I spent 4 hours last Friday at Wall Street with the “occupiers”. Here is my report.
I traveled to Wall Street by train and subway from New Haven not really knowing what to expect and not knowing how I would be received with my American flag shirt and Vietnam Vet hat and my message.
I prayed on the way down asking the Lord to calm my spirit and give me wisdom in whatever came my way, and especially my demeanor, attitude and tongue. I also prayed that if given an opportunity to present my views before this gathering that I would be prepared and willing to do so.
I met and talked to quite a number of people, mostly young people since my intention was to try and influence some of the youth there into examining what to them would probably be a contrary view. There was quite a mixture of folks; a great number of idealists, Communists, Marxists and 60s style radicals with most presenting the theme of 1% controlling and oppressing me the 99%. But they were all Americans, and I do respect that.
I sought out those who seemed to be obviously anti-capitalist and anti-business and asked two questions: 1) do you want to see our capitalist system changed, and 2) what would you like to see it changed to? I preceded these questions by stating my own purpose for being there which was; 1) to support and stand beside Wall Street , and 2) to support and stand by the American business community (I’ll explain in more detail later). I didn’t get the blowback that I may have expected from such an approach, and in general entered into a good and civil conversation although obviously on different sides.
The first fellow I challenged was one who struck me as being a Marxist, I don’t recall why but it struck me that way. As he struggled with formulating a response to my second question, I tried to help him along by suggesting that what he was describing might look a lot like North Korea. He jumped on that in a very enthusiastic way and started describing the perfect society of North Korea where there is universal freedom, education, jobs for everyone and everyone is taken care of.
As I walked away from the Korean fellow I found myself looking squarely into a movie camera lens and a microphone held just off the side of my mouth. I was being interviewed by United Nations TV Channel 51. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I didn’t have time to react and I launched into a strong defense of America as the Shining City on a Hill spoken of so often by Ronald Reagan, and a defense of the American free enterprise system as the greatest source of liberty and opportunity (and jobs) the world has ever known. Was this an answer to the prayer I sent up from the train earlier?
Another fellow, an older man like myself, attracted me in two ways; the way he was dressed, and the sign he was standing next to suggesting revolution and blood (I saw no explicit calls to violent revolution, but many of the signs and posters suggested that). The man was dressed in an old military uniform of some sort, and when queried about it by me and others, said that it was an army uniform from the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the old East Germany. The gentleman said he was actually English, but had build up the uniform over the years and was a bit sympathetic to the Communistic ways of the old GDR. Right next to us was a small group and paraphernalia representing the 60s radical movement of Abbie Hoffman.
I then had a long conversation with a 29 year old from Indiana. Mark is an atheist very concerned that the world is rapidly running out of resources and becoming very much overpopulated. I questioned him on how that could be fixed and he confessed he really didn’t know (I don’t either), but perhaps returning to simpler ways of life in small villages or self sustaining communities may be the answer. I then asked what about the millions of people all around us in this great city of New York who can’t move to a small farm in Kansas? Again Mark did not know, and neither did I. Then Mark asked me why I believe the Bible is true and I was able to share with him my personal journey and the search for the truth of the Bible. We parted on good terms.
A young lady with a homemade sign saying “My employers pets have health insurance, why can’t I?” caught my attention. Her employer paid for the pet insurance she said, and I then asked why she didn’t buy insurance for herself. I offended this young lady and was wrong in doing so. She explained that she has a number of health issues, works long hours at menial jobs and can not afford insurance. After a couple of feeble arguments on my part she asked me to leave, and was right in doing so.
I shared my message of support for American business with a few other folks and then stood face to face with a late middle age man holding a sign containing the words “Revolution” and “First Blood” (blood in red ink). I pressed him on the meaning of this sign and was he advocating violent revolution? About then he was tired of me and said “Get out of my f***ing face or I’ll hand you a piece of your ass right here and now.” I took him up on his offer and left.
I finished the day talking at length with a young fellow who stepped right up to being anti-capitalist. Adam is sympathetic to Marxism and Communism and excused, as so many do, the abuses and atrocities of that world view by claiming that true Communism has never been implemented. Adam is a real idealist and very intelligent and my hope is that some of the advice I left with him may cause him to seek truth in a different direction. What advice?
- Read and study the lives, values and ideas of the founders of this nation; Washington, Madison, Hamilton and others.
- Seek the truth and answers for yourself and trust no one until you have a settled sense of the truth.
- Don’t be afraid to get a different slant on the issues; watch Fox News and Glenn Beck for starters.
- Have heroes, but choose them wisely and know who you are standing beside. Know the difference between a Lenin and a Washington.
A number of times during the day I brought up Fox News and Glenn Beck and do you watch them? The answers were typically “absolutely not”, “you’ve got to be kidding me” or “it’s nothing but propaganda and brainwashing”. They all claimed to know all about Fox or Beck, but could not answer my question “how can you profess to know what they are saying when you confess to not listening?”
I said earlier I would say more on my purpose and message. It is simply this:
The American free market system i.e. Capitalism, has been the greatest force for good in the history of mankind bringing more liberty and opportunity to millions from across the world, and from all walks of life. The best hope we have in breaking free from our current economic distress is to tap into this history and make the American businessman our friend. But, knowing human nature and history I also know that this friendship needs accountably from a free people in the form of reasonable regulations approved by our elected representatives.
May the Lord help us in these endeavors I pray.