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Occupy Wall Street
What might it mean
for us,
for our nation and the world?

What are your thoughts of the Occupy Wall Street movement?
What are you doing about it?
What do you think PVJ should do about it?
Please send a note,
and we'll share it here.

THE GRAVY TRAIN

[12-23-11]

races through dark countryside.       
bright rectangles  
frame the beautiful and well-to-do 
at party speed.

farmers hear the passing;
drivers at crossings
get fast-forward images;
music is gone
almost before it’s heard.

the train slows in the city
but does not stop;
from smudged windows
of foul-staired tenements
families with more mouths to feed
than food
barely notice.

in dining cars, lounge cars,
cars of luxury suites,
gravy train passengers know little
of scenes outside.
in window glass
they see nothing but themselves.

these rolling revelries have gone on for decades,
but tonight’s may be the last.

a century ago
the railroad built a trestle just beyond the city.
people were in covenant
to see such things got done.

all would pay the cost,
rich and poor alike,
and all would hire some few
to have the bridge maintained.

but those who paid the most
soon felt it all unfair.
they had the power to change the contract,
divert trestle money
to funding more self-congratulation rides,
and so they did.
the bridge would always be there,
would it not?

timbers now are rotted,
steel beams show spreading rust.

when the tragic collapse takes place
the verdict will surely be
“avoidable, yet inevitable”
with rumors of sabotage.


Jack King (October 2011)

The poet (who happens to be your WebWeaver’s brother) comments: “I had a good time writing it - seemed the very positive consciousness-raising that the movement has accomplished needed some celebrating.”

 

Desmond Tutu urges Trinity Church to allow Occupy protester camp
[12-23-11]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has waded into an ecclesiastical row over a New York church's refusal to allow protesters from Occupy Wall Street to camp on a vacant lot it owns.

Click here to read more on the Common Dreams website >>
 

Elizabeth Sarfaty, with her late husband Dudley Sarfaty a long-time supporter of Witherspoon/PVJ, sent this note about the Tutu story:

I want to be there for the Occupiers – as I see this as one voice for the People of God, through the Churches; Jesus seems always to stand with the disenfranchised, no doubts. Can I just pick and choose which issues related to justice, truth and goodness I want to relate to - or am I willing to be on God's side here and in all such 'calls to justice'? The OWS cries out for economic justice, and the heavily monied folk balk! Ouch!!! As the poet reminds, "our silence will not save us!" I am always happy to see the courage of the ever smiling, joyful Bp.Tutu! Cheers! Elizabeth

PVJ takes a look at the “Occupy Wall Street” movement     

[11-5-11]

Sylvia Thorson-Smith, a member of the PVJ Coordinating Team, has gathered reports from Vicki Moss in New York, Bill Dummer in Milwaukee, and Sarah McKasson in Tucson.
For other perspectives on this potentially transformative movement in the never-ending struggle for justice, you might take a look at these sources:
Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice

This on-line successor of the much-respected Church & Society, produced by the Advisory Commission for Social Witness Policy of the PC(USA) focuses its first issue on The Dark Night of the American Economy: On economic crisis and injustice. It presents an excellent variety of analysis, from the perspectives of church policy statements, theological and Biblical reflection, and economics. It even offers some suggestions of visions for the future of this movement for justice, which many have seen as one of the crucial weaknesses of the Occupy movement.

Click here for a full list of the contents of this great new publication!

The Occupiers are striking a responsive chord

Robert Reich, writing for Huffington Post, argues that the Occupy movement is already having a real impact on “the public debate in America.” He says that “for the first time in more than half a century, a broad cross-section of the American public is talking about the concentration of income, wealth, and political power at the top.” More >>

OCCUPY the USA

by Sylvia Thorson-Smith

’Tis the season to re-imaginethe 60s. For some of us who lived through those times, the Occupy Wall Street movement brings back memories of social activism and solidarity of purpose that has little been seen since then. The movements are vastly different – now being less interested in “dropping out” of the establishment than dropping into a more egalitarian society with jobs and basic security for all. 

Frank Rich, in the October 31 issue of New York magazine, compares “the death throes of Herbert Hoover’s presidency in June 1932” with some of the events occurring today. In his article, “The Class War Has Begun,” he reminds readers that Congress bailed out “greedy bankers and financiers” while failing to pay a modest bonus promised to veterans of WWI. A “motley assemblage” of up to 20,000 middle-class men who couldn’t find jobs staged a massive vigil on the lawn of the US capitol, keeping their “improvised hovels clean and maintaining small gardens.”

This is the stuff of social movements; we may rarely see them coming, but once they are upon us, there’s no turning back until society confronts the issues that have ignited collective protest. Several board members of Presbyterian Voices for Justice have submitted reports about the Occupy Wall Street movement that is spreading across America. We want to share them with you in the hope of making connections and forging links of solidarity that include a witness by Presbyterians and other people of faith.

Vikki Moss reports that she and her husband John Harris were in Zucotti Park (in the Wall Street area) as the police kept people moving so the sidewalk wouldn’t be blocked. She writes “that there were so many different people there. A girl with pink hair, youngish people handing out Occupy Wall Street newspapers, people in costumes (one as Uncle Sam), lots of signs, a guy with a mask dressed in a suit, a family with kids holding signs talking to the media about their concern for their hamsters if they run out of money or lose their house, people of all ages. The crowd was very low key and peaceful. I didn’t hear the human microphone but drumming was going on at the south end of the park. There were lots of police all over the financial district, not just around the park. Most of them seemed relaxed and casual about the whole situation.”   

 

Bill Dummer, PVJ Moderator, writes of attending Occupy Milwaukee for two of their actions:        

The first day of action of the movement in Milwaukee was scheduled for October 15. The e-mail information I received said to meet for a rally at Zeidler Union Square. It was not only strategically located but symbolic in its name. Frank Zeidler was the beloved socialist mayor of Milwaukee in the 40s and 50s. It is a small, half-block square park. The information said there would be a rally at 11:00 before a march. So I headed to the park about that time. However, when I got there, I learned that the plans had changed. There were people of all ages there, some with signs, some without. One that caught my eye early read “Keep your corporate hands off my government.” There were a lot of younger people with signs about student loans. The media were there, interviewing some of the people who were gathering. I recognized some of the faces from previous anti-war rallies and such. But I found it curious that I did not see any of the regulars I see when I go to the Milwaukee County Democratic Party meetings. While we waited, little clusters of people would begin chants. The most popular one was from the protests in Madison in February and March, “This is what democracy looks like.”

A variety of interest groups had set up booths to provide information on their angle of the cause. The information sheet that was passed out to people indicated that the march would begin at noon. It would go to the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Water Street, which is the location of several big banks, namely J P Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Associated. At each of these banks yellow crime scene tape would be put on the entrances. The rally would begin there with the first of the “We Are the 99%” speakers. Then the crowd would move a half block north to M & I Bank (which recently became part of Canadian BMO Bank). The same scenario would be repeated there. The march went back to Wisconsin & Water where a teach-in was conducted on the role of non-violent civil disobedience in movements for social change. The march then returned the five blocks to Zeidler Park.

The media reported that evening that the march included 3000 people.


The second action event of Occupy Wall Street Milwaukee took place in a different location on October 29. It was billed as Occupy the Hood, and its focus was the lack of jobs for people living in the inner city. The staging area was Lincoln Park on the north side of the city. The event began at Noon with a half hour performance of a “drum line,” which put on a good show of African style drumming. Then there was a series of speakers discussing the employment situation in Milwaukee, particularly as it relates to inner-city residents. Once again, there were people of all ages participating. This time, however, there were more African-American young people. Not everyone participated in the march as it would be about three miles to the empty factory shell of A O Smith, which at one time manufactured many things, including the chassis of almost all of the American-made cars. 

It was good to get moving, in order to get warmed up. The escort of about 10 officers on motorcycles (Harleys, of course), plus another 10 on bicycles cleared the two thoroughfares that we walked on, creating quite the spectacle for the residents. Once again, there were a variety of signs, but it seemed like the most were “Recall Scott Walker” (the Republican Governor). We got to our destination in about an hour. When we arrived at the first gate, the guard would not let us on the factory grounds, so the leaders asked us to sit down where we were (in a minor thoroughfare). Some more speeches were made, calling attention to the fact that this factory at one time employed a couple thousand people. Part of it is in operation, as a Spanish company is using it to make high-speed rail cars. However, it too will soon be moving, since the Governor rejected federal money for high-speed rail in Wisconsin. I left to hike back to my car in the park before the speeches were over. The news reported that only about 300 people participated in this march.

 

Sarah McKasson, a member of St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson (where I’m also a member), writes of her participation in Occupy Tucson:  

My sister Molly and I followed Occupy Wall Street online and in the papers. When we found out there was going to be an Occupy Tucson, we agreed that we would be there on opening day. Molly and I made our signs the night before – we were ready! The kick-off for Occupy Tucson was held in a city park near the downtown area. Newspapers estimated the crowd at 500 people. It was great to walk around and read all the signs, mostly hand made. Some were “laugh out loud” funny and many were very poignant. Molly and I stood with about thirty other protesters in a corner of the park and waved our signs at passing cars. Most of the drivers gave us thumbs up or peace signs. It was a really hot day in Tucson, so we moved to a shady area in the park and listened to some of the many speakers address the crowd.  
All in all, it was a very peaceful protest, except for one person who walked through the crowd yelling “stop picnicking and get a job.” A few of the protestors attempted to engage him in some dialogue, but he just kept shouting and moving through the crowd. Some of the peacekeepers from Occupy Tucson surrounded him for his safety, even though no one was physically threatening him. That’s the great thing about our country: everyone has the right of free speech. Other than that one event, it was a very peaceful day. The protesters were a very diverse group of ages, background and ethnicity. The best part was the number of young people who were there. It was so heartening to see them step up and participate in democracy!

 

Frank Rich has some analysis that seems worth including in this story. “Politicians in either party, of course, never use the term ‘class warfare’ to describe what’s going on in America, unless it’s Republican leaders accusing Obama of waging it every time he even mildly asserts timeless liberal bromides about taxing the rich. Nor do most politicians want to talk about the depth of the crisis in present-day capitalism, since to acknowledge its scale would only dramatize how little they intended to do about it. The whole system is screwed up, and it’s not all Wall Street’s fault – or remotely in the financial sector’s power alone to solve.”

We Christians are committed to serve a just and loving God who strengthens us to confront the powers and principalities of injustice, trusting that nothing can separate us from God’s love and presence. As we watch and participate in these Occupation movements across the country, may we work to fashion the society that we pledge allegiance to in both church and nation, one that truly institutionalizes “liberty and justice for all.”

A New Declaration of Independence   [11-5-11]

The weight of the 1 Percent has become intolerable. How can we take our country back? Alex Parene, writing for and with the staff of Salon.com, has offered a draft of “a new Declaration of Independence.” He begins:

Here’s where we are in the course of human events right now: 14 million Americans are jobless and millions more are underemployed. Those still working have seen wages fall after 30 years of stagnation. The 1 Percent of top wage earners could buy and sell the rest of us without so much as a low balance warning on their checking account apps. The tenth-of-1 Percent earns millions more every year in barely taxed capital gains and derivatives while everyone else struggles to pay down trillions of dollars of debt. Massive, growing income inequality is now belatedly acknowledged by political and media elites, but many of them seem befuddled as to its cause and importance.

It is our belief that many of the problems facing Americans today can be directly connected to the unchecked power and complete unaccountability of the 1 Percent, a group that benefits from every unequal boom of the modern era and escapes each disastrous bust unscathed. ...

What unites the outraged 99 Percent is that we have all “played by the rules,” only to learn belatedly that the game was rigged. Having been promised modest rewards for working within the system, by taking on debt or voting the party line, we find ourselves, bluntly, shit out of luck.

Parene goes on to do something many observers have been asking for: trying to make the Occupiers’ project more focused by presenting a list of “demands,” which he presents as “the beginning of a conversation, not a final product.” His main demands:

1. Debt relief
2. A substantial jobs program
3. A healthcare public option
4. Reregulate Wall Street
5. End the Global War on Terror and rein in the defense budget
6. Repeal the Patriot Act
7. Tackle climate change
8. Stop locking everyone up for everything and end the drug war
9. Full equality for the queer community
10. Fix the tax system

So ... what's our response to the Occupy Wall Street movement?   [10-16-11]

This great comment comes from John Shuck, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tennessee, and blogger extraordinaire.

An Open Letter to the Occupiers from a Veteran Troublemaker     [10-16-11]

The Rev. Jim Wallis offers appreciation of the way the Occupiers’ movement is raising vital and long-neglected questions, but also suggests the need for some proposals for action. Among other things, he writes:

You are raising very basic questions about an economy that has become increasingly unfair, unstable, unsustainable, and unhappy for a growing number of people. Those same questions are being asked by many others at the bottom, the middle, and even some at the top of the economic pecking order.

There are ethics to be named here, and the transition from the pseudo-ethic of endless growth to the moral ethics of sustainability is a conversation occurring even now in our nation's business schools (if, perhaps, secreted inside the official curriculum).

Keep pressing those values questions because they will move people more than a set of demands or policy suggestions. Those can and must come later.   More >>

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com .

What are your thoughts of the Occupy Wall Street movement?
What are you doing about it?
What do you think PVJ should do about it?
Please send a note,
and we'll share it here.

 
 

Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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