By Jim Koury, Editor, Diversity Rules Magazine
© Diversity Rules Magazine, 2011. All rights reserved.
I feel compelled to chime in on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and its relation to the queer community. At first glance, one would think these two movements would find peace and harmony with each other; fighting for the downtrodden, the oppressed and those that are living less than meaningful lives due to those in control of the economic and political structures of our country.
In many respects, the goals(?) of the OWS protests do serve as a coalescing force to unite the voices of the 99 percent together, of which the Queer community is part. Minorities are inherently discriminated against by those in the top 1 percent. They most times are the ones who support the economic and political systems that generally protect those with wealth and power, through tax breaks, corporate loopholes and other neat little tricks that most in the 99 percent cannot partake. When the political powers that be at every turn, pass legislation protecting the privileged class in America, how can anyone expect a minority person to have a fair shot at a piece of the economic pie.
With that said, and while I share a certain degree of empathy for the OWS movement, after a fair amount of thought and reflection I must arrive at the conclusion that it would behoove the Queer community to steer clear of a movement that is fast becoming an anarchistic entity, with no central voice or clear set of objectives toward which to achieve. Additionally, I have been asked a number of times to consider mobilizing the local queer community around the OWS movement as an expression of solidarity and support toward common goals. However, after listening to many of the protesters on TV, reading stories on the Internet and observing a recent controversy related to the local OWS group (which I innocently put myself in the middle of by trying to make light of an emotional situation), I am finding it increasingly more difficult to even provide moral support to the cause.
In order to solidify my position, let me relate to you a picture I recently saw on Facebook posted by an OWS advocate that said, “Vote for Nobody. Nobody tells the truth.” To me this epitomizes the OWS’ biggest flaw and what I see to be the ultimate downfall of this movement. I would like to think this was just a metaphorical play on words related to the uselessness of our current breed of politician in Washington, DC. But after engaging conversation in a long string on a OWS supporter’s Facebook page, I realized that this was much more than a metaphor! These people (or at least the group of OWS people I was conversing with) were advocating that we simply stay home and not vote because everyone is corrupt and by voting it simply perpetuates the corruptness of our system. What a callous and quite honestly, foolish position to take.
In the midterm elections of 2010, too many people did stay home and did not vote. They chose to abdicate their civic duty in protest of the economic malaise that is gripping the country. What did we get for doing so? We got a House of Representatives dominated by far right wing Tea Party and religious zealots who are not representing, least of all the American people, and are solely advocating for their own petty interests and have chosen to hold the country hostage. They refuse to participate in the art of compromise and legislate for the common good of all Americans.
The queer community has been one of the targets of the House GOP’s war on the middle class, minorities and those who do not emblazon God on their shirt sleeves. The queer community can ill afford to hitch itself to the OWS movement that advocates that people should stay home and just not vote. The queer community has been so successful in achieving equal rights throughout the country due to having a unified, cohesive voice with a clear set of goals and objectives and translating them into policy due to going to the voting booth. Hitching itself to a movement that does not have the desire to advocate an agenda through a cohesive voice and chooses to be “leaderless” is essentially committing political suicide and would jeopardize all that the queer community has worked hard to achieve.
No, do not stay home and not vote! Do you think the right wing zealots will stay home and not vote? Hardly! They will continue to mobilize their forces to get to the ballot box to elect the same class of despicable representation that took control of the House of Representatives in 2010. While we can certainly have empathy for the overall premise being set forth by the OWS movement, we cannot allow ourselves to be duped into thinking that by not voting it will bring effective change. It will only perpetuate the control that the 1 percent has on this country and will ultimately put at risk the achievements of those of us who have worked diligently and aggressively toward equal treatment for all.