#OWS: America’s Id

Those of us who believe America has been co-opted by greed and fallen victim to radical nihilism view the agitation of the 99% as the manifestation of our nation’s morality, if such a thing can possibly exist.

The police barricaded the corner of William and Pine streets in lower Manhattan, preventing the tributary of protestors who had broken off from the main throng from doubling back toward Wall Street. Cordoned off, several chose to sit in the street and accept incarceration in the name of civil disobedience.

It’s 9 a.m. on Nov. 17, the International Day of Action for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The arrests are just beginning.

I’m aware of the time because, for a moment, everything is eerily silent but for the sound of the bell from Our Lady of Victory Church tolling above us. The din of the helicopters overhead and the shouts of “Shame!” as protestors are dragged into the nearby NYPD van fade away while the bell rings for what seems like an eternity.

As the last chime echoes in the street, the cacophony returns as though someone is controlling the volume button to the soundtrack of dissent. Gradually, my eyes return to the scene unfolding in front of the church door, which bears a quote from Cardinal Spellman. It reads: “This Holy Shrine is dedicated to Our Lady of Victory in Thanksgiving for Victory won by our valiant dead, our soldier’s blood, our Country’s tears, shed to defend men’s rights and win back men’s hearts to God.”

How strange that a church, born during World War II and forged in blood, should serve as the backdrop for the nation’s symbolic struggle against the excesses of the neighborhood it calls home. America’s new Civil War is spilling onto the streets of cities throughout the country; and here, in this moment, it is raging beneath a monument to our spiritual and temperate selves.

Over the past few years, I have made no secret of my contempt for Wall Street and the insidious corporate interests that run this nation. Admiration for the Occupy Wall Street movement has gushed from my fingertips and poured onto the page, as I am perpetually amazed at the breadth and fervor of the burgeoning revolution. Being here, seeing it evolve and take shape so quickly, so dramatically, has influenced every corner of my mind. Those of us who believe America has been co-opted by greed and fallen victim to radical nihilism view the agitation of the 99% as the manifestation of our nation’s morality, if such a thing can possibly exist.

The question of morality is central to America’s struggle. We perceive ourselves as a good and righteous nation, purveyors of liberty. At times this has been the case. Often, however, our actions belie this view of ourselves, particularly during imperialistic periods of expansion. To wit, we spent the better part of the 19th century expanding our empire to its natural boundaries, squashing and annihilating the indigenous people of the continent every step of the way. Then we deified the likes of Andrew Jackson by imprinting his likeness on our currency, thus bestowing him with the greatest honor of a capitalist society. These are not the actions of a moral nation, but victories such as these in the name of Manifest Destiny have always served to rationalize our pursuit of omnipotence.

The first half of the 20th century held more promise. The country as we know it today was nearly assembled and America was finally recognized as a dominant player on the world stage. Our financial and military ascension gave weight to the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary, which established complete hegemony in our hemisphere. Yet despite Teddy Roosevelt’s bellicose nature and hawkish views, his and most subsequent administrations tended toward isolationism. Between the great wars, which were seen as moral imperatives, there was work to be done at home. And during this time, America hammered out a legal, industrial and economic infrastructure that fully recognized our potential as a nation.

Internally, this approach also allowed us to focus on social issues such as equal pay and civil rights in the latter half of the century. Unfortunately, while the nation toiled away at crafting a system that recognized the rights of all of its citizens, we began behaving badly in the rest of the world. At precisely the halfway mark of the 20th century we became embroiled in the fighting in Korea. This conflict and the conjuring of bogeymen in far-off lands presaged an era of unprecedented immorality when we would conduct costly battles against phantom enemies. More precisely, it marked the beginning of the Military Industrial Complex.

In his book A People’s History of the United States Howard Zinn describes the dawn of this era as “an old lesson learned by governments: that war solves problems of control. Charles E. Wilson, the president of General Electric Corporation, was so happy about the wartime situation that he suggested a continuing alliance between business and the military for a permanent war economy.” Two million Koreans and 36,000 Americans perished in the formation of our newfound ideology, which continued into Vietnam and, most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan. America has exported fear and death in the name of democracy but in the actual pursuit of oil and natural resources.

But our politicians did not go it alone. No one person owns these deeds. Over the past few decades the interests of Christian Fundamentalists, Wall Street tycoons, the ruling class and individuals of enormous wealth have gradually coalesced in the quest for a new world order. They are the 1%. They are the reason I’m standing almost nose-to-nose with a cop in riot gear, his club drawn and his eyes fixed on me as I chronicle the events by the church.

There are those who decry Occupy Wall Street as unpatriotic, misguided, or worse. These are understandable reactions to an uncomfortable reality.  The reality is that OWS is more than a movement to restore sanity to the financial markets and equality to our economy. OWS is a cry for help from America’s id. It is the realization that we have strayed not only from the optimistic perception of ourselves but also from what we strive to be as a country.

Ultimately this is a test of our commitment to the First Amendment. But it isn’t simply about free speech or the right to peaceably assemble. This is about the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” As a free, democratic society this is the penultimate failsafe, the last opportunity before total revolutionary collapse.

So as the Occupiers continue to refine their message, our political leaders would be wise to listen carefully. This is not a dress rehearsal. This is a very real battle; perhaps the first battle since World War II worthy of the inscription at Our Lady of Victory.

Author: Jed Morey

Jed Morey is the publisher of the Long Island Press, LI's Cultural Arts and Investigative News Journal. The Press has a monthly circulation of 100,000, and www.longislandpress.com, welcomes more than 500,000 unique visitors every month. He serves on the board of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Nassau County, as well as the President's Council of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Long Island. In addition to the contributions on this blog, Morey authors a column for the Long Island Press titled "Off The Reservation" and is a staunch advocate for Indian rights. The column was voted Best Column in New York by the NY Press Association in 2010 and third overall in the nation among alternative publications by the Association of Alternative Weeklies in 2012. Morey lives in Glen Cove with his wife, Eden White, and their two daughters.

6 thoughts on “#OWS: America’s Id”

  1. Morey, the fact your paper does a better job in it’s undercover investigations does not give you a personal license to wax poetically of protests past. Your disservice to the readership by implementing a wishy-washy overview of Riot-Helmeted NYPD serving and protecting, deserves my wrath.
    Just go ahead and say it, you’ll feel better.
    Just say that the situation has reached the far side of the apex and the only way to return THESE UNITED STATES to a pre-Woodrow Wilson, world-power is to storm the capital and ride each and every one of the political elite out of town on a rail (as it was done in olden times). Tar and feather, Drawn and quarters, whatever. But to fill a page with your “I’m here and your not so I’m better than you cause I care” spiel is a waste of every-one’s time.
    Stand up Morey, grab the standard, unfurl it’s glory and call for the citizen-soldiers to ride with you to retake this county. They will give their blood for freedom, they will give their life for the Republic for which it stands.
    You just have to be the one in front!
    To do anything less is just a waste of newsprint!

  2. Frank, we’re not quite there yet. We need to keep building the Occupy movement in our local communities and constantly adapt and improve our infrastructure so we are ready to explode into the streets, parks, courts,legislatures and other public spaces come spring and summer.

    We need to resist those who criticize us for not being bound to a limited agenda and welcome ALL movements for justice, economic and otherwise.

    We need to work tirelessly to organize massive and coordinated civil disobedience actions, to peaceably and non-violently disrupt business as usual from Wall Street to the White House.

    It won’t be pretty, and a lot of it is grunt work; but it’s the only way to get to where you and I agree what must be done to end the curruption and collusion between corporations, the 1%ers and what used to be our government before it was purchased by the latter two.

    And we must do it by any means necessary.

    “A patriot must always be ready to defend her country against her government”
    (paraphrased, Edward Allen)

  3. Okay, Frank. Here goes…
    the situation has reached the far side of the apex and the only way to return THESE UNITED STATES to a pre-Woodrow Wilson, world-power is to storm the capital and ride each and every one of the political elite out of town on a rail (as it was done in olden times).
    You’re right, I do feel better.
    Regarding the “I’m here and you’re not so I’m better than you” remark… Suck it up and admit that “I was there and therefore better than you.”
    Just kidding. Listen, my job is to chronicle our times not lead a revolution. So, yeah. I was there. Often. And I’ll continue to support this movement by reporting on it truthfully and, at times, taking the liberty of editorializing in order to provoke thought. But Terri’s also spot on in that we ALL need to continue building momentum and improving the infrastructure of OWS in order to do the most good.
    Now, I have to ask… what’s YOUR plan Mr. Castle?

    1. This just in as well: Wall Street continues to get away with criminal activities that consolidate the nation’s wealth into the hands of the smallest fraction of non-job creators who fund crooked politicians to look the other way. Good luck with that.

  4. terri scofield is Federal Government Employee and is spying on OWS.

    “Government drone
    US Treasury
    Government Agency; 10,001+ employees; Government Administration industry
    October 2006 – Present (5 years 7 months)

    Obstensibly to assist taxpayers, attorneys, CPA’s and others resolving issues wiith their tax accounts. In reality, spend most of my time fixing in-house mistakes and fending off personal attacks by higher up with too much time on their hands who are averse to whistle-blowers and employees who have the best interests of taxpayers and taxpayers money at heart.”


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