Our hard times polarize us, but I am the 50%.
Pat and I deplaned this afternoon at Sea-Tac airport, caught the rail to downtown Seattle. We ascended the stairs from Westlake Station up to street level, and walked, as chance would have it, into Occupy Seattle. Imagine that. I saw a crowd of people there and heard some speeches.
America used to be a young democratic republic, starting 235 years ago when those upstart colonials convened in Philadelphia and cut the tether that George III had used to keep us bound in unrepresented taxation.
But now we are aging, becoming every day more and more like our European forebears, taking upon ourselves those classic ideological divisions of left and right. With hard times upon us, its not really about democrats and republicans any more. Its about socialists and libertarians, and everything in between. Just let me say: I am the 50%(ile).
Being a baby boomer, happenstancing today upon the Occupy crowd at Seattle, I caught a whiff of, and recognized, the old 60s counterculture zeitgeist. I remember it from back in college days, but of course it is different now. The spirit of anti-war anti-establishment discontent is the same, but the issues are different; the costumes are different. Whereas we were flower children back in the day, all about peace and love, these days the mood is edgy and punky, and definitely socialist. A little more threatening, or maybe thats because I’m older, and more comfortable, and Christian.
The first speaker was actually a rather pleasant surprise. A young fellow named Michael started out his message speaking of Moses and delivering his people from slavery in Egypt. I can relate. I do not want want to diminish the passionately eloquent appeal about very real economic issues that he made to the hundreds of mostly young occupiers gathered there. He was encouraging the people to get involved with the movement.
But what this old guy (me) appreciated at the end of Michael’s speech was his exhortation to keep it peaceful. I appreciated that, although Michael said much more about what’s happening now than just work in the system and be non-violent.
Not all the speakers were as peacefully oriented.
I am, btw, a person whose worldview is defined by the original non-violent resister, Jesus. Athough Y’shu haMeshciach was much more than that, since he was also the redeemer of all mankind, or the redeemer of, all those mankind who are inclined to receive his redemptive, resurrected grace.
Anyway, once the Occupy rally got cranked up, and they got the microphone going, I’m just old-fashioned enough to appreciate speakers who can be heard and have something to say, which is better than the un-amplified call and response drill that I had earlier seen on the news of Occupy Wherever a few days ago.
Bottom line about the speakers: We are definitely dealing with a brave new paradigm here, of socialism vs. conservatism in America. And so I say it again: I am the (of) the 50th percentile. I’ll walk the middle road as long as I can, even though after every speaker a young very attractive Latina got on the mic, and she would lead, exuberatly, the crowd, in chants about the gathered ones being the “99%.
In spite of the anti-establishment mood, one young man encouraged the gathered protesters to work toward passage of a new Glass-Steagall Act in Congress. I was impressed with the constructivity of that. I think the basic message there is let the bankers and the wall street crowd eat their own losses, instead of hitting up the taxpayers for the bill, based on the “too big to fail” bluster. Yeah, right. I never did appreciate that midnight deal that Hank Paulsen talked the Congress into bailing out the banks back in ’08. I would think even some Tea Partiers out there would find common ground on that.
In a way, I guess that’s what got this whole thing going, that bank bailout in ’08. Its what the Republicans call crony capitalism, as opposed to true capitalism, which is what mom and pop used to do on main street, not wall street, back in the day, before Disney co-opted Main Street as a theme park in Orlando and Anaheim.
Next, and olf guy, Joe, older than me, went up to the mic and spoke of his dad and mom raising him in the socialist movement in New York City back in the 30s. This fellow had later gone on to a career in the movies. He worked with Ronald Reagan in the movies, in the movie Hellcats of the Navy. He spoke glowingly of Reagan , and how friendly and charismatic Reagan was (surprise! at Occupy Seattle) but said that Reagan had changed and gone over to the other side, to follow “the money” instead of his heart.
Joe also spoke about F.D. Roosevelt–who has taken on a kind of sainthood in this retro-new-deal environment in which we are now finding ourselves. According to Joe, Franklin sent his wife Eleanor out to scope out the country, shortly after he was elected. She went all over the country and talked to a lot of folks, came back and, according to Joe, reported to her husband FDR that the communists would be taking on a bunch of support among workers during those hard times if something wasn’t done to relieve the desperation and unemployment and poverty that was so rampant during that time, the “Great” Depression. And that’s where the New Deal came from.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it. Our present President is in the same predicament, and that’s why this whole Occupy thing is going down now.
And I’m thinking of John Lennon, the working class hero who’s dead, but really it reminds me of Ringo, in his post-Beatle role. He did a commercial in which he told some young lady “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”
This is not your father’s politics either. This is something new and different. America, get ready. The times they are a polarizin’. And I’m just praying there’s no Kent State thing that’s gonna happen.
These Occupiers may the 99%, and the Republicans may be the 1%.
As for me and my house, we are the 50%ile, and proud of it. As we southerners used to say: Well, shut my mouth.
CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress