"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald
I hope Fitzgerald is right because I seem to be holding two opposing ideas about the Occupy Wall Street phenomena and it would be nice to be able to continue to function.
First, I'm proud of and inspired by the people who have courageously taken time out of their lives to express their concerns about our country. It is obvious that they have touched a deep well of frustration and discontent. Their actions are a call to make changes that will create a system that is fairer for everyone.
Second, I'm concerned about the "we/they"-ness of the discussion. We, the unsullied, victimized 99% versus "they," the evil, greedy 1%. There are many things wrong with our political and financial systems and there is no doubt that more of the fallout of the recession has landed on the middle class and poor than on the wealthy. But those of us in the 99% helped create the system that got us here.
We fell in love with our credit cards, "needed" bigger houses enough to take on larger and larger mortgages, lusted after shiny cars and Jimmy Choo shoes and began to rely on prescription drugs and doctor visits to take the place of exercise and a healthy diet. We were also so traumatized by the horror of 9/11 that we allowed our leaders to buy us the feeling of security with billions of war dollars from our already stretched budget as well as thousands of lives of our young people and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives in foreign lands.
It's as if we have now awakened with a monstrous headache after a long buying binge and are trying to blame the bartender and the distillery that made that lovely single malt scotch. The conversation that OWS has launched is rich with possibilities but it is also fraught with potential unintended consequences. If we forget that we are all in this together and get caught up in finger pointing and blaming, this peaceful display of our democratic ideals could lead us down a dark path toward something none of us want.
More than anything I hope that we can remember that there is no 99% or 1% ... there is only all of us in this together. We created a mess. We now need to fix it. And, we also need to understand that it will not be easy or quick.