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Occupy Wall Street: A “Peaceable” Movement? Kristin Rudolph November 11, 2011
Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire recently told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that he "saw God at work in Zuccotti Park" while visiting the increasingly violent Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests. Robinson believes these demonstrations are about "grieving over the loss of community," even though "it seems to be about the dollars and the figures." He explained, "[it] seems to me that people are mourning the fact that we have become a society where it’s every man woman and child for themselves, and not a society in which we actually do care for one another as a community."
"This is huge," Robinson said, because "it’s the beginning of a conversation that we’ve needed to have for a long time about what our responsibility is to one another."
Soon to retire, Robinson is famous for becoming the Episcopal Church’s first openly homosexual bishop. His 2003 election led to an ongoing schism within the global Anglican communion.
Robinson described a supposed parallel between OWS protests telling the government to tax the wealthy, and "the prophets of the Jewish Old Testament, Micah, and Jeremiah, and Isaiah," because the prophets "said very difficult things to those who were in power.” He asserted that "we’ve got something to learn" from OWS about influencing those in power, and "there are a lot of us in the middle of this country who need to go to talk to these people [Occupy protesters]." Robinson explained "there is no reason to be fearful" because "it's one of the most peaceable kingdoms I've been a part of in a long time," with "people handing out clothing to those who have need of it, and food." The very week Robinson visited Zuccotti Park, however, there were a growing number of reports of sexual abuse and violent crime at the “peaceable” OWS site in New York, and other sites across the United States. Despite the violence of OWS, Robinson had a discussion with protesters “about whether the community that had formed in Zuccotti Park was a microcosm of the larger society or not, and how to make the connections between those two." He urged that "we have to make the connections between those two," and "we have to become reconnected to one another," because "my wellbeing is dependent on your wellbeing, and I don’t want to live in a country where it's every man, woman, and child for themselves … I think the cries of pain we hear from this movement are the cries from the loss of that kind of unity." The movement is important even for those not physically participating in protests, Robinson said, because it will "start conversations in living rooms, and at cocktail parties all around the country about 'have we really lost our way as a nation?' and what happened to each of us wanting to contribute our fair share to all of us, the common good." Robinson expounded on how he thinks America has gone off course in an interview (second part here) with ThinkProgress, a project of the liberal Center for American Progress where he is a senior fellow. "In an odd sort of way, Wall St. has become anti-capitalist," Robinson speculated, and OWS "is a protest against those people who have actually preyed on the capitalist system, who have used the capitalist system in what I would call an immoral way to make vast sums of money while actually producing nothing." The protests are not about dismantling a free market, Robinson claimed, explaining that "most of the people in the OWS movement want jobs in this capitalist system of ours," they want "the opportunity to work, to be productive, to contribute to society, to have a job, to provide for their families, and to pay their taxes." He said "I don't see anyone challenging that capitalist system. I don’t hear anyone saying we all ought to make the same salaries that we all ought to be paid the same thing for wildly different jobs. What I do hear, is them saying that the wealthiest have a responsibility to the rest of us." "The pervasive theme throughout all those demonstrations is actually a very ancient theme of the poor crying out for redress of injustice" according to Robinson. The "injustice" is that "the middle classes and working classes are being robbed of their share of the American dream," but "it's more than about numbers and it's more than about disparity of income it's really about our sense of community,” and how “the wealthy have a responsibility to the larger community." This “sense of community,” should encourage religious groups to get involved with OWS, Robinson explained, because "the religious enterprise is really about making meaning, and I think we can perhaps be of assistance to this movement to bring the larger meanings out of it."
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