I realize that this is a second post in one day. I always anticipated a celebratory post for Left Coast Voice’s 500th post. Maybe a nostalgic look back on the last two years that this blog has existed.
But I am listening to live reporting from the Occupy Wall Street protests in Oakland. There is something ironic that a country who is trying to architect democracy and freedom in the Middle East and Africa, cannot tolerate the assembly of their own citizens to express discontent.
Freedom of expression is integral to democracy. We all applauded a Chinese student who stood in front of the tanks Beijing‘s Tienanmen Square and other peaceful demonstrations, not least what has been coined the Arab Spring.
Whatever the legalities of lawful assembly in Oakland, and I am no lawyer, when the police open fire with rubber bullets and gas on children and people in wheelchairs, the machine is truly broken. People coming together to demonstrate remains a powerful expression of communal freedom.
Whether you agree or disagree with the protestors, and the 99% message is pretty clear, the right of people to organize, whether they are Occupy Wall Street or Tea Party activists, is an integral part of a democracy.
At a time when the US is working so hard to influence nations around the world who have thrown off the chains of their oppressors to choose the road of democracy, what is the message that they are hearing from Oakland?
As one man just said on the radio – my faith is just shattered right now. Hoping that Left Coast Voice’s 1,000th post will be of a more hopeful world.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).