Wednesday, October 12, 2011

800 Words: The Useful Idiots of Occupy Wall Street

These scenes of Occupy Wall Street should be reminiscent of Birmingham, of Prague, of Tahrir Square. This should be a movement that takes back America from the jaws of people who’ve hurt it most. Instead, we’re seeing a protest movement commandeered by all the Trustafundians who are least affected by the current depression. As it has for generations, radical chic will stop at nothing to set back liberal causes. At the backbone of Occupy Wall Street is precisely the same worldview that let Richard Nixon be elected by refusing to vote for Hubert Humphrey, let Nixon get re-elected by supporting George McGovern over Edmund Muskie, let Ronald Reagan defeat Jimmy Carter by supporting John Anderson, and let George W. Bush get elected by supporting Ralph Nader over Al Gore (of whom, I’m still ashamed to admit, I was one). Over and over again, people who allowed America to become what it is today had the chance to change America's destiny by simple compromise. Over and over again, they chose to do further sabotage to the country rather than choose a feasible solution. They have every right to believe that the country is in a state of disaster; they’re probably right. But anyone not willing to make the compromises it takes to keep America from disaster has no one to blame but him or herself.

There are all sorts of reasons for a mindset that would sooner allow a disaster than a compromise. But at its heart lies a paralyzing fear of responsibility. With decisions come consequences, with consequences come accountability. With this mindset comes the poisonous idea that there is nothing more attractive than a lost cause or the unceasing devotion to an ideal that can never be attained. When political actors renounce responsibility, all that is left is a list of frustrations with a world they both don’t like and don’t want to change. Stalin had a term for these people: Useful Idiots.

This is a movement powered by all the same people who holler betrayal at Barack Obama for making the compromises necessary to enact any reform at all. It is only now that Barack Obama’s second term is in doubt and his power to enact any agenda limited that they’ve chosen to mobilize as a force. These are the descendants of people who deserted the greatest liberal leaders in American history at the times when they were most needed. They deserted FDR for Henry Wallace, they deserted Abraham Lincoln for Horace Greeley and they deserted George Washington for Thomas Jefferson. And all three of the greatest American presidents were sent to premature graves....

About a week ago, my friend HaZmora sent me a copy of the original program from the March on Washington in 1963. The difference between the two in agendas, procedure and organization is mind-boggling. Just to take one example, here is what the March on Washington Program says about “Why We March?”:
We march to redress old grievances and to help resolve an American Crisis.

That crisis is born of the twin evils of racism and economic deprivation. They rob all people, Negro and white, of dignity, self respect and freedom. They impose a special burden on the Negro, who is denied the right to vote, economically exploited, refused access to public accomadations, subjected to inferior education, and relegated to substandard ghetto housing.

Discrimination in education and apprenticeship training renders Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and other minorities helpless in our mechanized, industrial society. Lacking specialized training, they are the first victims of automation. Thus the rate of Negro unemployment is nearly three times that of whites.

Their livelihoods destroyed, the Negro unemployed are thrown into the streets, driven to despair, to hatred, to crime, to violence. All America is robbed of their potential contribution.

It is a clear statement of purpose, beautifully articulated as so many SLC documents were. It served to rally people together who desperately needed hope, to draw outside attention to their plight, and to welcome all people into it.

On the Occupy Wall Street website, there is not a single mention of the ‘Why’ behind this march. The closest to it is in the section ‘Who We Are.’ And when you click on it, you discover that thus far, this entire section adds up to two youtube videos and a bunch of comments. The title of one youtube video is: The Demand is a Process. (!!!!)

This is nothing about this video except that this is tenth-hand dormroom bull session philosophizing, and everyone who watches it will know that. Currently, Occupy Wall Street is the mouthpiece which speaks louder for liberalism than any other group in America. This is at a time when Herman Cain leads the Republican polls. Even if Herman Cain goes down in the polls (as he no doubt will), he has laid the groundwork for a Tea Party candidacy which unites anti-tax nuts with anti-Mormon Evangelical bigots. Whether Cain or someone else, a third-party candidate could arise that could take the conservative vote while Mitt Romney gets the moderate and Barack Obama the liberal. And as Yeats would say, "the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passion and intensity." In an election in which moderates will be especially key to prevent Republicans from controlling all three branhes of government, no group could alienate moderates from voting Democrat more quickly if they tried.

Occupy Wall Street should be the great cause of our time - a crusade against bankers whose lack of accountability has bled our country dry. It should be an abundant coalition of poor and rich, black and white, Christian and Muslim, liberal and conservative. If some of those people were not innately predisposed to join, then they should be convinced. The movement should not be occupying Wall Street, the movement should be Occupy Main Street. The movement should occupy the places hardest hit by banker’s greed for the people who most desperately need attention paid. This movement should not be exposing Wall Street’s lavishness, everybody knows about it. They should be exposing the ruin which Wall Street’s greed has wrought. The protests should not be happening on Wall St or Freedom Plaza, they should be happening in Elkton, Indiana or Spanish Harlem.

….But that would involve real commitment.

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