Amollo: Despite scorn from political parties, Occupy protests expose real hardships

Benson Amollo

What’s the trouble with America? The answers to this question lies boldly in what defines the lives of ordinary Americans, what the new cool prefers to call the 99 percent. Commonplace answers, however, seem uncommon to American politicians — a number of whom belong in the high-tower 1 percent. It is numbing, to say it kindly, that America is swamped in common trouble.

Sometimes the solution to a problem that borrows age-old wisdom remains mostly part when that problem is presenting itself. The exact nature of the matter tends to be lost on most people. In such a case, we are well aware of our troubles, but we are drowning in them anyway.

As we surge into 2012, a year when the country returns to the ballot to determine the political leadership, there is no trace of hope that our problems could be cushioned. That the crumbling economy could be saved. That the heavy burden of debt visited on students could be searing to oblivion. That disgraced homeowners could once again find some dignity. That millions scouting for jobs could wake up to something. That everyone gets affordable health care. That we could wake up on an appetite opposed to war.

What really is upsetting is that there’s no reason why hope should be taken away from a people in a country where anything is possible. There’s no reason why politicians should have the last word on how to fix these problems. And there’s just no reason why Americans should be beholden to a political organization that sits at odds with reality.

The Republican presidential nomination campaigns, now in the home stretch, paint the gloom. It is the kind of absurdist theater full of musical chairs. The candidates offer that, even though the plight of ordinary folk is genuinely poor and thus begs for attention, there’s nothing significant that politics and politicians can offer in the gridlock.

No one who promises to fix America’s problems as her commander in chief should wear a mask that blinds him or her from the panorama that is the glaring predicament of many. And these candidates have not disappointed with regard to their sorry disconnect to the country’s realities. Promised policy strategies are textbook, and they have refused to acknowledge the masses’ recognition of the country’s woes. Americans know what ails America, but the leaders don’t.

It may be some happy talk and nicely choreographed sound bites when it comes to the dismissal that the Occupy movement has been subjected to. However, when the glamor is over and the news item moves to the next, America’s reality is a constant. To name only a few issues, the pain and constraints in Detroit remain, the alarming homeless statistics in Brooklyn, N.Y., or elsewhere haven’t dissipated, nor have the California penitentiaries emptied.

Yet when you talk to ordinary, hardworking, tax-compliant Americans, the pride of exceptionalism lives. Most believe that America ought to rise and shine again. The small townspeople in America’s Midwest believe America’s greatness isn’t a wish, just like this country’s soldiers forced into misplaced wars abroad never give up positive convictions.

It is overly wounding that there is hardly concession from most politicians that the Occupy protests are a sincere gesture of the burden that their actions have visited on hardworking and innocent Americans. Yet these placard-waving Americans whom one Republican favorite, Newt Gingrich, has dismissed as filthy and needing of a shower, are genuinely angry.

Occupy seems to have shed light not only on the inequalities of America’s financial system but also on the confusion of its political class. And as if there isn’t enough trouble, the Republican Party primaries portend much political trouble and confusion than anybody would have thought. The Occupy movement’s lack of potential villains has meant that Republicans’ usual tactic of meeting protests with scorn for their methods has led them into some ridiculous trouble.

And while some Democrats have seen familiarity in the protesters’ cause, which so clearly chimes with their own political values and hasn’t committed any obvious offence with which to distract the media, they have been reluctant to jump in and stand with Americans. Theirs is a misplaced strategy hemmed on caution and thus kept them from the campers’ arguments directly.

That they’ve only managed a half-hearted acknowledgment of Occupy’s aims and significance illustrates their current inability to freely confront the issues with which they are being presented. That said, Americans continue to be deeply embedded in trouble as long as we look up to the two-party dictatorship for hope and solutions.