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Occupy Wall Street and the American Dream

My thoughts on how this current wave of protests follows a pattern in American history.

I have yet to post about Occupy Wall Street, because quite frankly there are enough people talking about the protests. But I when I read about the situation, sometimes I think the general public does not realize that protests such as this are an integral part of American history.  

In fact, we might still be a colony of Great Britain without people such as the protesters, willing to endure quite a bit of pain and discomfort to get a point across.

In the early 1700s, Great Britain basically ignored collecting taxes from the colonies, focusing its attention instead on the wealth of the Caribbean. (The real pirates of the Caribbean appear in history here; several “pirates” were actually part of the British Merchant fleet acting with letters of marquis.)

Then King George and the East India Trading Company decided to enforce taxes again, one of the triggering events of the American Revolution.  The colonists simply wanted what has become the American Dream - a chance to work hard for a roof over their heads, food, and comfort. The colonists specifically did not want to work hard so that the East India Trading Company, the historical equivalent of Wall Street, could get even richer.

Then during and after the Industrial Revolution, the Robber Barons appear in history. Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Melon, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller - these men ruled the financial world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Ironically, the financial institute called J.P. Morgan seems to have picked up where the man, J.P. Morgan, left off.)

While these men indoubtedly helped create the great nation we are today, they used immoral practices to get what they wanted, treating employees as commodities, not human beings. People protested as these practices undermined the American Dream, and change occurred. We gained the 40-hour work week, child labor laws, and minimum wage laws from that time in history.

In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. wanted the American Dream for everyone, not just white people. His protests led to a more equal society, so much so that my children do not truly understand why black people were treated differently in the first place.  

And now, the American Dream is threatened again. Wall Street, as representative of the one percent who hold the vast majority of wealth in our nation, tricked the American people into thinking that we are all just “temporarily poor millionaires.”

Through cajolery, slight-of-hand, fear-mongering, and immoral business policies, these financial institutions turned our housing markets into one giant shell game for the world.

Only there was no prize under any shell.   

Every shell held bad mortgages, with a large percentage of the mortgages pushed onto people with no visible means to pay them back. The banks knew that they were profiting from deals that had to end in foreclosures, but that didn’t stop the money machine.   

Their profit crumbled the American Dream into dusts for millions of people. The protesters at Wall Street, and every other venue, simply want what our ancestors wanted over 200 years ago - a chance to live the American Dream.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Rev. Lionel R. Gantt October 24, 2011 at 05:53 PM
The only way we can make it as a nation of people is together. American is in the fight of it's economic life. We are all taking part in that fight. The eyes of history are upon each and every one of us and with the actions we take or the actions we do not make, history will give witiness too. As we are making history every day, which side of that history you come out on is what I am asking every American think about. You can not sit back and do nothing!

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