So, one of the great Baby Boomer / GenX divides is that Baby Boomers like “earnestness.” They like Gee-Wiz, Golly-olls, Holy Cow and I-Can-Sure-Go-For-That, Right-You-Are! Yes-person types. Xers are typified by our Hollywood-created avatar, Lloyd Dobler, the guy who—when asked what he wanted to do with his life by his girlfriend’s dad, replied—he didn’t want to buy anything, sell anything, or process anything, who didn’t want to buy anything sold or processed, sell anything bought or . . . . You remember. Xers are skeptical, questioners, independent-minded. They find things out for themselves, and—like most other disempowered groups—are known to resort to sarcasm in an attempt to make a point with people who have power and just are not listening.
So, my title has already turned off the people it is aimed at. That’s OK, I guess, they already turned off me, so I guess we’re even. I’m talking about the various mayors, university presidents, police chiefs, front line police officers and Governors (and, of course, the entourages of cringing lackeys, hangers on, aides-de-camp) who are involved in either abusing Occupy protesters—including journalists—and shredding the First Amendment or who are tacitly condoning it by not sending in state National Guard Members to protect them. Are you not taking a clue from DC, where the protesters have been camped out, undisturbed with little violence? Where their permit was extended through the Winter? Do we really need to escalate this to a National level and send the federal military in to protect these people?
I go on a little vacation and I come back to the audio feed of this interview with the Mayor of Oakland, California. She’s saying in this cracked and strained voice, “it is really hard to balance public safety and the First Amendment.” I think if there are reports of violence in the encampments, you follow up on them like any other complaint, and beyond that, it is easy. Just let them be. What is hard about that?
There is a lot of talk about permits expiring and setting up grills and such. This isn’t a holiday craft sale—it is a First Amendment political protest. There are political encampments in London that have stood for years, over the War in Iraq and Britain’s role in that conflict. You let them stay as long as they want. If it makes you uncomfortable, then so be it. Maybe think about why you are uncomfortable with their message, or their means, and why they are doing what they are doing and why they are doing it the way they are doing it.
The catalog of abuses is building. An 84-year old woman tear gassed, a young man with his face bloodied, a veteran with head injuries, a worried mother beaten on the ground, a retired judge serving as a human rights observer shoved when she tried to protect someone from violence, carried out by the police.
As far as I am concerned, Mayor Bloomberg can go now. So can that woman in Oakland and Chancellor Birgenau—save your stamp on the next few go rounds of alumni solicitations. So can several of the police chiefs and a bunch of their officers. If this is the kind of stuff you’re going to pull, you don’t belong in the job you have now. Most of these people can simply be fired. It is possible to resign a job like Mayor of New York. If the guy doesn’t resign, recall him.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the rise of the post-9/11 generation, the kids who were born after 2001 or shortly before who do not have any real memory of or experience with the pre-terrorism world. Police officers typically retire from beat work by their mid-forties or fifties at the latest. Walking a beat and being in the front line of things like clearing a crowd is a young guy’s job. At this point, ten years past 9/11, we have virtually no front line police who were on the job in the pre-9/11 world. When it wasn’t all security checks and, “let the nice man dressed in black spill your purse on the counter to see if you have a gun little eleven year old girl” and Homeland Security and all that. Do you remember, “The policeman is your friend?” Does anyone even try to teach kids that any more?
We have an entire generation of local law enforcement who think that beating the living crap out of unarmed demonstrators somehow protects America. America isn’t a spot on a map. It’s a concept of a democratic open society. If you don’t like that, feel free to leave. I hear Russia and North Korea are recruiting.
Look at the pictures of these demonstrators. Look at their hairstyles, the clothes their wearing, their demeanors. These are educated, enfranchised, white, middle class, middle years people. This is not about reactive teenagers, people on the fringe, some “special interest” group. This is the middle of the middle. They are doing this and sticking with it for a reason—because they believe in democracy, they believe in the Republic, they believe in personal freedom, in government as a referee and arbiter, not government as a big brother, baby sitter, or big threat. They are tired of corporate rip offs and raiding, they are tired of hearing that people who make a quarter million dollars a year are too hard up to pay taxes. They are tired of the government facilitating the corporate rip-offery through special legislation, exceptions, targeted tax programs and on and on.
And the demonstrators aren’t going away. They are really annoying aren’t they? They just keep sitting there, and they complain about the tax tables, and the lack of social equity, and you just don’t want to hear the complaints and the complainers, don’t you? If you listen long enough you start to get it and you really just don’t want that. You just really want them to go away, so you call your buddy who’s campaign you funded and say, “Get those people out of here so I don’t have to listen any more.” And your buddy is more than happy to use tax payer money to do just that. When you could have just let it sit. But that’s a pretty big sore spot, and everyone’s gonna see it if it’s sitting out in the open like that . . . .
I guess we all have our own way of protesting. Some people are out on the street, getting beat up, dragged away, arrested. I’m sitting here behind my keyboard. The downside is, when they come for me, there won’t be any cameras. Don’t worry Jackboots, I’ll go down swinging, so you’ll have an excuse to bash my skull in.
What a place it is we have built. What a place it is we are living in. Good bye democracy, we knew you well.