Dan Lawlor: Recalling the Occupy Movement
Monday, September 17, 2012
About a year ago, I marched with hundreds of people around the city of Providence, chanting phrases like "We are the 99%," "This is what democracy looks like!" "Whose streets? Our Streets!"
As you might guess, I hover between idealism and skepticism. Whether from Republicans like Carcieri or Democrats like Cicilline, I think unchecked power is a dangerous thing, and I loathe insider deals that result in connected folks getting $100,000 dollar jobs while most people struggle.
I marched last fall because I felt it was time to be present- to say that much of what has been going on in this state and across the country for the last few years is ridiculous.
Many neighborhoods in this great city are falling apart, as jobs decrease, arts are cut, property taxes go up, and safety declines. Our public schools are dividing up into tiers - some have well-funded and beautiful campuses, others are left to decay.
Why did I participate in the march? My family, friends and religion taught me to care about right and wrong. I was mad, I was hopeful, and I wanted this state to be better.
As we all know, high rises are large hubs of voters. In Providence, that's particularly sad considering how often political figures have let these buildings decline. Father Parenti Villa in the West End, for instance, has broken light bulbs in its elevators, and, at least about a month ago, had a fire alarm dangling by a wire in its community room.
We need community groups to demand actual, concrete improvements in the lives of people or to simply organize the improvements ourselves. Otherwise, another two years will pass and the political class will pass out a new round of jobs in the courts as most people struggle.
We need to find ways to build issue specific groups that ally with everything from book clubs to temples to farmer guilds to local newspapers, from Providence En Espanol to the Valley Breeze. I've spoken with friends from North Providence and South Providence- guess what? They're all mad at how dysfunctional this place is. Forming neighborhood and apartment associations, building alliances with other groups, and demanding that politicians respond or be voted out, could just be the key to turning this place around.
As Valley's own Timmy Murphy said, "I feel like walking around with a mirror." We can do this. We need to work to build on neighborhood strengths to hold political power accountable and to simply build community. When we're isolated into silos, the kingpins control the chess board.
For the last few years, politics have negatively hurt the disabled, the homeless, college students and their families, homeowners, LGBT citizens, and bus riders. Until people vote - until more us hold the people in charge accountable for their incompetence - we will continue to live in a state and country that values some people more than others.
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