Close to the Flames (#poem)

I stood outside the gates of Hell,

Ready to dive headlong into flame,hell

But you put your hand on my shoulder,

Turned me toward you and kissed my face.

You held me tightly against you and promised

You’d protect me for all eternity.

You assured me I was one of the good ones,

And I never should have been in this place.

You led me from the depths to a softer light,

And we lay, exposed, face-to-face,

But still I forgot to ask why you were loitering

Just outside such a damnable place.

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.