Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Gambling and the Difference Between "Legal" and "Right"

I haven't written anything here for awhile. The last “cause” that I took up kind of took the wind out of my sails. That being said, I feel that I should add my voice to the cacophony of noise that is circulating regarding the current climate in our country. There are many people who are rightly angry about many of the abuses of our government. Most notably, at the moment, it is the OWS movement. Before I go any further, I will say a few words about what I think on this subject.
First, I do not believe that everyone should have a free ride for their lifespan. I do not believe in socialism as a system of government, it has already proved itself to be a failure in many, many cases. That being said, I also think that we need to seriously consider what is going on. We have a situation where 1% of the country controls the vast majority of the wealth. I know that most of my conservative friends are knee jerking into a response that goes like this, “they earned it”. I have a long standing policy against using obscenity in print which I am about to suspend, BULLSHIT!
We have a system of government in place at the moment that is incredibly slanted towards those with deep pockets and influence, a system the virtually guarantees their continued reign, with very little threat of it changing. It goes a little something like this. Good, Christian people believe in a little thing called “law and order”. They believe in “submission to authority”. and what I believe has happened, actually I think I can observe it happening, is this: our leaders have tapped into that in the following way. First, find a source of revenue. Second, find out what those who control that source of revenue want to allow you to tap into it. Third, pass legislation to make the thing those who control the revenue want a matter of “legality”. Fourth, over time, overcome the moral outrage of the outspoken, keeping the law in place long enough that its “moral” component transforms itself from “wrong” to “legal” to “God given right”.
If you do not believe me, think back Okies, just a few years. We legalized gambling in our state. What had once been taboo became protected and within a few short years, many people who would not have been caught dead in a casino were vacationing in Vegas and spending their weekends at poker tournaments. Do I think gambling is a sin? Not relevant. But, I think this illustrates my point.
This same system also works in reverse. Find, or create a source of revenue large enough to be worthy of congressional attention. Adopt a cause that benefits said revenue. Petition congress to custom craft legislation to protect said revenue stream. Share said revenue stream with leaders in various ways. Sue everyone else out of business, or make sure they fall into an “illegal” category.
Because the “rule of law” has, in many cases, replaced the moral conscience in our society,the law is now our measuring stick. Whatever we can do within it, is “legit”, whatever is outside it is not, no matter its moral relevance. We are no longer a nation guided by our individual consciences, we have fallen victim to one of the most insidious devices, the “majority rule” , or human consensus. Whatever the majority of us will allow without too much fuss, becomes the standard.
This belief in law and order has even taken us (christians) to the point that rather engage in whatever cause God calls us to and allowing the civil system to mete out whatever consequences they see fit, as the disciples did, we lobby like everyone else to get our beliefs legislated. This is not, I believe, what the Bible speaks of when it talks about respect for authority. Those same passages were written at a time when the writers themselves were engaged in some of the most subversive of civil disobedience. They were conducting illegal religious services, teaching where they were forbidden and even expressly breaking laws that went against their beliefs, allowing themselves to be arrested, jailed, beaten, even executed, in following their conscience. “They loved not their lives, even unto death”.
This leads me to the current situation. We have a nation that is being more and more deeply divided every day between the haves and the have nots. There are many who argue that those who have not are simply lazy and jealous.
Let me stop here and ask a couple of questions. How many people do you know who will fight to the death to defend the idea that hard work and right choices will bring success? Now, how many of those are exhibiting this work ethic in their own lives? Most, right? Now, how many of them are successful enough that if they lost their ability to earn a living right now they would be able to maintain their current lifestyle for more than a year, six months, three months, a month? And yet, they hold onto this idea as if it were gospel.
In a fair and just society, this virtue of hard work and honest dealing would win out in the majority of cases. In our own society it is no longer the case. Things are changing rapidly, ask around. Old ways of doing business are no longer working. Marketing, advertising and sales techniques that used to net solid returns are not valid anymore. Jobs that used to feed families, pay for vacations and fund retirements are going away and new opportunities are taking their place. We are moving into a great transition, I think, unlike anything we have seen since the industrial revolution. The future is bright, but in the mean time, it sucks in a lot of ways.
In 2008, over a nine month span, food prices increased by nearly 40% and have not come back down. We, here in Oklahoma, have almost that many people (40%) on some type of government assistance, but unemployment is not nearly that high? Why the discrepancy? All of these working people are just too lazy to work hard enough? Really? I don't think so.
There will always be those who will not keep work. Whether it is within their power to change or not, who knows, I for one, think we pay enough into government (over 40% with fed state and local taxes even on the poorest Americans) that we ought to be able to give these guys a sandwich and a bunk. Do I like it? No, but look they already have my money, why not spend it on sustaining life at least, instead of whatever it is they do with it that makes them think they deserve more of it next year!
In this climate where more and more of our money is going to support an over bloated government, who can blame people for protesting? Are they protesting the right things? Not for me to decide. That brings me to the original point of this entire article, the OWS crew. In the last few days there have been increasing reports of police violence against these groups. In some cases, that violence is provoked, and in part, it is probably intentionally provoked, but in others it seems to be wholesale and unwarranted.
The entire reason I started writing tonight was this. I posted this on FB
A peace that must be kept with pepper spray and batons against non-violent protestors, is not worth keeping. I don't care what their complaint, I would gladly stand up to protect their right to protest. Who else believes that the militarization of our police forces has now turned the corner from protection to control? What will they want to control next?
A dear friend replied and in part here is what he said:
 If a protest is made on private property, and the protesters are trespassing, and refuse to obey a lawful order by a police officer, better a little pepper spray to disperse them than to arrest them for trespassing...
So, here, I ask you, please find that response for me in the first ammendment:
Amendment I: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
My response to this entire conversation goes back to my first premise, that many well meaning people have allowed their conscience, their sense of right and wrong, to be replaced with a belief in “law and order”. In this instance, I believe that allowing our police to brutally enforce ANY law against non combative people is tantamount to not allowing due process. I think that many who oppose OWS are cheering for this police response, but, I believe, this is short sighted. IF these protestors are breaking the law, arrest them. Give them due process and their day in court, not a faceful of pepper spray, a baton to the skull or a spraying with fire hoses, or rubber bullets. Is it messy to tie up our court system with this? Yes, but not nearly as costly as giving up our right to peaceably assemble. IF we allow this to continue, please listen, these incidents will be used to create precedence in case law, that WILL become legislative in its effect. That precedence will continue to be used in the future to further restrict our right to peaceably assembly and protest. Next time, it could be YOUR cause that is considered a threat.
Answer this for me. What good would it do to put a system in place which forced a child to ask the school yard bully for a permit to stand up against him or her? That is what we have allowed to happen. The constitution says that no law should abridge our right. Is forcing you to subject yourself to government to gain permission to protest not an abridgment?
Here is my prayer. I pray that America will wake up. That we will realize that we have a government we cannot afford, that has restricted many of our freedoms to the point of ridiculous while defending the rights of others to overthrow theirs, when it is politically expedient. I pray that we will stop “just doing our jobs” and start “just doing what is right” and be willing to pay the consequences.