and here)

Police violence in the news is nothing new, sadly. Since this past April we have watched as citizens around the globe, from Egypt to Greece, have been brutalized by the very forces whose sole purpose is to protect them. What is most shocking about the afore mentioned attacks, is that they are occurring right here in the US. All across the nation, American citizens from all walks of life and generations are being tear gassed, pepper sprayed, shot by rubber bullets, thrown to the ground, and arrested. Their crime? Nothing. Unless you consider it a crime to speak your mind and protest against an oligarchy that has impoverished the people by manipulating the system to enjoy exponential gains in wealth as we the people continue to lose income,  and robbed us of our political power (see this video, and this one); if so, I suggest you read the Constitution and learn a bit about the American Revolution.

A few months ago I wrote a post entitled, “Is America Experiencing a Looming Police State,” in response to the ludicrous attacks against lemonade stands that occurred nationwide this past summer.  Since then, as I listed above, police across the country have become increasingly forceful against the people whom they’re supposed to serve and protect. People who pay their salaries via the taxes they pay. People who are exercising their Constitutional rights to free-speech and peaceful assembly, and who are, themselves, unarmed.

I still maintain that not all police would behave in this manner; not only because I have known a few cops personally in my life, but because it would be a logical fallacy to claim that the behavior of some police is indicative of all. In fact, some of the protesters who have been brutalized are/have been police officers themselves. Nevertheless, there is a warning in all of this that must be heard and heeded: The Republic is in danger and how we the people choose to respond will make all the difference.

We must be careful to not return violence with violence. As you may have noticed from the videos linked above, as the students of UC Berkeley were battered by batons and those of UC Davis were pepper-sprayed at close range, they held their ground. They locked arms, they shouted for the police to stop, but they did not hit back. I know there are some of you who would want to hit back, but I tell you: DO NOT ENGAGE. They want you to lash out. They want you to hit back. Why? Because no one likes a bully. Instead, you must be willing to be the victim, people tend to love the victim.

I know, it sounds crazy to some of us, but this is how movements are elevated from being seen as a group temper tantrum to being a populous movement for social change. It’s a tactic that I like to call Manipulation of Victimization. The tactic is simple and, if you look back upon most of the movements that changed American history, it is a tactic that works. For the Manipulation of Victimization to work requires a bully and a victim. The goal here is to use the actions of authorities to paint them in the role of the bully. How is this done? Easy.

DO NOT RETURN VIOLENCE WITH VIOLENCE and DO NOT INCITE VIOLENCE.

The minute the people begin to hit back or act out is the minute we lose popular support. Notice how the Occupy Movement has grown as reports of police brutality and excessive force against unarmed, non-violent protesters increase. As more and more instances of abuses of power surface, Americans who were previously ambivalent or completely apathetic toward the Occupy Movement have begun to show support. Like I said above, no one likes the bully and right now the police, and better yet the system (and the oligarchs who run it) that the police are defending, are the bully. It is essential that they remain as such if we hope to continue to grow this movement and achieve the socio-political and economic change that we seek.

Passive resistance is the method we must use. And Manipulation of Victimization is the tactic we must employ. There are several historical precedents in which these were utilized from which we can learn. For sake of time, I will briefly discuss three:

1) The Women’s Suffrage Movement. For over a century women struggled to gain the right to vote to no avail. In 1911, under the leadership of such women as Alice Paul, Women’s Suffragists began to organize mass demonstrations. For the next six years popular sentiment toward the women was predominately negative; like today’s Occupiers, these women were accused of making trouble where none was needed. It was not until reports of sexual assault and abuse at the hands of authorities were reported in the papers that public sentiments began to change. Then, in 1917, public support exploded when news that a group of women, who had been arrested for protesting at the White House and sent to the Occoquan Work House, were being abused and force-fed by prison authorities. Despite the many abuses endured by the suffragists, they maintained the method of passive resistance and used the abuses to their advantage by employing the tactic of Manipulation of Victimization. After being released from the workhouse, the women proceeded to share their stories with the newspapers; a number of them even went on a national tour on the “Prison Special” to share their experiences with their fellow Americans and grow support for the cause. The result of all of this, as we well know, was the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

2) The Civil Rights Movement. For much of the movement’s history, public support was limited. Most Americans were pretty much ambivalent to the plight of blacks; in part because of racism, but mostly because they were ignorant to the realities of the conditions in which blacks lived; especially in the South where Jim Crow laws forced American citizens to live in institutionalized segregation simply because of the color of their skin and voter restriction laws, such as poll taxes, prevented them from voting. Although we generally think of the Civil Rights Movement was having begun in the 1950s, it really began in the 19th century. Like women’s suffrage, Civil Rights took some time, mostly because of the restrictions placed on the free speech and movement of blacks, to become a unified movement. Initially the movement was comprised of isolated instances of resistance which only incensed hostile and racist sentiments toward blacks and resulted in the assassination of several leaders, church bombings, lynchings, and other acts of violence.  The aim of the attacks was to end the movement once and for all by  scaring blacks into submission; instead, it only caused the movement to grow as stories, such as the bombing of  the 16th Street Baptist Church and the murder of four innocent little girls, horrified the nation.

From 1954 to 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was finally passed, Civil Rights leaders and protesters utilized both passive resistance,  from the Montgomery Bus Boycotts to the “sit-in” at “white’s only” lunch counters to the march across the Selma, Alabama bridge,  and Manipulation of Victimization to encourage social change. For more than a decade Civil Rights Activists struggled against violence and resistance, mostly at the hands of police and law makers; all the while making only small to moderate strides, such as Brown vs the Board of Education (1954 case that ended segregation in public school) and Browder vs. Gayle (the1956 supreme court ruling that ended bus segregation). It wasn’t until America witnessed, via their television sets, the excessive force and brutal attacks wielded against young, unarmed, peaceful activists,  in Birmingham that national sentiments toward civil rights turned from ambivalence to support. Unable to ignore it any longer, President Johnson and Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

3) Vietnam Protests and the Kent State Shooting. Like the afore mentioned movements, the anti-war movement was predominately a non-violent one, at least on the side of the protesters. Likewise, the activists and protesters were generally depicted in a negative light; labeled as “hippies,” they faced much hostility and opposition from older, middle-class Americans who, despite also not supporting the war, viewed the activists as trouble-makers.  Nevertheless the movement, thanks to the violent actions of police against protesters being reported on the news, in both televised and print media,  continued to gain the support of Americans, mostly among the young. Images of police brutalizing and beating students and protesters at Columbia University (watch footage from 1968, parts 1 and 2) and of the infamous shooting at Kent State that left four students dead and nine others wounded when the National Guard fired on the unarmed, non-violent demonstrators, increased anti-war sentiments nationwide. The high cost, in both money and lives, and the growing resistance and violence at home forced the US government to withdraw from Vietnam. By avoiding, for the most part, returning violence for violence, the anti-war movement not only engaged in passive resistance, they manipulated police violence to their advantage, thus painting themselves as the victim and the police as the bully, which only helped the movement to grow.

Each of these movements shares many common elements with today’s Occupy Movement.
1)They challenged to status quo and demanded an end to institutionalized  marginalization based on race, sex, and class.
2) They challenged the power of the “authorities” and proved that, when united, the power of the people can overcome anything.
3) They raised awareness of the plight of the “other” by forcing the American power majorities to acknowledge and rectify the system to ensure that the nation lived up to the promises of its founding documents.

Each of these movements also have something to teach us. AVOID ACTING VIOLENTLY. Instead, return each blow, each spray, and each kick, with steady resolve. Manipulate the victimization to our favor at every turn. When they demand we disperse, stay. When they throw us to the ground, lay still. When they spray us in the face, scream but do not flail. When they try to arrest us, sit down and make them drag us away. But, no matter how angry they make us, we must remain the victim.

If we continue to play our cards right, there is a bright-side to all of the police violence: We now have a weapon; it is a weapon more powerful and more persuasive than any projectile or stick in their arsenal. Their abuse is our greatest weapon. And if we wield it right, if we employ the method of passive resistance and utilize the tactic of  Manipulation of Victimization, then we shall overcome.

Occupy USA: The American Dream is over.

By now we have all seen the media coverage of Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Together. With few exceptions, like Rachel Maddow, members of the mainstream media, who dare to call themselves journalists, have either completely ignored the Occupy movement or have, like Erin Burnette, mocked it.  The mainstream media has, for the most part, treated this long overdue citizens movement with thinly veiled disdain and indifference. Why? Simple, they are owned by the very entities against which the Occupy movement is protesting, corporations and banks. So, naturally they are going to paint the protesters as if they are nothing more than whining, disorganized hippies, who lack a clear message and have nothing better to do than harass hard-working CEOs (for a brief montage of what the media has been saying, watch this clip).

While the latter part might be somewhat true, I mean without jobs and hope for a future of course they have ample time on their hands; however, they are far from whining and disorganized and there is a clear message. What is that message? In short it is this: America belongs to the people, not to the banks or the corporations, but to the people and we want it back where it belongs…in our hands. In detail, the message is multi-faceted because there is more than one issue and the problems we face are complex. Although, much of it boils down to that fact that we, the 99%, are facing economic hardships and a wealth disparity rivaled only by that seen before the Great Depression.

We, the 99%, are falling deeper and deeper into debt for daring to seek an education and/or own a home. Young Americans are going into tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt just to get as much as a Bachelors or a Masters degree. To put it into perspective how ridiculous this is, most teachers possess at least a Bachelors and their average starting salary in the US is only $39,000. As the economy in the US shifted from manufacturing that paid very well to services that tend to pay little, obtaining a college degree has become the only way by which most Americans can hope to secure a sound financial future; yet, in order to obtain it we’re being forced to choose between the exorbitant debt of a college education or the abject poverty that comes with working for places like Walmart. But, as this article from AlterNet discusses, as corporate America finds new ways to do business over seas, young Americans find that their college degrees are sometimes no guarantee for employment.

We, the 99%, are facing rising rates of poverty while the 1% enjoys ever increasing prosperity. Presently, the top 1% of Americans control 40% of the wealth, leaving the other 99% of us to split what remains. As the present meme goes, “It’s the Inequality, Stupid.” Just look at those numbers again: 40% of all wealth in the US is concentrated in the hands of a mere 1% of the population, while the remaining 60% is distributed, unevenly, amongst the remaining 99%. Doesn’t sound right, does it?
According to page 14 of the US Census Bureau’s 2010 report entitled “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010,”  poverty in the US is currently 15.1%. This figure is an increase from that reported in 2009, which was 14.3%. According to the Census Bureau’s reports, the poverty rate in the US is increasing consecutively each year and has risen 2.5 percentage points since 2007. At this moment, 46.2 million Americans are living poverty, last year it was 43.6 million. This means that at any given moment any one of us could become part of that ever growing number.  We can’t keep going like this.

We have many problems facing this nation, many issues that must be solved, most of which directly and negatively affect the lives of the 99%. Our infrastructures and our public schools are in dire need of attention, yet our tax dollars go toward wars and subsidies for entities bent on breaking us. But we see now that we are in this together, and that together we are stronger than they are. We are the 99%. We are the unemployed, the under employed, the uninsured, and the evicted. We are the college graduates, the nurses, the teachers, the police, the postal workers, the firefighters, the soldiers, the laborers, and the homemakers. We have been thrown into debt by the callous greed of corporations and banks that dare to manipulate the “American Dream” for outrageous profits. That dream is dead. It’s over. And, perhaps that is ok because we, the 99%, are awake now and we have a message for them: You can keep your American Dream, we’re ready for an American goal.