The International Writers Magazine:Reality Check + Readers Letters
Pissed Populist Resistance Shifts Left
Some is rich, some is poor
That's the way the world is
But I don't like lying back
Sayin' how bad your luck is
So we came to jazz it up
We never loved a shovel
Break your back to earn your pay
Ah' don't forget to grovel
- Joe Strummer
There's a place in the heart of the world of commerce called Liberty Square; lower Manhattan, NYC, deep in the money district -- the trade market, slipknot wink-wink wheel-greasing machinery. It's not far from where a few weeks ago they laid their wreaths and said their prayers for what went down on 9/11/01, when after a decade people were still not quite sure how the hell that could have happened to the richest nation on planet earth in its biggest city.
For 20 days now this tiny patch of land in the bowels of the concrete jungle has acted as an epicenter for the latest in street-theater populist outrage aimed at a fixed system that, let's face it, has been a pretty fair whipping post for this space lo these past 14 years. Weird how the slipped veil will occasionally reveal the fragility of subsistence.
A fair number of people have jammed the cross streets and bridges, waving signs, wearing costumes, strumming tuneless guitars and brandishing cheap bullhorns while they block traffic and are summarily hauled off to prison. Some are there for the spectacle, others for the sense of purpose, others to perpetuate the illusion of filibuster, a slice of the rhetoric from the bottom up. Others are making the same point, maybe, from a different political slant, but nonetheless a very similar dissent to that of the TEA Party enthusiasts of two years ago.
There is a lot of fairly damaging shit that goes down without much democratic voice.
To the byways pour the jobless, disenfranchised, and the youth, who are told there is no future, and the aging, who hear that what they banked on is going bye-bye and it ain't comin' back. Voting appears to be an annual joke and unless you can afford a lobbyist, there is a corned animal vibe going down now; here, there and everywhere.
The left-leaning 99 Percenters, the Occupy Wall St. movement, which began noisily enough in late September, has now reached into the thousands over three weeks and has spread to cities across the fruited plain. It's a splintered kind of mashed-up message of middle class civil disobedience, worker's rights, and fed-up disillusioned patriots protesting against the wealthy, influential and apparently under-taxed one percent that we're reminded of in Washington daily; by the president, the congress, and echoed through the news cycle cable soap boxers. It is old-fashioned Have vs. Have-nots, the class warfare crowd, demanding a share and exercising a voice -- real Woody Guthrie meets Emma Goldman angst.
Apparently no one is safe these days.
The Right is being pounded daily from the TEA Party that the broken government needs to stand down and out. "Taxed Enough Already" was grassroots at its finest, and although it at first appeared naïve and then patently mean spirited, it had a signature resonance. Of course, this has become a bit of a problem for those who call government a career, whether they've achieve their position from deriding it or not. Whatever the Grand Old Party throws its red meat subculture, it comes back chewed up and spat out. Ask its current presidential "frontrunner", who, by the way, keeps besting all the TEA Party comers on by one.
Now the Left, feeling rejected and hoodwinked by its centrist, Wall St. bailing president and a congress that passed the buck for two years into the gnarled teeth of a freshman class of neo-conservatives hell-bent on hacking chunks of big government at its roots, has hurled itself into the scene with a fervor not seen since the last president decided to war it up.
But unlike the anti-war movement, the Democratic Party survivors don't know what to do with these people; placate, lecture or exploit. The present administration would love for their chants to echo into the hinterland and rile up a fractured base to rekindle any sort of independent fervor against what is sure to be a dozen more months of putrid economic news. Yes, the faceless hordes of shysters you handed over your retirement funds to so they could gamble like drunken roulette addicts are the bad guys. Good, yes, please.
But that is a dream or a delusion not worth dissecting here. We're talking about protests now, protests against this president and this congress and the elite of this nation; the oil barons and corporate masters, the huge conglomerates, who poison and pollute and rack up massive profit margins to give out big bonuses to the yacht boys at Christmas, and then have the audacity to not ease the burden of our nine percent of employed. Protesting, I guess, against the cold, hard facts: "Too fucking bad, pal. Tell it to the judge!"
My favorite sign is "Lost My Job, Found An Occupation".
Good stuff. Very clever.
Of course, as I kindly shared with the TEA Party gathering on Tax Day, 2010 in Hackensack, NJ: What are you going to do once the fist is unclenched, the cameras go away and you have miles of The System staring you in the face? Well, the TEA Party did something all right; they became part of The System. They got themselves exploited and piggybacked, which has been both a blessing and a curse. Someone legitimized and then politicized them. The power suits they sent to the Virginia swamp started yakking it up about deficits and federal debt and revisiting the legitimacy of entitlements and opened up a slimy can of worms they can't seem to reseal.
How come we had money to bail out the big banks? The auto industry? Wall St. fat cats? How come we ran two wars over eight years off the books? How come Homeland Security was needed when we have a CIA, FBI, National Guard and supposedly the most powerful military on the planet? What the hell is that pork-addled limp-dick stimulus package doing for us now? Why all this foreign aid? Why all this tax money going to belly-up green franchises? And, while we're at it; where are the hovercrafts we were promised? Yeah, and where are the cool laser guns?
Nobody said indignation had to be coherent, but at least in America there isn't major rioting and looting and the burning of neighborhoods.
Well, probably not in NYC. That's an L.A. thing. Too many interesting distractions that you can get to on foot in the Big Town to waste time running amok. But, shit, that shouldn't mean when this thing becomes a maudlin exercise for the righteous, all that is left us might be the reckless.
But for now, fight the good fight, people. At the very least, you're keeping the riot control units of the NYC police department busy and there will be a host of jobs for those paid to clean up afterward.
It's like we used to say around here...
© James Campion October 7th 2011
READERS RESPONSES October 14th 2011
"Two party system. Yeah!" After all these years, I finally get what you've been going on and on about, Mr. Campion (GOP VACUUM -- Issue: 10/5/11) The choices are always the same. The ideas are always the same. The people are basically the same. We are stuck on a political merry-go-round and in a very real way it is fixed! The two party system must be eradicated, especially now that there are more independent voters, and an increasing number of non-party affiliated ideas/voters out there with cross-interests and now with these TEA Party and Wall St. movements, so many that are mainly fed up with the status quo, and not the Obama/Democrat status quo, or even the Bush/Republican status quo that bore it, but these refurbished, repackaged clones of the ones before who made us run in the opposite direction with this false hope that anything would change, just to finally and sadly realize it was the same failed junk over and over and over again.
What is Mitt Romney going to give us that the first two Bushes didn't? Let's face it, he's basically Barack Obama without the personality. And why oh why did we believe Obama would be any different than anyone who came before in a Democrat suit. It makes the entire concept of voting seem silly. And that may be the saddest comment of all.
So, I can feel every dripping, disgusted bit of your sarcasm from here.
And now I reluctantly agree with its sobering premise.
Two party system, NO!
What a choice: A lackluster, hopeless and unchanged centrist incumbent, or a carpetbagger wanna-be Republican, who is blander than a beige summer suit. Sigh. Prediction: Four more years of boredom and legislative cockblocking no matter who wins.
These Republican candidates appear to be very, very bad. I was going to vote for anyone but Obama, but unless someone else comes along, I will either not vote at all, or gulp! Go back to the demon we know.
At least Chris would fit in the "OVAL office"....maybe...BUT I think those state dinners would be high risk for him and he'd probably end up in the ER.
If the GOP has any intention of winning, they need to get someone who is not already in the race and I am not talking about abrasive Chris Christie who is presiding over a state that has much internal turmoil some of which was foisted upon the state by the GOP going back to 1990s. The current candidates are placeholders; just someone to run. They all appear to have substantial flaws which will come back to haunt them except perhaps Jon Huntsman.
That isn't to say that Obama will have an enthusiastic posse of supporters. It is just that he is the BETTER CHOICE thus far. In my opinion the only person in the GOP race at this time who may, I say may, be able to garner independent support is Huntsman, but he won't be supported by the GOP base.
Hey, what a shock! The Republicans, who were decimated in 2008, and then became the outsider, pissed off types in 2009, and the bitches of the TEA Party goofballs in 2010, are now stuck with forty candidates who are as schizophrenics a bunch as the party platform. What the hell is this platform; "Obama stinks, try us...again?" That was Kerry's platform in 2004 -- and as I remember you wrote then that you couldn't merely be against something, you have to have some skin in the damn game. This may be the sole reason they keep digging up this Reagan Myth you write about. I think if Reagan actually ran now jokers like Herman Cain would bury him!
Bring back Trump!
McCain had the interest of independents for a while because he, at one time, was willing to go out on a limb for campaign finance reform and buck the system, so to speak, when he thought he was right. Mittens is not one to buck the system. He'd rather flip flop like a fish out of water than stand up to the money men. He's a corporate guy, stay the course, keep the rich rich and the rest under the thumb of the rich. Even the right wing extremists know that, which is why he wont muster up any enthusiasm from them or get the nod from the good old boys south and west, nor will any independents cast their vote with him. It seems, thankfully, that by playing too many games, the GOP has outsmarted themselves, and I couldn't be more delighted.
Hey, in 2007, everyone said it would be a mistake to run any long shot against the Republican candidate, because the Republican brand was so damaged by George W. Bush that if a safe, boring Democrat ran a known name like say Hillary Clinton (even with her polarizing husband) they would win handily. They didn't, but the long shot won! Now, the Republican "Money Guys" as you so blithely and sarcastically put it are doing just that. In terms of contradiction, I think we have one here. Is this the best way to merely get Obama out, to swing someone up there that wouldn't be dumb like Perry or incendiary like Bachmann or wild like Cain? This may be the best strategy, if you think, as a preponderance of the American voter polled does, that the country is going in the wrong direction. However, recent history points in the opposite direction.
Not to say that Romney represents a "right" direction (and by right I mean correct and not the political ideological right), but it is another direction. It's just that he lacks any charisma or message. Obama had one; change. Believe it or not, it was a message.
For instance, in 2004, I recall this column making the point that John Kerry, while not being anything formidable or even stomachable as a candidate for president of the United States, makes for change at the top that was needed; change for change sake. At the time, Iraq was going badly and the economy was beginning to show signs of slowing, there was this sense of negatism creeping in about all the civil rights the Bush administration had taken from the people under the guise of national security. The rest of the world, in which we were and are still tied to economically, was beginning to see us as this mishandled giant with a rather arrogant foreign policy with torture and mayhem taking the day. Kerry, you said, was no political superman, but he was not Bush, and maybe that was good enough.
It wasn't good enough, was it?
I see Romney as being John Kerry. He is not Obama, and that is going to have to be good enough?
Democracy at it's finest -- good enough!
Again, this past week Chris Christie vehemently denied even flirting with the idea of running to a rather incensed crowd at the Reagan Library