I'm not scared of the Wall Street thing, really, but at this point, I admit, I am given to roll my eyes. On the other hand, when Sen. Erik Cantor pontificates about the protesters, I go to Mapquest to check the mileage between here and NYC. "I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and other cities across the country," the conservative Senator said recently. "And believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans."
Puhleeze. This from a Tea Party Champion? Mobs? Americans against Americans? Where does he get this stuff?
My crystal ball registers three possibilities for the movement no one has named except by the Wall Street the protesters appear to abhor, three possibilities for what might happen--but then my crystal ball has always been challenged.
1) It'll all just go away. Its focus is scattered, its purposes vague. Abstractly, the protesters hate corporations, but only some woebegone Thoreau could find a cabin in some desolate woods and thereby avoid them these days. Romney is wrong when he says corporations are people too, but he's also half right. Where would I be without this p.c.? Simply being against corporations makes zero sense. Until "the mobs," as Cantor calls them, get their shit together, they're just a clanging cymbal. Soon enough, they'll dissipate, like most hot air does. Besides, they'll never get the youth. They're too busy--the guys at least--with video games.
2) Those protesters are on to something, even if they don't know exactly what. I'm old enough to remember the Berkeley Free Speech thing, even to remember how weird and anti-America I thought that was. Of course, back then, I thought Nixon was God's very gift to America. What started out in Berkeley, in 1964, played harbinger to the myriad protests that swarmed onto American streets for the rest of that decade and profoundly changed the course of American life. Anyone who's kept up with the news knows, without a doubt, that the withering of the middle class is a plain fact and that, as the old line goes, for the last 20 years, if not more, the rich have plainly become richer as the rest of us haven't. How long can a society sustain itself when the gap between rich and poor grows Grand Canyon-ly? I'm glad someone's saying something because in this country as of late, freedom's just another word for me and my money.
Maybe something will come of it--that's option #2.
3) Something will come of it--and it's scary. Maybe Cantor's right. Maybe it is a mob. If it is, then those Wall Street money-changers may well get tossed from the temple--and it ain't going to be pretty. Watch some of those protesters get beat on sometime. That ain't pretty either. Last night on a news show, a conservative commentator said he thought the rabble ought to just shut up and get a job. There's a blast from the past. Some of us are old enough to remember war-hungry Republicans saying the very same thing a half-century ago.
Nobody knows where this will go. My instincts tell me #1 is still the best bet, but then I've been employed gainfully for all of my professional life. I've never had to collect unemployment, nor have I found myself one of sixty applicants for a job with slimmer benefits than the one I lost when the boss decided to downsize. I'm not mad. Yet.
But in May of 1970, after National Guard troops shot four anti-war protesters at Kent State University, I got in car--a Volkswagen--with two other students and went east, to DC, to be part of a protest.
Been there, done that.
Right now, I don't think it'll happen. All the agitation doesn't have sufficient grievance, even though what's happening in this country between rich and poor is turning very ugly these days all by itself. Right now, it's going to take more than just a few protesters. Right now, the numbers aren't there.
But that may change.
And if it changes radically, then this old conservative will really get scared.