At present, several hundred American citizens are encamped in New York City, participants in the Occupy Wall Street protests. Lacking official leaders or a detailed list of demands, the protesters nevertheless share a common point of view: they are tired. Tired of the role of money in politics, tired of our government’s apparent disregard for all but the top wage-earners and corporations in this country. Tired of politicians like Republican presidential nominee Herman Cain, who went on record as saying “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”
The Occupy Wall Street protests represent those values which form the bedrock of our country’s ideals: that all people are created equal, that neither money nor might makes right. Ultimately, this is a movement which recognizes the inherent value and dignity of each individual, regardless of that individual’s advantages in life. Minimal reflection should lead us to conclude that these are not only the values of our country, but the values which Friends have long cherished through our Testimonies of Integrity and Equality. This is not only their movement; in a very real sense, this is our movement, an outward expression of and demand for recognition of those principles which have guided Friends for centuries. We cannot simply stand on the sidelines, watching the events in New York unfold, scanning the news for mention of the protests as they unfold. This is our fight.
What, then, can we do? At present, several groups are forming in major cities across the country, emulating the New York protests. If you’re in or near Seattle, Portland OR, Boston, Portland ME, or Miami, perhaps you might feel moved to participate directly. If not, or if you live further away (like myself), there are other ways to show solidarity with these folks. Letters, phone calls, blog posts–these help get the word out, and can add your voice to the outcry. Within our Meetings, perhaps we can draft minutes in support of our fellow citizens who are protesting. Perhaps our meetings can carry the message further, to local and state governments, and our Quarters and Yearly Meetings can carry the work onward and upward…
As Friends, we can choose to be Woolmans or Whitalls, Foxes or Flexners. We can be the change we want to see in the world, or we can wait for someone else to do it. Let us remember, as William Penn cautioned, “No Cross, No Crown.” Let us not forget that we are all of one another, that there is Divinity in each of us, and that until all of us are free, all of us are in chains.
Readers interested in first-hand information about the protests, or perspectives on the world from a Quaker out there being the change he wants to see could do worse than to read this blog, authored by my friend Josh the Rooster.