Wall St. Protests….Taking Up Where We Left Off

“How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry…. Yes how many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn’t see….”

1969 protest

1969 protest

Whether or not you were one of the protesters in our youth railing against “the man” (corporate greed and corruption), or the pillaging of the environment, the majority of us still agreed that rivers burning with pollution and companies making millions (billions in today’s dollars) by exploiting their workers or the public at large, and forever destroying pieces of the earth for their financial gain, were worth fighting to fix.

And now, we’re the ones being protested against.

We are “the man” we so reviled as youth.  We are the ones in charge of Big Corp that guts the middle class so that CEO’s can buy that yacht and third vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard; we’re in charge of a Congress that votes to bail out Bank of America with our hard earned dollars and then refuses to ensure that the entity cannot ruin our lives again; we are the ones who have turned our backs on the environmental gains made as a result of our protests, through lifestyles that are built on rampant waste.

What happened?!

Some say that we just grew up…that once the realities of making a living and raising a family kick in, idealism jumps ship.

Some say that many of us really didn’t care about those things as youth, so simply continued to live our beliefs (it’s not greed when it’s “capitalism” because we all hope to get rich someday; the earth is here to serve our needs, not the other way around).

But, even if either, or both are true, neither falls even close to a good reason for leaving our children worse off than we are, ensuring that the top 10%  make and keep 93% of our country’s wealth while they continue to lay-off workers and off-shore jobs, or that pillaging the earth of her beauty and resources is right way to get our needs met…

So, to the former, I offer a suggestion; that we think “and/both” rather than “either/or” – we can strive to have a good life without gutting the earth and harming others in the process.

To the latter, I offer this quote, not by a Founding Father or a high profile preacher, but from a comic book of our youth: “With great power, comes great responsibility” – which of course we all understood to mean great responsibility to care for the less powerful, to use our own capacities to better the common good – not line the pockets of the few and the rest of society be damned.

And to those who say that there are just too many things “out of our control” so what’s gone wrong over the past decade or more is not our fault, I offer this idea to ponder: That which you believe to be out of your control…is, even those things that are well within it.  Think Bank of America is a corporate leech?  Close your account with them.  Believe in global warming as a real problem?  Drive a fuel efficient auto and demand/use recycyled goods.  Angry about off-shoring our jobs?  Then buy only “made in America.”

Our kids are taking up where we left off oh those many decades ago.  Which they must, because we left off.

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Protest Poor Behavior – Don’t Forward that Email…

There’s an email forwarding around the nation with the heading: “This Senior Citizen Nailed It!!!!” and a final proud recommendation that you “pass it on” – it being so good and all.

It’s in response to remarks purportedly made by WY Senator Alan Simpson while he was on President Obama’s Deficit Reduction Committee, calling “senior citizens the Greediest Generation” and comparing Social Security to a milk cow with 310 million teats.  Here’s an excerpt of that email:

“I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the bills.

I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money….

To add insult to injury, you label us “greedy” for calling “bullshit” on your incompetence.  It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators called Congress who are the “greedy” ones.  It is you and your fellow nutcases who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream…And you can take that to the bank, you miserable son of a bitch.”

To start, here’s what Senator Simpson actually said after noting that, while every interest group that testified before his committee agreed that the mounting federal debt is a national tragedy, they would then insist that government funding for their interest area shouldn’t be touched:

“We had the greatest generation (meaning his, he’s 79) – I think this is the “greediest generation” (meaning we Boomers).  “I really believe there are more patriots in America than selfish… people.”  So, in reality:

  • he wasn’t talking about “senior citizens” as no Boomer would ever consider him/herself one,
  • he never mentioned cows or their teats,
  • he actually voiced his belief that these “greedy”  folks coming before him did not represent the vast majority of Americans, and
  • his primary recommendation to save SS/Medicare, against which this supposed writer was railing, was to raise the age of eligibility a few years to stay true to the original formula for benefits disbursement, one based on life expectancy (which has lengthened by almost 15 years since SS was first passed in 1935)….

But what’s even sorrier than yet another email making the rounds that is raging against something that didn’t happen (in this case, wasn’t said), is the raging itself as an acceptable if not laudable trait.  The use of rhetoric not even becoming of a 17 year old  is elevated, embraced, celebrated…forwarded (how many parents do you know who would allow their child to talk this way?…well, let’s say how many whose kids aren’t now in foster care…?).

Had Senator Simpson actually said those things, this writer’s point would have been much more powerfully made by allowing the facts to speak for themselves, presented in a more respectful fashion (I have paid my dues and am not greedy to want what I’ve earned; here’s some examples of Congress appearing “greedy” that belie your point).

Nelson Mandela biographer John Carlin, found that this man, one of the greatest world leaders our generation has known in part by being able to impress even his arch enemies, became great because “he learned that succumbing to vengeful passions brought fleeting joys at the cost of lasting benefits” and that “…respect (is a weapon) of political persuasion as powerful as any gun.”

We need not first be Mandela’s – imprisoned and tortured yet able to bring an end to his country’s egregious practice of apartheid through his own forgiveness and generosity; or Ghandi’s – able to bring an end to British imperial occupation of his country through peaceful and passive (fasting/hunger strike) protest – in order to voice our discontent.

But we can at least refuse to admire words…and emails…like this one.