Occupied America: Bridging the Divide

How do we define ourselves as a nation and how do we fix what isn't working in America today? This is what has motivated so many Americans to occupy Wall Street and Main Street from coast to coast.
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The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. -- Abraham Lincoln, 1862

Historians have long regarded The Civil War as America's turning point -- a painful and turbulent time in our nation's history that has helped shape our democracy for the better. We shed the sin of slavery and launched the nation on a new path that reinforced a government, of the people, by the people and for the people.

There have been bumps in the road -- times when America needed a wake-up call. Women's emancipation, the struggle for civil rights -- like the Civil War, each of these were not solely political causes -- they were moral causes. And our nation came out of each of these periods, stronger, more united and closer toward affirming our common humanity as a people and a nation.

Americans find themselves in a struggle for the soul of our nation yet again. Some see it as an economic struggle that pits the wealthiest one percent against the 99 percent rest of us. Some see it as a social struggle about whether it is the responsibility of government to provide the resources to help the neediest among us -- resources that encompass everything from healthcare to education to employment. And some see it as a political struggle, between the right and left, between a vision of bigger or smaller government and which path will right our struggling economy.

But really it comes down once again to a moral struggle -- how do we define ourselves as a nation and how do we fix what isn't working in America today? This is what has motivated so many Americans to occupy Wall Street and Main Street from coast to coast. It is a belief among people from all parties and all backgrounds that we need to join together to fight for a common cause -- and that cause is the American people.

We've seen our government bail out the banks and corporate America while individuals continue to lose their jobs, their homes, and their hope.

We've seen millionaires and billionaires paying a smaller percentage of taxes than secretaries and everyday working Americans.

We've seen banks continue to foreclose on properties and deny loans to small businesses, the true engine of our economy, even as their executives reap millions in bonuses paid for by taxpayer dollars.

And throughout these injustices, we've seen a government powerless to act -- a government mired in gridlock and political one-upmanship. We've seen a government plagued by dysfunction where influence is for sale to the highest bidder. While Americans argue and divide over entitlements, rights, race, type and size of government, multi-national corporations are busy buying our government. They are indeed occupying Washington.

With billions spent on lobbying and the rise of shadowy tax-exempt issue advocacy groups that can spend unlimited cash with no accountability, our government leaders are held hostage to the will of the few. And those few have poured money into the political machine to promote deregulation, corporate loopholes, and other policies that favor the wealthy and the powerful. And the divide in our country grows wider.

It's time for the American people to wake up, stand up, and speak out. We need to reform our laws to close these loopholes to power and concentrated wealth. These are not partisan issues -- these are common sense issues, American issues. We must do our part to be informed and engaged citizens, break out of the constructed partisan gridlock that stymies our thinking, and move forward on solutions, united as a country.

America is at another turning point. The American people are ready to stand up against a political system that allows powerful special interests and party ideologues to have more influence with our elected Representatives than average people. That is why Americans across the nation are joining together across party lines and saying enough is enough. We are not going away. The challenges we face as a country are many.

We must bridge our divide and save our country by focusing the national dialogue on the root causes of the problems and address them head on together as Americans. We must reform our campaign finance system, transform our tax code, and revamp the way Wall Street does business. Our inability to achieve these reforms cripples our economy and our democracy, and ultimately hurts the American people. For months we've listened as the politicians have argued and done nothing. Now it's time for them to listen to us and get to work.

I hope you'll join me this weekend, Saturday, October 29 at 11:30 a.m. on the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for the Enough is Enough: Citizens Intervention rally. During the event, hundreds of everyday Americans -- along with keynote speakers like Thom Hartman, Joe Sestak, Buddy Roemer and Lawrence Lessig -- will take to the stage and speak one after the other telling their personal stories of how government dysfunction has impacted their lives.

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