Weakness Is Provocative
Since the Occupy Jacksonville movement began, I’ve studiously avoided making comments about it in this space, mostly so I could see how it was handled by the authorities. Having witnessed much of their disgraceful behavior firsthand, I feel now obliged to speak my peace. The city’s crackdown on the Occupation going on outside of City Hall is humiliation for all citizens of a city that, let’s face it, routinely goes out of its way to humiliate itself.
Those of us who labor daily against the perception that Jacksonville is a sub-literate cesspool of racism and religious dogma, a place whose land, air and water are so polluted that the only things that grow here consistently are criminals, have seen our effort rebuked yet again. Whether it was corrupt fire inspectors in the 1990s or the disastrous DART raids of a couple years ago, our “leaders” have remained keen to waste law-enforcement resources on bullshit, despite ample evidence that their methods have actually empowered the organized crime groups that, let’s face it, control far more of this city than any silly old church.
The situation also tends to confirm the mayor’s political cowardice to those handfuls of observers for whom the question remained in doubt. Brown’s tenure has mostly been defined by throwing key supporters under the bus, while retaining much of the core of the administration that preceded his—the one he was elected largely in opposition to. From day one, Brown has acted like an embattled incumbent; it’s almost like he anticipates being there for just one term, a historical aberration, a failed experiment in the craven new style.
The Occupy movement represents, perhaps, the last significant opportunity to address the issues of corporate greed and economic and social inequality in non-violent fashion. It’s scary to think that, when young people organize to assert their constitutional rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association, the establishment reaction is viscerally negative.
Councilman Don Redman has been a constant presence at Occupy events, playing the role of amiable scold. Unless he’s secretly a part of the 99% (and some think he may be), he has devoted extraordinary amounts of his personal time harassing a bunch of kids who have not yet been trained in how to deal with hatemongers. Whatever the needs of the voters in his district, they should know those needs fall second to Redman’s need to bother the protesters. The recent crackdown indicates that it’s Redman, not Brown, who calls the shots as far as how this was handled. Speculation has already begun that the term-limited Redman may join what will surely be a wave of politicians seeking to unseat an already-weakened mayor Brown; Sheriff John Rutherford, who’s been at odds with the mayor and his own union, remains at the top of most lists, but more will come. Because weakness is provocative.
But let’s say this much for Redman: At least he showed up. Brown and other members of the Council have basically adopted the policy of other city leaders nationwide—that of running their mouths about things they have no understanding of. It makes sense that Brown, who bounced back and forth between the Beltway and Corporate America, would be ignorant of the underlying economic reality. It makes sense that his populist campaign rhetoric would be a front for more of the same-old, same-old. It makes sense that our visionary new leader is a just a cut-out caricature, eager to conform to stereotype.
Because as we’ve seen with President Obama, the first job for any black executive-branch pol is to act forcefully to retain the confidence and support of the white business leaders who brought them to power. Hence, the firings, politically-motivated. Ironic that a mayor who was elected largely on a promise to encourage growth downtown has signed-off on suppressing the only people who can actually draw numbers into downtown on a weekend without promising football or free food. It’s further ironic that most of the local Occupiers either voted for Alvin Brown or actively worked for his campaign. Well, they won’t next time!
Our mayor has apparently forgotten that he won by the closest margin in local history, and that it was the support of young progressives that kept him in the game back when elites were focused on that shoddy Hogan-Moran-Mullaney horserace. I’ve heard many Democrats in recent months wish aloud that Audrey Moran had just a little bit more guts, hadn’t been so passive in response to conservative attacks, had tried to reach out to progressive a little bit more instead of prostrating for the business community like everyone else has. Of course, it’s unlikely that she would have handled OccupyJax any differently because, overall, this movement exists to show the people of this country that our leaders have not only abnegated their responsibilities, but have deliberately acted against the best interests of this country.
Why? Because they are on the take. Every single politician in this country is hopelessly corrupt, whether they want to be or not. The system of campaign finance ensures that whoever wins any election is probably already bought and paid for by foreign capital. Those of you who complain about Brown now have forgotten that he was trained by Bill Clinton, arguably one of the most morally bankrupt human beings to ever walk this earth. He learned his lessons well, but it remains to be seen how much the voters themselves have learned.
firstname.lastname@example.org; December 24, 2011