The continued occupation of Wall Street has finally broken into mainstream media and now America is eager to see what will happen next. Will sweeping reform change how big business influences our politics? Will the rich be taxed and America’s funds be diverted from weapons to schools? That rests on the shoulders of the American populace. Will they place themselves in harm’s way, and let their protests get ugly enough to affect change?
In 2003 the largest recorded anti-war protest swept across the world. Several million people from more than 50 countries participated. Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu voiced his opposition to the Iraq war outside the United Nations in New York, alongside numerous celebrities offering up their support to end the bloodshed and mayhem in the Middle East. The protest was part of a series that began in 2002, and then petered out as the war continued. Now, one president later, those protests seem to be nothing more than a faint memory. Why did the protests fail? They certainly didn’t lack numbers of people; numerous polls indicated that more Americans opposed the war after the protest. People just got tired, the sun went down and many realized they had work or school the next day. Because people gave up on their fight, the world forgot.
Everyone remembers something about the ‘60s, when civil rights and peace marches filled streets with banners and thousands of people. But was that what really stopped the war in Vietnam? Demonstrations helped, but there were many other factors. We were not winning for one, and our privates in the military started shooting their commanding officers instead of following orders. It got ugly, really ugly.
Martin Luther King Jr. and a quarter of a million people peacefully marched on Washington, but remember the nonviolent protestors of the 1968 Democratic Convention who were beaten with billy clubs and blasted with tear gas. Horrifying images of this brutality was televised and presented to people across America by the media. Regardless, the people kept up their fight and slowly through the ugly, harsh and exposed truth, things began to change.
If Occupy Wall Street is to manifest into a revolution, or a become giant leap in a new direction for how America handles corporations, politics and wealth, the true challenge for Americans today falls on the commitment of the protesters. Through the struggle it can almost be guaranteed that violence, chaos and the ugly side of humanity will play a role. But shrugging shoulders and giving up will only turn a valiant effort for human rights into another memory left in the dust.