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To Be We the People Once Again -- William Rivers Pitt

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, americans, culture, dishonesty, education, freedoms, government, law, politics, police, rights, society )

- 1809 days ago -
"We the People," as a functioning entity, has been weaker than water for years, a claim without purchase, a boast without meaning, an empty promise of spoils long spoiled.

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Kit B (276)
Thursday July 4, 2013, 4:45 pm
Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout

Did you hear about Jeffrey Olson? The guy from San Diego who wrote things like "No thanks, big banks" and "Shame on Bank of America" in water-soluble chalk on the sidewalk? He was looking at thirteen years in prison after getting busted on a variety of vandalism charges, but on Monday, a jury of his peers found him not guilty, and he was free to go.

Now there's a happy story for the Fourth of July, right? A common citizen, exercising his First Amendment right to say bad things about a bank in street chalk that won't survive the next downpour or the first hose spray, goes up against the bad guys and winds up walking free.

According to Olson, his motivation was entirely straightforward: "Wall Street banks nearly drove our economy into the ditch." Isn't it great that we live in a country where a man like Jeffrey Olson is free to express himself in a non-destructive way?



Jeffrey Olson was arrested, and arraigned, and had to get a lawyer, and was tried in a court of law, and was required to stand behind a defendant's table in a courtroom for a jury decision that could have taken his freedom for thirteen years...because he said bad things about banks in chalk on a sidewalk? A man was prosecuted all the way to a jury verdict for speaking his mind with art that would disappear with the next rainstorm.

I suppose, given the trend toward total retaliation in this country these days, that we should give a giggle and a smile to Jeff Olson for having slipped the noose. Dozens of Occupy protesters faced jail time in cities and towns all over the country after committing such savage crimes as spending time in a public park, standing still in the face of sanctioned police riots, and taking a face full of mace for being on the wrong corner at the wrong time.

Bank of America helped to burn out your future. Jeffrey Olson wanted you to know they did that. The former, and friends, walk through the pouring rain without being molested by so much as a drop, while the latter goes from cuffs to court to verdict for trying to tell you about it.

Thirteen years. For chalk. Written on public sidewalks against bankers and Wall Street hucksters who stole the future - literally - and received not so much as a slap on the wrist. On this august holiday, they are counting their money, swilling champagne and laughing, laughing, laughing at everyone celebrating "freedom" in America.

These are hard times, man. Hard times.

Has it all slipped away, finally and forever? September 11 happened, and all those plastic-sheeting-and-duct-tape years happened, Iraq-has-WMD happened and hundreds of thousands died because of it, the PATRIOT Act happened, the Homeland Security Act happened, the NSA slipped the leash, and somewhere in all that awful noise we became a nation of chickenshit cowards entirely unworthy of the hard, hot heritage that lives behind and beneath "We the People."

Just the other day, the President of the United States peered through the bars at Robben Island in South Africa in a touching photo-op meant to convey Mr. Obama's deep feelings for Nelson Mandela and all he endured...but would Mr. Obama dare to peer through the bars of the Haliburton cages in Guantanamo Bay? If a leader like Mandela emerges from that long, illegal, immoral confinement in Cuba to point a damning finger at his captors, who will blush and bluster and flee that condemnation?

You. Me. Us.

"We the People."

That's a fact.

"We the People," as a functioning entity, has been weaker than water for years, a claim without purchase, a boast without meaning, an empty promise of spoils long spoiled. We do this "America" thing by rote now, mesmerized by the myths and oblivious to the truth.


The idea behind and beneath "We the People" is worth fighting for. The idea that made the ability to speak your mind the law of the land, the idea that says you are an integral, absolutely necessary part of this nation despite your race or sex or religion, the idea that royalty (whether it be derived from lineage or wealth) shall not rule here, are all ideas not to be abandoned, no matter how difficult it is to keep that faith in the face of all the gruesome offenses committed against your will.

The dirty little secret of America is the way this place is hard-wired to favor money over good. That's American-style capitalism in a nutshell...but another little secret is the fact that "We the People" still throw considerable weight around this joint, if we choose to. A great many powerful entities have bewitched us into doubting, or even forgetting, this simple truth, but it is the truth. Egypt, currently celebrating its own Fourth of July, is instructive on what happens when We the People show up and say, simply, "No."

And the last dirty secret of this brokedown palace: it's supposed to be hard. It was wired that way, too, way back on another Fourth of July.

Choose to.

You'll be astonished by how powerful you are.

By: William Rivers Pitt | Op Ed | Truthout |

Judy C (97)
Thursday July 4, 2013, 6:27 pm
The sidewalk chalk incident does seem like a victory, but the consequences were pretty dire, even though Olson was acquitted:

"Jeffrey Olson was arrested, and arraigned, and had to get a lawyer, and was tried in a court of law, and was required to stand behind a defendant's table in a courtroom for a jury decision that could have taken his freedom for thirteen years...because he said bad things about banks in chalk on a sidewalk?"

We are losing our power, and people seem oblivious to it. They are working themselves to exhaustion in many cases just to get by, thanks to those despicable banks. Many are seeking escape in one form of spectacle or another, and in addictive behavior.

People do seem to suddenly wake up at times, though. It will probably involve some unforeseen catalyst, and I hope it's not too harsh. I hope we won't have to reach some point of no return for it to happen. Our power lies not just in sheer numbers, but also in our principles, that seem to be submerged at this time. Anyway, to me it's encouraging to hear someone remind us of our ideals and principles, and to express hope in such an eloquent way.

JL A (281)
Thursday July 4, 2013, 7:13 pm
Thanks Kit--Indeed we need to be "We The People" in order to reform a more perfect union...

David C (29)
Thursday July 4, 2013, 10:31 pm

People forget that it was "We The People" that voting in the people that give us the PATRIOT Act, the Homeland Security Act.

Sherri G (128)
Friday July 5, 2013, 1:53 am
Jeffrey Olson essentially said I refuse to be governed or denied free speech. The jury saw and voted for "we the people" and set him free. Egypt understands. Hopefully, we will not be forced to have "nothing to lose" before we take their same courageous stand to make corporations stand down. If we all refused to buy anything for 24 hours we could stop their momentum but we must do it in such mass they cannot deny that it happened. Thank You Kit Noted.

Arielle S (313)
Friday July 5, 2013, 8:56 am
Jeffrey Olson = Hero in my book. Bank of America - pissant in my book. This article made me sad because there are far too many people just willing to keep quiet and let it all go....freedom, peace, justice... poof!
Write to your senator and get what amounts to a pat on the head. Expect things to get better and things get worse. I wonder what it will take for Americans to demand better?

divergent revolution (309)
Friday July 5, 2013, 9:08 am
as they said in the movie SNEAKERS...with Robert of my fave movies;
" TOO MANY SECRETS"...., and too many sheep in my opinion!
thanks Kit...the only cat I'm not allergic too,lol

Kit B (276)
Friday July 5, 2013, 9:10 am

Graffiti is at worst a misdemeanor, usually is nothing more than a fine like a parking ticket. Big Brother wanted to make an example of Jeffery Olson and found out the example was them.

I just wonder what would happen if 33 million Americans showed up for a protest?

Arielle S (313)
Friday July 5, 2013, 10:43 am
Well, if a bunch of people went to the bank and scribbled on the sidewalk, they couldn't arrest them all, could they?
Seems somebody could even sue the bank for such a stupid arrest...

Dee C (229)
Friday July 5, 2013, 11:00 am
Never stand down..peacefully of course..

Thanks Kit..

Angelika R (143)
Friday July 5, 2013, 11:35 am
No matter how prosaic his words are, he is delivering a clear message to use your power. This time Egyptians waited only one year until they said enough, look for how long already Americans have patiently tolerated the road to destruction.

Terrie Williams (798)
Friday July 5, 2013, 12:18 pm
Mr. Pitt is awake......

Judith Hand (55)
Friday July 5, 2013, 3:12 pm
Noted. Hmmm.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Friday July 5, 2013, 3:23 pm
This is the reason they want dumbed down education; media controlled zombies and are continuously spraying chemtrails and urging us to get vaccines. If 300 million Americans all stood up at once and said no; the shock waves would reverberate all the way to Zurich and and around the world.
Mr. Olson should never have been charged in the first place.

cynthia l (207)
Friday July 5, 2013, 4:10 pm
Stand up and shout!

Nancy M (169)
Friday July 5, 2013, 5:07 pm
YEah, we alll need to go chalk all the big banks.

Truly sad, free speech.

I can understand if he had done permanent damage that he could be arrested for vandalism, but....

Paul Girardin (126)
Friday July 5, 2013, 9:17 pm
Ah, the wonders of government backed and protected banking!

It's a wonder we still have money in our pockets (albeit it is only loose change but still!).

Thanks for sharing!

Sheila D (194)
Friday July 5, 2013, 9:34 pm
Who lived thru the 60s? It wasn't just about Flower Power, and getting high - well, to some that's all it was about...

We, the People marched for Peace, for Equal Rights - women, African-Americans, Native Americans...

We, the People got beat up, got maced

We, the People got arrested, some went to jail

We, the people died.

My point - it was always - WE, THE PEOPLE.

Stephen Brian (23)
Friday July 5, 2013, 11:57 pm
I looked up the vandalism-case and the first article about it that I found was this:

Normally, the prosecution would not have stood a chance, but the judge disallowed any defence based upon freedom of expression. His reason for doing so was that media-reporting of the case had painted a false and inflammatory narrative centring around that, so no jury could be found which would be reliably impartial if that line of defence was used. Specifically, it painted a picture of a man facing 13 years in prison for exercising freedom of expression when everybody involved in the case knew that the maximum penalty for 13 counts of vandalism would never be sought.

In a broader sense, we see a crackdown on whistle-blowers after a newspaper apparently reported, in the 1990s, about the U.S. government bugging and tracking people by their phones, after Wikileaks released information about the war in Afghanistan and diplomatic cables, and most recently, after Snowden released information about Prism. Why? In the 1990s, the leadership of al Qaeda switched to email in response to that report and could no longer be easily tracked and watched, leading to the 9/11 attacks. Wikileaks released the names of translators who helped Western forces work peacefully with locals, so those brave volunteers' families were promptly murdered by the Taliban. American embassies apparently run the largest information-gathering network on human rights-abuses, so once the anonymity of those who reported the abuse could no longer be guaranteed, data on abuses stopped coming and tyrants saw impunity. terrorist organizations have already changed communication-methods to avoid surveillance under Prism. Loose lips sink ships and nobody seems to bother trying to avoid such trouble anymore.

In terms of civic and political freedoms, this court-case and the crackdown on free expression in general is a backlash against abuses of those freedoms. Sadly this time, it was not those who actually abused their freedom, the press, who faced the backlash, but the innocent subject of their story. Those who would deny freedoms may be wrong in many cases, but they are usually not evil, at least not in liberal democratic societies like those throughout the West. They simply see some reasonable (even if wrong in many cases, for whatever reason,) rationale for doing so. For civil society to regain its power, it must regain its credibility and to do that, civil institutions, everything from the media to the schools, to charities, to activists, all of it, must exercise its freedoms with maturity and appropriate restraint. This, I believe, is how to be We the People Once Again".

Anna Undebeck (256)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 2:26 am
Thank you der Kit. Interesting article , as always!!!

And a lot of great comments aswell, very interesting to read!!!
Ty Kit and all who have been commenting on this- really good reading!

Tamara Hayes (185)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 9:37 am
Noted, thanks Kit. There is a lot of food for thought here. And none of it is a black or white problem or solution.

Kit B (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 9:50 am

I wonder what freedom and privacy do mean to Americans?

Bryan S (105)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 1:15 pm
In addition to the outrageousness of Jeffrey Olsen's charge, there is, as the article points out, the sickening irony that the banks that actually did commit huge crimes causing so much damage didn't face the slightest penalty (are now doing better than ever).

I think we all agree with Mr. Pitt in that we need to choose to exercise our power. I don't know what it will take in this country. Even after the banks had just crashed the economy and it was clear to anyone not living on the moon how such concentrations of wealthy control "our" government, there were plenty of people confused as to what OWS could possibly want. And then you have the Teaparty meanwhile babbling something about the dangers of socialism. I guess more people become more aware all the time.

And great line in the article pointing out the hypocrisy of showing reverence to Nelson Mandela and what he endured while innocent people remain locked in Gitmo. I don't disagree with Mr. Pitt in saying we've become a nation of chickenshit cowards, but i think a lot of it is how many of us jump to blame some foreign bogeyman and thus accept anything that's supposed to protect us, or accept any act of aggression, instead of taking a look at what's happening right here.

Bryan S (105)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 1:19 pm
Oh, and i'm not sure about your question, Kit. But i wish a lot more people understood that the 1st and 4th ammendments are much more valuable when it comes to protecting our freedom and rights than is the 2nd.

Kit B (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 1:28 pm

Our privacy is now openly under attack, Bryan and I don't see many upset by that. The first amendment, our right to freedom of speech has been directly under attack for some years and few seem to get excited about that either. Look even slightly a askance at guns and the uproar is loud and pronounced. What good is the right to own a gun when all other rights are gone?

Debbie G (306)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 1:34 pm
What a waste of taxpayer money to arrest, arraign and try the man.

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 5:17 pm
Thanks, Kit. I guess it was about a year and a half ago that Occupy marched on the banks in cities and towns all over America. It was a Saturday, and I participated here and also took a couple family members. There were dozens of us...a decent amount for this size city, but I wish more had come. We weren't bothered by law enforcement at all. In fact, I don't remember seeing one cop. So, I wonder if this is specific to San Diego, or if the banks have just gotten nasty. Either way, I hope this marks the moment the pendulum began to swing back in the area of sanity and the 99% shall rise in protest.

Kit B (276)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 5:24 pm

It was one thing to live through the sixties and another to me a part of the 1960's. Contrary to the media sport of categorizing all of us with one brush, that was not the way it was. Brokaw sure doesn't have a clue, and maybe each of us actually had very different individual experiences, imagine that. Even then we were fighting for the concept of WE THE PEOPLE.

So yeah, GGma Sheila - I hear you.

Stephen Brian (23)
Saturday July 6, 2013, 9:55 pm
Hi Kit :)

The right to own a gun is the right to possess the power to reclaim rights lost to tyranny. Lots of people on Care2 talk about how ridiculous the idea of tyranny in the U.S. is, or how silly the thought of revolution againt one would be, but I've looked at the numbers, logistics, and other factors. Should tyranny truly arise here, then with current U.S. gun-ownership, I believe it could be easily overthrown.

Kit B (276)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 5:17 am

Stephen , I fully understand the rights and the ill conceived logic.

Stephen Brian (23)
Sunday July 7, 2013, 1:13 pm
Hi Kit :)

A serious in-depth discussion of issues of gun-ownership would be, I think, a bit off-topic here, but I really don't know what is wrong with the logic Would you be up for discussing it via PM?
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