Thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street”

Being in China for almost nine years has at times made me just a tad out of touch with what is going on in America.  I read articles online, but I don’t know exactly what it’s like to BE there in the midst of all that is going on.  I remember when I am on home leave the feeling I have when my whole family sits and watches the evening news over dinner and brings their own running commentary to the table.  That feeling is one of confusion and not really understanding it all. Frankly, I just don’t get it sometimes. As I watch the news I see different sides bitterly fighting over different issues and I don’t really try to own something I don’t understand.

However, something I have been following the last few days is all that is happening on Wall Street these days.  “Occupy Wall Street” is what I think it has been called.  People are carrying their signs and protesting against corporate America.  The picture that is circling around Facebook is an ironic look at these people who are themselves touting brand named clothing and cameras and cell phones while carrying Starbucks coffee, all products of the very corporations they are angry with.  And angry about what?  You read the signs and while some of them are downright funny there isn’t a common theme around here.  It’s like they never had their own 1960s era so they are looking for something to protest about.  Something to get excited (mad) about.  They are mad at the way the rich have influenced society at the expense of middle class and poor people.  And because of this they are “suffering.” Sounds like a common theme throughout the entire reign of history.

Exercise your right to free speech.  Absolutely.  But at least come to some agreement of what you’re exercising that right FOR.  You know, like in Newsies. If that were this then I’d probably be singing “Seize the Day” and “The World Will Know” right along with you.  🙂

I thought that the person who commented on one of the articles I read had an excellent point when he said,

“Haven’t the rich had more influence in society in every civilization that has ever existed? That is never going to change! My argument is that these morons are arguing against a system that they fully support by their everyday actions! These people are protesting to protest. They haven’t suffered! When the going gets rough they’re going to go back to their parents and play Angry Birds!”

I get that the economy has been bad.  Really bad.  We feel it all over the world.  When I first came to China the exchange rate was 8 Chinese yuan to 1 US dollar.  Now it is 6.4 to the dollar.  Pork and produce are at an all-time high.  Even something as simple as milk is somewhat of a luxury.  When I say all this the common reply I get is “well, China is a developing country, we (America) are supposed to be a first world country so that’s why it’s so bad.”  First world, third world, developing, developed, rich, poor– assign whatever word you want to use to describe it– but it is what it is.  In America, as with the rest of the world, people are living paycheck to paycheck, barely.  And this is even harder on America because we are supposed to be a first world country.  People have felt the brunt of all that is going on.  I get that.  And they are angry.  I get that, too.  I am not trying to minimize what is going on here.  We want to listen to the things these people are really saying.  What are the things that are really on their hearts regarding this matter?

BUT…but… suffering?  Are people really suffering?  Suffering comes in various forms, I realize that,  But, really truly suffering?

I can tell you stories of suffering.  Real suffering.  The kinds of stories that will absolutely break your heart.  People’s homes that are ravaged by absolute disaster- by natural disaster, for one (though, there is nothing “natural” about a flood or earthquake ripping your house apart).  But, there is also the disaster of the more sinister kind- the kind that comes from fellow humans.  Broken homes.  Wars.  Killing of the unborn.  Selling women and girls on the street for a profit.  Beatings in the name of honor- or just beatings.  Living in a constant state of fear. Empty stomachs for weeks.  Ravaged by disease. Loneliness and isolation. Being without a homeland.  Jumping off a bridge because you can’t face the pressures of an increasingly competitive society, let alone from your own family.

Yes, these things even happen in America, too.  We can blame a lot of people—but why don’t we blame the real culprit?  Sin.  Brokenness.  A battle not of flesh and blood.  Human nature at its very worst.  But, I can see why it is difficult to blame something like sin and brokenness that seems so abstract, so we embody it and personify it in a person or a corporation.  But, let’s first look at our own hearts, take that log out of our own eyes.  Let’s seek to bring healing to these people.  What sacrifices are we willing to make to get there?  By shouting at a building with big signs?  Or by quiety invading culture and law and society, seeking to make a real difference where justice and reconciliation go hand in hand?

Next time you want to protest against corporate America I suggested you keep your Nikon camera and Android at home.  C’mon, let’s grab a cup of Free Trade coffee and talk about how we can make real lasting change in the world that we temporarily call home.

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