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  • December 6th, 2011

I Protest!


By Joel M. Vance

                Remember the Boston Tea Party?   No, not the one peopled by halfwits with tea bags hanging off their dirty implement dealer caps, but the one which helped spark the revolution that created the United States of America.

                That’s right—America was founded on civil disobedience and not-so-peaceful protest.  Much of the opposition to the policies of the lawful government of the time (think George III) was illegal and downright violent.  Contrast that with the various demonstrations and camp-ins going on across the country, eddying out from Wall Street to the hinterlands.

                And how is the lawful government reacting to this demonstration of democratic unrest?  With cops fracturing the skull of an Iraq vet with a beanbag projectile, by dragging a guy out of a wheelchair, by pepper-spraying protesters none of whom, as far as I know, have destroyed any property or been in any way violent.  The video of a cop spraying seated, totally unaggressive protesters at the University of California/Davis shocked the country.  Pepper spray is what you use to discourage a charging grizzly bear.

                This brutal act by the university police immediately sparked memories of Birmingham police using fire hoses on civil rights protesters in the 1960s.  And to prove that those days may be distant, but not forgotten by the hard core racists among us, a persistent letter writer in my local right wing newspaper said this about the Wall Street protesters: “These protesters remind me of what I observed in the sixties from long haired maggot infested hippy freaks, which protested with highly inflammatory signage, no regard for someone else’s property and violence.”

                Nothing inflammatory about that language.  

                To be honest, most lawmen have been tolerant and non-violent, but increasingly there are reports (and videos) of nasty behavior on the part of the cops.  No protester has shot a cop with a bean  bag.  No one has tear gassed or pepper sprayed the lawmen.  Contrast the overwhelmingly peaceful, non-violent gatherings here with any given protest rally in any of the Middle East countries where violence and lethal force are the norm.

Yes, it strains the patience of authorities when protests of any kind threaten to escalate into physical confrontation….but it appears that where muscle has been applied, it has been on the part of the authorities.  Cop irritation or perhaps the irritation of their superiors seems to be on the increase and it all brings to mind the non-violent protests of the 1960s that resulted in great advances in civil rights.  Might also mention the less peaceful protests against the Viet Nam war which also had great effect (especially after the law, in the form of National Guardsmen, killed several Kent State students, none of whom were armed (and none of whom were “maggot infested hippies.”

                The point here is that today’s protesters are not draft-dodging hippies with charred draft cards or uppity blacks and muddle-headed liberal white kids.  They are us—union members, soccer moms, environmentalists, out-of-work everybodies, senior citizens with eroded retirement funds.  Sure, there are some scruffy anti-social types who are looking for a fight, any fight.  But the vast majority are, like the oft-mentioned 99 percent of the population, ordinary people, angry about the course of the nation—economy, politics, distribution of wealth and maybe just generally frustrated that no matter whom they vote for and how much they try to be good citizens, things get crappier and crappier.

If they had less sense and more violence-prone anger they would be Tea Partiers packing heat to a rally and shouting mostly incoherent calls for force.  But largely the so-called Wall Street protesters are just trying to make their voices heard by a deaf Congress which is more concerned with coddling mega corporations than it is in helping hurting citizens.  I’m surprised today’s boughten Congress didn’t give Bernie Madoff a medal for exemplifying the deviousness that so many congresspeople practice. 

                Government as it is done today does not work.  There are three branches at the national level and they’re all broke.  Congress is a joke, ignoring polls which consistently show three fourths of the citizens (or more) wants them to leave Social Security and Medicare alone.  Approval rating?  About nine percent which possibly comprises the members themselves and their families.  The rest of us think they stink of corruption and incompetence.

                The President, who came into office with a mandate to make changes, has been tentative and only now is beginning to use the power of his office to help the hurting.  He’s about 2.5 years overdue.  Then there’s the Supreme Court with a consistent right wing 5-4 majority which decided, with a remarkably callous kowtowing to Big Business that BP is a person and therefore can give unlimited money to buy politicians.  Apparently a “person”, not a corporate giant, was responsible for that massive oil spill, and I suspect the Congresspeople bought with those unlimited funds will continue to coddle that poor, picked-on ‘person.’

                What about the real poor, picked-on person camped out at Wall Street or in Oakland or elsewhere?  He or she had better be able to dodge bean bag rounds and hold his or her breath until the tear gas and the pepper spray dissipates.

                As one who has largely been disappointed by a administrations dating from the 1940s, who is benefitting from both Social Security and Medicare, who has had to dip deeply into retirement funds to stay afloat, who has just about given up the idea of voting for anyone because of perennial and persistent and seemingly inevitable deep disappointment, you can count me among that 99 percent disaffected with government as it is currently practiced.

                I believe, deeply, in the concept of this nation.  I believe that occasionally we have fulfilled the promise of pure democracy, a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  But all too often our leaders have corrupted that idyllic concept to crass purpose and never moreso than right now.  When Abraham Lincoln spoke those immortal words at Gettysburg, the kicker phrase was “shall not perish from the earth.”

                Let’s pray that he was right and that we can survive the coldhearted idiocy of so many today and get back to the dream that we profess to and should love.

                If that makes me a Commie, left-wing, Socialist, tree-hugging envirofreak, hippie sucking on the public tit, so be it.  In the immortal words of Rhett Butler, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”


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