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Occupy Kansas? Maybe

By Ethel Peterson
Advocacy | October 4, 2011

DODGE CITY, Kan. - Occupy Wall Street is now in its 8th day! It is finally happening -- a grassroots uprising! Where I live in Western Kansas, the deepest grassroots are of a prairie grass aptly called "buffalo grass." It takes its name from the fact that it was the major food source for the gigantic buffalo herds that once roamed this vast prairie. It is a short grass that only extends a very few inches above the ground, and sometimes seems to cling to the ground.

But, let me tell you, this is nourishing grass with roots so deep they have been known to extend more than twenty feet downward to reach the water source which is buried far down in this dry land. When the "dirty thirties" happened, it was because too many farmers had cut up this wonderful sod to raise crops instead. Without the grass and its deep roots, there was little to hold the land and the strong winds whipped much of it away.

I was born in Western Kansas and, like the guy in the song who was "born the next of kin to the wayward wind," i was born related to the family of the deep roots of buffalo grass. Perhaps that is why I was always skeptical of what others called a "grassroots" movement.

I tended to say, "Yeah, that's probably grassroots, alright -- all the way from the lawnmower down." But, I think we finally have a true grassroots movement in the Occupy Wall Street uprising! And it's surely long overdue and not a moment too soon.

The question gets asked over and over, "But what is it you are asking for? What do you want changed?"

Dear Reader, I'll bet you can help me answer those questions. WE can say, "We want some regulation that makes it possible for people to keep their homes and have enough to eat in this land of plenty, while others are owning many homes and obscene amounts of money while manipulating markets and not paying their fair share of taxes. We want to know that our government will help us to slow the warming of the earth which makes life on this planet seem to be rushing to an end."

Is it too much to say that tearing up top-soil and tar-sands and fracturing the rock structure to bring out the oil and gas because we "need it to maintain our lifestyle" is too
stupid for intelligent people? We want to again live in a country where we are not spied on, where we cannot be arrested without knowing why and without having our day in court.

We want to know that our elections are fair and honest and that corporations cannot buy our right to govern ourselves. We want to believe that when the Supreme Court rules that abortion is legal, there will not be states making it illegal through tangled laws passed for the purpose of bypassing the federal law. These are only the beginnings, right?

There are so many of our rights that have disappeared over the years. That's why a grassroots uprising seems to be occurring all around the world. So now the common people are saying, "It doesn't have to be this way. Here we want real democracy back! We believe that this great experiment that was America is still worth pursuing. Those right-wing radicals can shout and rant all they want, but we know we are right! They do not have a corner on righteousness! Because they have a specific religious belief, it does not mean the belief of others is any less valid!

One of their favorite things is to remind us that "This is a Christian nation." That's OK with me, as long as they don't say, "It's a Christian nation ONLY." This nation was founded on the principle that every person had the right to follow his or her own religious belief. Folks need not quote their version of Bible passages and insist that everyone else live by their interpretation of it.

Some of us in the Occupy Wall Street crowd want the rich people to stop getting richer by owning manufacturing plants that build drones and guns and parts for them and then promote wars to use them so they can keep making more of them. Some of us believe peace is possible if we quit worshiping war.

How many times have you heard any of these statements to test your loyalty to your country: "We fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." "Support our troops." "We honor these troops because they are willing to give up their lives for us." Often our government and communities don't honor these veterans when they come home battered and bent by what they have witnessed, and when they end up homeless, in trouble, or addicted. Veterans are not honored then; they are cursed and avoided. That's hard to admit, but we know it's true.

So, what is the purpose of all this? I just want to salute all those brave people who are daring to stand in Liberty Park in New York City, and Chicago, and San Francisco, and yes, even in Wichita, to say, "We believe we can make it better. Wall Street does not have to govern our lives. We are the grassroots and we will grow again!" Oh, yes, I salute you!

[Editor's note: The Occupy Wall Street website describes its organization, "Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%." More coverage of this grassroots organization can be found on these pages at The Guardian, Truthout, the Huffington Post, and adbusters.com.]


Ethel, the buffalo grass you talk about is a hardy and persistent plant that held its own in nature for centuries, on the western plains. But, man in his infinite wisdom and lust for immediate financial gain ignored his responsibility to protect the environment and learn to cope with the elements that allowed buffalo grass to dominate the prairie. We nearly lost the western plains to civilization in the dirty thirties. With the help of government intervention and support, we learned to use better cropping and tillage methods and some help from mother nature, with the return of rains, we survived. Today's tillage practices and better plant selections allow us to work with nature and produce far more food to feed the world than the buffalo grass could ever hope to supply. But, without oversight and some regulation, we are in danger of allowing immediate financial gain overriding the limits of our natural resources.

Wall Street today is working on the easy get rich quick system of our early big developers on the western plains. At the expense of the common folks, they are promoting business practices that will destroy society.

Thank you, Ethel. I was one of the people who initially asked what purpose this movement served. Some who responded got surly with me, but a few gave me civil, sensible answers. Your blog is quite educational--would I expect less from a teacher?

I've been on the streets for one liberal cause or another since 1968 until recently. It's unlikely I'll be on the streets again any time soon. But I do support those who are out there and hope what they are doing will make a difference. Something has to change.

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