This afternoon I travelled to Woodruff Park with six students and a faculty member, Dr. Veronica Holmes, to witness the southern version of Occupy Wall Street — Gone with the Wind, part two? The students came with cameras and recorders (or just iphones which do the same tricks) to discover why people had come together.
There were maybe 100 tents, maybe 250 people, not counting a pretty heavy police presence of 50 or so and a score of press. I am not really sure why so many police are needed. Pretty tame stuff going on, mostly political conversation. One of the things that struck me was the sophistication of that conversation. Most of the folks we talked to were jobless or homeless and had been for sometime. They were certainly not the only ones there. There were plenty of students. A few others were well dressed and appeared reasonably prosperous, but I don’t think they were calling a tent home. There was one gentleman in a coat and tie with an AK47 strapped to his back. He was holding a sign that read: I don’t agree with their opinion but I agree with their right to be here. All in all, though, there was certainly no mistaking this protest for a Tea Party.
This was a very different slice of America for sure, yet a common thread exists to the protests on all sides of the political spectrum. There’s a new level of frustration and anger with the status quo that is shared by the left and right, even at the fringes. Maybe especially at the fringes. The system is not working for too many Americans. People wildly disagree about why but it’s clear to an increasing number that the adjustments in policy that take place every four years has not solved much. Millions are without work. Millions go hungry at night. Millions don’t have the skills to compete in the job market. Millions have lost their homes. Millions have lost a large percentage of their retirement account. Millions of undocumented workers are here without any effective policy to address the issue. Millions of young people are in prison. Billions of dollars have been spent on wars that don’t appear to have made us any safer. Gone with the Wind, one might say. As Dr. Phil likes to ask people: How’s that working for you? Not so well I think.