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Occupy Your Mind

Monday, January 09, 2012

At lunch on Saturday, I watched the mostly young diners step to the buffet line at the Indian restaurant. Hip, long-haired, pierced, tattooed and somewhat self-absorbed, they seemed as if they might dig a message of independence. But I wasn’t at all sure.

Taking off my black denim jacket, I unveiled a t-shirt that should let the young understand that not all the old have shirked responsibility for community development or revolution.

I’m 60 years old.

When I look at the young I still sometimes see Kent State.,

Either you get that or you don’t.

Standing, I headed to the lentil pot. To the best of my knowledge, nobody turned, raised an eyebrow or even read the message on my shirt. But the message was there for everyone to see. Whether or not you do see is a matter of awareness – your own and society’s. Whether or not you care about the state of the state and the nation or even the state of your mind is on you.

My t-shirt was on me.

The words “OCCUPY WALL STREET” printed in white stood out on a black background. Beneath that message the words “SCRANTON, PA” stood out equally bold.

The back said, “WE ARE 99%.”

And we are.

So are most of you – probably all of you reading this column. Sadly, either you don’t realize that fact or choose to delude yourself into believing that your child can grow up to be president or that you will one day be a millionaire independent film maker. Neither will happen to most of you or anybody in your family either now or in the future. Most of you will continue as a member of the class in which you now find yourself.

Most will not rise.

Some will fall.

And the rich will grow richer while the poor grow poorer.

Yes, the class war is on, started from the top down. The occupiers are the front line defense against what is to come. And, if they disappear, they have vanished in a sacrifice for you.

Still, you mock their existence. You stereotype and take your cues from right-wing talk radio. You belittle people who are powerless yet refuse to surrender. You berate the way they look, the way they struggle and even the way they try to fight back agaist insurmountable odds.

But I’ve got news for you. They’ve already won. Victory lies in the honor of the fight. And the occupiers’ decision to stand on the principle of liberty and justice for all puts them among the ghosts of Valley Forge, Concord and Gettysburg.

And you call yourself a patriot? You wave your flag high? You demand the Lord’s Prayer in public schools and call yourself an American? You should be so lucky.

Until Friday, the Occupy Scranton encampment was one of the last standing occupations in the nation. The small yet committed band of protesters did everything they could to cooperate with the Lackawanna County government officials who should have been defending their First Amendment right to remain on the Courthouse Square yet did everything to conspire to evict them,

On Friday, according to an Occupy spokesman, the officials finally said they had to go. Hopefully, American Civil Liberties Union lawyers will move even more quickly to protect the sacred right of peaceful assembly to redress grievances. Hopefully, you will one day also understand that this fight is for us all and not just a few.

An ACLU attorney told me that she believes the Constitution affords the Occupy Scranton protestors the right to stay and raise awareness to political issues that are of grave importance to an informed public. County officials – including a new Democratic majority - seems willing to spend money they don’t have from already cash-strapped public coffers to fight a losing battle on the part of government oppression.

If nothing else, find a protester, buy an “OCCUPY SCRANTON” t-shirt and wear it at home. Maybe the message will one day rub off and convince you that we in Northeastern Pennsylvania and throughout America will rise or fall together.

Turn around before we reach the edge of the cliff.

Face the enemy.

Then face yourself.

See you at the buffet table.

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