Giving thanks on Evacuation Day

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street protesters defying stereotypes.

This year instead of celebrating Thanksgiving, my family is honoring Evacuation Day today. All the same food but with the focus on an entirely different event.

Ok, that’s not really true. My sister’s family went to her in-laws yesterday so I have to wait until tonight for turkey.

But there’s a happy coincidence in that it happens to fall on the 25th of November, a date previously saved for remembrance of the withdrawal of British troops from our soil. Thus the term “evacuation.”

It actually used to be quite the deal until Honest Abe decided to make Thanksgiving a national holiday which always fell around the same time. In fact I didn’t learn of it until I saw Sarah Vowell historian/humorist on the Daily Show. Here’s the clip, but be ready to cover childrens ears if you wach.

I think it’s nice to remember the sacrifice made in the name of freedom, not just by the Founding Fathers, but by the regular Yankee Doodle on the street, or Continental POWs rotting away on British prison ships in New York Harbor. The people of New York lived in misery for the liberty of an entire nation.

How many people camped out at Best Buy and Walmart thought about that before stepping on each other to get a great deal on a flat screen TV this morning? Probably none.

It makes me think about the contrast in spirit with the Occupy Wall Street protestors who are sleeping in the cold for an entirely different and more noble purpose. To focus our country’s attention on the cause of its economic problems and demand action be taken by Congress against it. Wall Street.

I haven’t been to an OWS protest except for a quick visit while in Seattle to check things out. It’s not that I’m not supportive, but more in respect for their desire to not be hijacked by politicians. (Editors note: Derek has a bad habit of using double and triple negatives, but can’t think of a better way to put that sentence while his stomach is growling) It’s a leaderless movement by design and sometimes electeds showing up has a way of focusing attention away from that. Not that my presence would do so, I just didn’t want anyone to get the impression that was my intent.

I do share their frustration in our government’s lack of action. There is no question that deregulation of Wall Street directly lead to our current economic condition. We cut whole sections of code that had prevented once common financial crises from happening since the Great Depression. We even let new and exotic markets like derivatives open up without any effort to regulate them whatsoever. All of this in the absurdly mistaken belief that markets regulate themselves. When the totally predictable outcome occurred, you’d expect Congress to do the sensible thing and re-regulate them. The problem being that they’re so bought and paid for with Wall Street money, they passed a milquetoast version of financial regulation called Dodd-Frank. They didn’t even bother to break up the very banks they called “too big to fail” just months earlier.

Even still, the GOP desperately wants to repeal Dodd-Frank falsely claiming it hurts community banks. I guess it’s easier to develop sympathy for your local banker rather than the guy in New York who made a billion destroying his company.

But OWS is about more than just regulation. They are speaking out about the concentration of money and power into the hands of a few. They think it’s absurd that we are slashing education and infrastructure while keeping the Bush tax cuts for billionaires. They rightfully draw attention to corporate management compensation and its distorting affect on the economy and against shareholders interest. They want prosecutions for the crimes committed on Wall Street that continue to go unpunished.

Young people are particularly invested in the cause because the cuts are coming at their expense. At a time when tuition and student debt are exploding, jobs and income for entry-level workers has disappeared. They have more debt but less money to pay it with. Ironically the most coherent response from the GOP Presidential candidates to OWS comes from Newt Gingrich who said “Go get a job right after you take a bath.” What jobs are you talking about you smug, corrupt, example-of-everything-that-is-wrong-with-this-country?

While some object to OWS tactics, and I agree they cross the line on occasion, until this started nobody in media or politics paid the least bit of attention to these issues despite their popularity among average citizens. How could that be? How could 70% of the country favor raising taxes on the rich back to levels that saw the economy hum along yet be ignored at a time when deficits are exploding? How could they ignore the cause of this catastrophe? How could they ignore the fact that it’s now legal for a corporation to dump unlimited secret funds into campaigns despite repeated attempts by the people to limit and expose that behavior?

It’s simple – institutional corruption. From Capitol Hill to corporate owned media, everyone who has a financial interest in making these subjects go away also happens to have the power to do exactly that. That is unless the other 99% of the country stands up and says “Enough!”

These people out in the cold are fighting for you and me, but more importantly, they’re winning. They finally made these issues impossible to ignore. They’ve embedded themselves so much into our national discussion I’ve seen bank ads using a play on their name. Think about that for a minute. This movement is just a couple months old and the very people who once ridiculed and fought against OWS are now using them to sell stuff.

That’s power.

So on this Evacuation Day, I say thanks to the people who have put our national interests ahead of their comfort; I wish them well, and our nation renewed success.

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