We are flawed. Redemption is possible.

This week a proposal to discredit the Occupy Wall Street movement was leaked to the public. The consulting firm (Clark, Lytle, Geduldig, and Cranford) would charge the American Bankers Association $850,000 to develop a campaign to destroy OWS. Included in this service is a search of OWS “leader’s” civil and criminal histories, including bankruptcies, tax liens, judgments, litigation history, and “other associations.”

Many people support the OWS movement because they have lost their homes, are bankrupt, have lost their jobs, and face a multitude of financial and social problems. Discovering that they have such problems should not take much work. All one has to do, really, is read the heart-breaking stories on We Are The 99 Percent. We are all leaders of this movement, and I hope we will continue to embrace the imperfect, the vulnerable, and the tarnished.

Everyone has problems, and everyone has a past, and everyone is human. As long as we are human, dignity is possible. As long as we are free our voice matters. I read a column today expressing sadness for Lt. John Pike, who pepper-sprayed students at UC-Davis. Indeed, he is a human being, and anyone one of us may have acted the same way in his circumstances. If he can speak as a human, flawed and vulnerable, I feel sure he will be forgiven and embraced. It may take him years to be able to face what has happened to him and express it.

Oddly enough, the CLGC proposal also paid a compliment of sorts to the OWS protesters. It says, “It may be easy to dismiss OWS as a ragtag group of protesters, but they have demonstrated that they should be treated more like an organized competitor who is very nimble and capable of working the media, coordinating third party support and engaging office holders to do their bidding.” They are certain that OWS is much like the ABA, a centralized and powerful organization looking out for its own interests. They don’t imagine that citizens may be motivated by a sense of justice and fairness. In their amoral world, they cannot imagine people who operate within a moral framework.

Also in the proposal, they mention that both the Tea Party and OWS supporters are angered by the bailouts of banks and the irresponsible behavior of the financial industry. It says, “This combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.” No suggestion, of course, that executives should perhaps hold back on bonuses. Rather, they will simply find ways to manage public anger over their own greed, rather than curbing their greed the least little bit.

I said any human is worthy of dignity and respect and that redemption is always possible. It is clear that the financial industry is nowhere near redemption. They are not even near recognition that their own behavior is immoral and intolerable. They do not have a sense of shame. It is our job to show them that we have a sense of justice and a sense of honor. We must let them know we find their behavior shameful.

Brooks and the Milquetoast Revolution

In today’s New York Times column, David Brooks mocks the Occupy Wall Street protesters for offering only mild and ineffective solutions to the country’s problems, rather than radical changes that would significantly alter the American system. It’s funny, but I haven’t seen or heard any OWS protesters claiming to be radicals or to want to overthrow the American system. Rather, I have seen people who love their country and want to let their leaders know they are not expendable. This should not be radical; in fact, no one should ever have to assert this position. We should assume all Americans are of value and that repairing our nation will require shared sacrifice.

He says, “They will have no realistic proposal to reduce the debt or sustain the welfare state. Even if you tax away 50 percent of the income of those making between $1 million and $10 million, you only reduce the national debt by 1 percent, according to the Tax Foundation.” I happen to think that removing the Bush-era tax cuts, ending corporate subsidies for corporations making huge profits, and closing tax loopholes that enable rich individuals and corporations to pay taxes at an exceptionally low rate or not at all, you will have an impact on the national debt.

But what if I am wrong? I am a humanist and not an economist, after all. I don’t have the solutions for the economic problems of the country, but I do feel that everyone should be subject to the same laws, same punishments, and same regard. After the financial collapse in 2008, we were told that banks were too big to fail and that we must rescue them. Taxpayers bailed out the banks only to see them become even larger through mergers and continue the same dangerous behaviors that caused the economic failure in the first place. We rescued them, rewarded their bad behavior, and are now being treated as if our voices do not matter.

If the banks are too big to fail, and the government won’t break them up, we must make them smaller ourselves by moving our money to credit unions and smaller banks. We must hold corporations accountable for their crimes. We must ask them to pay their share of rebuilding our country. Mr. Brooks is correct; this is not radical. He may also be correct that it will not solve all the financial problems of the United States, but it will be fair.

It is more important for me to live in a fair and just society than it is to live in a prosperous society. We should not need a revolution to achieve this.

Occupy Wall Street

For more than 30 years, I have mourned my country’s decline. When it comes to generating capital, the United States remains a leader, creating wealth at unprecedented rates. This meteoric rise in wealth, however, is accompanied by equally steep increases in indifference, poverty, and environmental degradation. Anyone who expresses concern or even sadness is mocked and rebuked. In an Orwellian turn, “compassion” is now “hating America.” Concern for declines in education and employment is now “liberal fascism.” As a nation, we have forgotten our humanity.

Like many in this country, I had given over to despair and resignation. Corporations are allowed to fund our elections as well as write and enforce our legislation. How can one resist a power that comprises the global economy and the governments of the developed world? Perhaps, it is still not possible, but the Occupy Wall Street protesters have sent one clear message: “By virtue of being a human being, you deserve a modicum of respect.” This belief, that people do matter, is common to every religion known to me. It is also common to every philosophical approach to ethics and morality that I can name. Even Ayn Rand’s exhortation to “selfishness” recognizes the demand that no one has a right to trample the needs of others. To pursue your own happiness entails concern for promoting good relations with others.

America has become a nation of talking points and PowerPoint lectures. When people ask what the protesters want, specifically, they are really demanding a “study sheet” for a humanistic movement. What do the protesters demand first? That humanity be recognized as something of concern. People must be treated as persons, first and foremost. From this assumption, policy decisions will flow. No simple solution exists, so no one can articulate it. Life is complex. Economies are complex. Legislation is complex.

If we can once again affirm the value of our humanity, however, we will live in a better, if imperfect, world.