The Occupy Wall Street movement started Sept. 17. Beginning in “Liberty Square” in Manhattan’s financial district, it has now spread to more than 200 cities in the United States and to more than 1,500 cities worldwide where similar actions are taking place.
Not surprisingly, there have been diverse evaluations of the OWS movement. In general, many Republicans and most conservatives are critical of it; many Democrats and most liberals are supportive.
In talking with one caller, for example, Rush Limbaugh called the people demonstrating with OWS “crazy,” “stupid,” “abject tools” and “idiots.”
Many people on the right would not go that far in maligning those involved in the OWS movement, but they are quite negative about the whole thing.
On the other hand, liberal groups such as MoveOn.org and Nation of Change are highly supportive of the OWS movement and are helping to supply things they need.
On this issue, Herman Cain seems to be the most outspoken Republican presidential candidate.
About three weeks after the movement started, Cain declared that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are un-American and against capitalism.
He also said the protesters shouldn’t rally against Wall Street bankers or brokers because “they’re the ones who create the jobs.”
On a recent Sunday afternoon, June and I stopped by the lively Occupy Kansas City group. Ironically, the meeting/camping place is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, where Cain was the chairman of the board in the mid-1990s.
We talked with several of the people working with Occupy Kansas City. They didn’t seem to fit the description Limbaugh used for the people in the OWS movement at all.
At the information table we talked with a level-headed young woman who is a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute. At the same table was Melissa, a bright-eyed student at nearby Penn Valley Community College.
At a table close by was Dr. Fred Whitehead, former professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and editor of Freethought on the Frontier (1992).
Occupy Kansas City was sponsoring the “Day of Learning” when we visited.
Two groups, most seated on the ground, were listening to talks about common concerns. The “lectures” were low-key, sounding like what you would hear in a college classroom. They were anything but rabble-rousing.
As seems to be true for the OWS movement nationwide, there is not yet a clear focus concerning the goals of Occupy Kansas City.
Some of the people we talked with, such as the semi-homeless woman with three children, were there out of frustration. She had tried for years but was having a hard time finding work that paid a living wage.
At the very least, it seems that the majority of the people participating in the OWS movement want “economic justice,” which includes some adjustment in the current economic structure of the country that allows the top 1 percent of the population to possess 43 percent of the financial wealth of the nation and the bottom 80 percent to have only 7 percent.
Because of that disparity, and the continuing high rate of unemployment and personal debt, the OWS movement is probably going to be around for quite a while.
And the people involved in the movement need support and understanding far more than criticism.
LeroySeat was a missionary to Japan from 1966-2004 and is both professor emeritus of Seinan Gakuin University and pastor emeritus of Fukuoka International Church. This column appeared previously on his blog.