Taking It To The Streets Again
Wednesday - October 12, 2011
I thought that the civil rights and anti-war movements of the second and third decades of my life had remade the United States. To some extent, they did. Those who marched in the name of equality for black Americans did force Congress and the president to pass the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts. Those laws finally gave meaning, a century after its conclusion, to the American Civil War. And the anti-war teach-ins and marches forced both national political parties to nominate presidential candidates in 1968 who promised to get us out of the bloody quagmire that was the Vietnam.
But I was naive.
Black rage in the streets of Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington and a dozen other American cities in the late ‘60s resulted in a backlash from white America that froze the civil rights movement. And the elimination of the draft created an all-volunteer Army that presidents and Congresses since the early ‘70s have felt free to deploy in defense of oil or the pursuit of terrorists or both.
No new world emerged from the 1960s. To be sure, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, women and gays certainly enjoy greater equality than they did prior to the civil rights movement, but a conservative majority on the Supreme Court has taken swipes at some of those rights in recent years, and self-proclaimed custodians of our national morality continue to wage political warfare against minority rights.
So in the waning years of my seventh decade, I do not see national salvation in those who “Occupy Wall Street” and march through streets of Manhattan decrying the yawning chasm between rich and poor in the United States.
As I write, cable channels report that demonstrators have taken to the streets in 50 American cities, including Honolulu. The talking heads of liberal-leaning MSNBC celebrate an “American Autumn” and hail the marchers as leaders of a “revolution” against “auction democracy,” in which corporate money owns our elected politicians. The FOX analysts point to the demonstrators’ lack of an agenda and dismiss them as whiners about an array of perceived wrongs, from foreclosures homeowners brought upon themselves to huge CEO salaries that go justifiably to America’s “job creators.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney described the Wall Street occupiers as “dangerous.” His fellow presidential aspirant, Herman Cain, urged them to stop whining and “go get a job.”
To Romney’s charge: How can Wall Street occupiers be any more “dangerous” to the national well-being than the Wall Street bankers who brought down the nation’s and, some argue, the world’s economy in 2007? And to Cain: Where? The United States continues to limp along with a 9.1 percent unemployment rate and an “underemployment rate” of more than 14 percent. Maybe Godfather’s Pizza, where Cain made his CEO millions, is hiring, but the pay for delivering pizza pies won’t pay anyone’s mortgage.
The occupiers do understand one hard truth: Money governs the country’s politics to a greater degree than ever and, despite the problems faced by homeowners, job-seekers, businesses small and large, newly minted and debtridden college graduates, and a slew of others, those who use their billions to finance the campaigns of our politicians control the national agenda. They will decide the limits of regulation, economic stimulation and taxation.
If they want a loophole, they’ll buy it. If they want a contract, they’ll get it by providing the cash that reelects the Republicans and Democrats who have done and promise to continue to do their bidding.
No, I’m not going to believe in marchers any more.
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