Skip to main content

It's been a long time since I have written a diary here, and there's a chance that some of the people I'm calling out here will read this & know who wrote it. I don't care.

Occupy Wall Street has come to Portland.

First, let me say that everyone here - literally everyone - in this small office of 15 people self-identifies as progressive, liberal, or a forward-thinking individual of some kind. This is why their attitudes - the ones who have spoken up - are abhorrent to me, more so than similar observations that might be made by the middle-class conservatives lost in the backlash as it's been defined by Susan Faludi, Thomas Frank and many others.

I thought I'd share these to see if anyone else has heard such remarks by progressives.

Some additional background. I work in downtown Portland, Oregon, near the riverfront. Today the city is having its own Occupy Wall Street-type rally.

Since I'm stuck at work, I'm unable to join in but I can observe some of the demonstration from an office window. As of 2:30 pm nothing has gone wrong: no reports via social media of violence or discord. Just a peaceful protest by ordinary people - union and non-union workers, mostly - exercising their Constitutional rights and choosing to express publicly the rage and helplessness that too often goes unexpressed.

Next to my computer I keep a notebook and I've been feverishly scribbling these remarks as soon they are made. Of course there's no way for me to prove this to you, but the quotes are accurate. Transcribed at the moment they were made. Granted it's a very small sample size and no larger conclusions can be extrapolated here.

Yes, just because some calls him/herself liberal doesn't make it so. Conversely the label Republican is thrown around like an epithet here. It seems like many of the people I work with lack the self-awareness to realize they're spouting conservative talking points regarding Occupy Wall Street.

Without further adieu:

I think they're protesting rich people. Or Wall Street. Whatever.
Who knows what they're so angry about.
I'm leaving now (this was before the protest started) and working from home to avoid all of this bullshit.
It's Portland. There's always a demonstration going on.

What seems like a snarky and throwaway remark on the surface betrays the hopelessness of the person who said it. The person in question is a true defeatist and needs to mock the demonstrators to feel better about surrendering his own voice to indifference. Sarcasm is the protest of the weak.

I wonder when (the protestors, not the police) and going to turn violent.

Why would one infer this? The protestors are not the ones riding horseback with weapons at the ready.

They're people who look to blame others for their failures.

As if spoken by Rush Limbaugh himself.

If they spent half as much time looking for a job as they did protesting, they'd have a place to go during the day.

Actual employment in Portland is on the order of one in four. It has been for three years. Effort is not the issue. Effort cannot overcome a lack of opportunity. This seems so obvious. Painfully obvious. Yet, maybe not when empathy is in short supply.

What I've detailed above might speak to how much the act of protest has been marginalized and how it's largely ignored by the MSM if not conducted by the Tea Party.

Pundits love to talk about how angry the public is. And when there's a genuine opportunity to explore this anger - you know, as an actual journalist might - the commentariat dismisses and derides those who choose to voice their displeasure with this second Gilded Age, with trying harder and falling further behind.

And yes, protesting can feel extremely futile. Sometimes it absolutely is futile in the case of preventing the Iraq War. But if you're going to call yourself progressive, and mock the Teabaggers as they do, don't parrot the talking points and reinforce the lies they hold as articles of faith.

The rage of these protests is more than justified and, unlike Teabagger animosity, aimed at the correct target. The biggest and most legitimate target, anyway, depending on how one feels about the Obama administration.

Today I lost a little bit of hope in my fellow progressives. I'm not giving up on them. And the next one who speaks up, even if it's my boss, will get a bit of a challenge from me. I wish I'd challenged all of these comments.

Trying to set one co-worker/friend straight is a successful albeit small act of protest. You can't act any more locally than that.

I'm very interested to see if any other community members have had similar experiences.

Thanks for reading.

Originally posted to AmericanFactotum on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 02:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  American progressives (8+ / 0-)

    along with every other American have been brainwashed by the unending propaganda of the sold-out corporate media for so long, they don't recognize the truth even when it's walking in the street right in front of them.  Ask anyone, anyone at one of the Occupy X demonstrations who has spent months looking for a job whether they would take one if they could find it, or whether they prefer instead to spend their time on the street, in the weather, in a demonstration.  Until progressives along with other Americans start looking at the facts and feeling the facts of contemporary big corporate-owned America, they will continue to be the suckers in the offices looking down, literally, on their own future--out on the street, out in the weather, down and out.  Thanks for a report AmericanFactotum (great handle!) from one of the fronts--an office full of "progressives" and "liberals" who need to get in touch with their imminent and inevitable future.

    America needs a UNION NEWS channel. We (unions) have the money, we have the talent. Don't buy 30 second time slots on corporate media, union leaders; fund your own cable news channel and tell the real story 24/7/365

    by monkeybrainpolitics on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 02:51:54 PM PDT

  •  Unfortunately (6+ / 0-)

    that kind of attitude isn't confined to conservatives (though they do tend to roll around in it with joyful abandon).  

    I think your idea of pointing out their callousness is a good one.  It's scary to do, but necessary.

    Let us know how it goes!

  •  In answer to your query... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AmericanFactotum, jgilhousen
    I'm very interested to see if any other community members have had similar experiences.

    No, I can't say I've had similar experiences.

    As unpleasant and uninformed as you may have found these comments, if I were you I'd be thanking my lucky stars that I work with folks who self-identify as Democrats, let alone liberals / progressives, in the first place.

    As the demonstrations continue and more is learned about them, opinions will continue to evolve. Give it time.

    I ordered enchiladas and I ate 'em. Ali had the fruit punch. - A Tribe Called Quest

    by turnover on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:00:28 PM PDT

    •  I wonder, though... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jgilhousen, joanneleon

      In a progressive city like Portland, are some of my co-workers simply giving into peer pressure and calling themselves liberals so as not to be ostracized?

      I'll be patient with them but calling yourself one thing and acting like someone else is the definition of hypocrisy. Or at least a deep cognitive dissonance.

  •  I had at the beginning of OWS. (4+ / 0-)

    I think Clarknt67's diary might be a good place to show people what the protesters are angry about, if they really want to know.  

    As far as "when will the protesters turn violent" goes, I wish I had a clip of it, but after having just viewed several videos like the one below, I happened to switch back to the livestream from OWS.  It was ~ 1:00 in the morning there, and the person on was answering questions put to him by viewers or other protesters.  One was how to deal with police violence.  His answer was to answer violence with peace always.  When you're experiencing police brutality or witnessing it, you should first get out your camera and start recording; second hold up a peace sign; third remain non-violent and voice to the police that the whole world is watching. He said, yes, it's hard sometimes, but that's the only way.  
    Earlier in the evening, someone on the livestream was sincerely apologizing for having used foul language after having been beaten by the police.  
    Chat commenters on the livestream are banned for advocating violence.  That is stated repeatedly.  
    You might give them the link to the livestream for OWS.  They're probably just ignorant or getting their impressions from the NY Times or Fox or other MSM reporting.  Jon Stewart last night was pretty good at lambasting the media for their distorted, caricaturish portrayal of the protest.

    "On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps...of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again."

    by middleagedhousewife on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:07:25 PM PDT

    •  When will protests turn violent? (0+ / 0-)

      From looking at some lists of protests that have turned into riots, police shooting someone (whether justified or not) tends to lead to violence.

      So, that's one path towards violence.  It is a matter of if and not when, though.  Cops aren't a bunch of thugs whose instincts are to shoot.

  •  Of the comments you posted, (7+ / 0-)

    only the last two are upsetting to me.

    The first two speak to the issue of messaging, which is incredibly tough for a large grassroots effort and is therefore understandably uneven.  Especially in our media environment.

    The next one seems fine to me.  And the next one is factual.  The one following that, about violence, is a very legitimate question;  nonviolence is a tremendously hard and rigorous discipline to maintain.  As a veteran of many street protests, I often wonder when violence will emerge.

    The last two are bullshit, of course.

    But look, I'm a big supporter of these protests.  I've been watching them evolve closely and I've been talking to people on the ground in them.  And I'm not sure they'll have any large-scale positive impact yet.  It's all pretty early still.  Give your coworkers hell for imputing weird motives to the people out there and for ignoring the facts on the ground about our economy.  But understand that these protests are young, their effectiveness as a tool for change is still somewhat unproven (though they are no doubt transformative for those involved, which is very significant.) Remember that most people will only come around slowly if they come around at all.

    Also recall that the Republicans have moved so far right to allow for a very wide swath of people who oppose them -- you may be mistaking people who grasp the craziness of Republicans, a group that includes some pretty centrist folks, for progressives.

  •  We must remember that everyone under 40 (6+ / 0-)

    was born into this looking-glass America. They have never seen the America that their parents and grandparents knew. They have no frame of reference beyond the 24/7 idiocy, revisionism, and propaganda poured over them for their entire lives.

    They have never seen government work, they do not know that people have not always been required to sacrifice their private lives to their "careers". They don't know that gaining an education didn't always result in taking on massive debt, and so on.

    It will take time and patience to help them understand what they are truly protesting.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

    by Greyhound on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:17:12 PM PDT

  •  Print this out for them (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jgilhousen, worldlotus

    And leave a copy on each desk.

    1. Someone tries to explain the OWS action to a friend:

    He's looking at the world from the eyes of a college educated guy in an economy where he's lucky to have a job that he's drastically over-qualified for (like me). He's staring down the double-barrel shotgun of what could be a double dip recession and a real unemployment rate of 16%.  Oh, and the juice is still running on the college loans that he got to get the degree that forecasters say won't get him hired for the next decade or so. He's watched the Wall St. tycoons play roulette with grandma's pension (and lose) and get bonused with his tax dollars for their troubles. An economist would probably say that although US employers have a record stock pile of cash due to lay-offs and increased efficiency in the remaining workforce, they're not going to hire more people due “uncertainty” in the market. My friend would just say that it seems like he's working harder for less everyday. He voted. He participated in his representative democracy, yet it seems like his representatives don't represent him. Because his supreme court broke all legal precedent and gave corporations the ability to funnel unlimited secret money into campaigns, he knows that his politicians typically only represent whoever is writing the biggest check at the time. Like many Americans, he is as upset and disconnected as anyone marching in New York, he doesn't care where the answers come from, he just wants someone to do something! It occurs to me that the Occupy Wall St. protesters are A: Someone(s) who are B: Doing something. And in a democracy this messy, sometimes this is what something looks like.

    2. A comment in that diary provides a view of who those protestors are:

    These people represent the 99% of Americans who have been screwed over by the corporate takeover of our government. The issues from that 99% are varied, the only common bond is they are all hurting, the reasons why vary from person to person. The young folks there have done what was expected, they went to school, studied hard, kept their noses clean, and took out student loans, now they have no job prospects, but thousands of dollars in student loans to repay. The veterans who are there, have volunterred to defend this country, risked their lives, watched their friends die, and when they come home, there are no jobs for them. Older folks there, because of Wall Street greed have lost their life savings, and so many others have been turned out of their homes, or lost all of their equity, and find themselves upside down in their current mortgages. The reasons for this vary, but a the heart of it all is again, the greed of Wall Street. Today rather than comply with being regulated even a little bit, BofA is raising rates on those folks who use their ATM cards instead of applying for a BofA credit card. As always finding a way around the system, or having the consumer pay for their mistakes. There are teacher there who find themselves out of work, after spending years in their profession, continuing to learn how to better educate the children of America, but in an effort to bust up unions, they also find themselves out of a job and without medical coverage for their family. I could go on and on with the different reasons people are angry, frustrated an are rising up to do something, the only thing they have the ability to do, "take to the streets".  When you find yourself powerless, there is not only a strength in numbers, but also a comfort in being with people in the same situation as you find yourself.

    I think the two, taken together, should tell them just about all they need to know to stop and think about what is happening rather than spouting knee-jerk (and even RW) talking points.

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Thu Oct 06, 2011 at 03:21:02 PM PDT

  •  thanks for diary... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The person in question is a true defeatist and needs to mock the demonstrators to feel better about surrendering his own voice to indifference.

    maybe they just aren't all that liberal....

  •  Very interesting diary and comments. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe

    I guess I can't make any judgement because I don't really know who they are or how their thinking goes otherwise.

    I would engage them, not negatively, but curiously.  Use the facts.  

    You also might invite them to check out WE ARE THE 99 PERCENT, where people post their stories and pictures.  I'm sure there are some people telling their stories there they might begin to identify with.

    I haven't had the kind of experience you describe, but that's probably because of who I have been in contact with lately.  But I can imagine having your experience.

    Interesting, also, that you are describing it in Portland, where the demonstration today was probably bigger than anything so far in New York. Makes it all even more fascinating.

    Here in Albuquerque, it's kind of weird in a different way.  There's a feisty crew that had a pretty large (300) occupation Saturday organized in a flash, and it has dwindled down to an encampment of I don't know how many.  I think it won't get much bigger until the International Balloon Fiesta ends.  That event has all the attention right now.  But I'm pretty optimistic that a slower build might not be such a bad thing around here.


Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site