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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Cindy A. Rose |


As Long as We Remember...

October 31, 2011

Protesters: Listen to Your Grandparents

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Oh, great. A bunch of disaffected 20-somethings, angry about the difficulty of finding a job in a tough economy and frustrated that wishing for a profitable career just hasn't made it so, gather in smelly clusters and hold up crude signs.


Supposedly reflecting the values of the 99% of Americans, who are not the uber-wealthy, many of these snotty brats, Goth-punks and wannabe hippies strum their guitars, set trashcan fires and preen and prance for the television cameras.


It started on Wall Street. An easy target for a protest, the evils of the financial services sector are largely responsible for our current weak economic state. Greedy bankers and stock speculators introduced a huge amount of risk into the American economy, and shareholders and retirement investment accounts have since paid a dear price.


Sadly, the Wall Street barons who triggered the stock speculation and collapse came out alright. You see, these guys are smart. They bet both ways. The ones who knew the truly empty value of their repackaged mortgage loans were smart enough to bet on the losses.


This speaks nothing of the political leaders who manipulated the lending and underwriting process in order to get unqualified homeowners into homes that they couldn't afford. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal home loan guarantors, were stretched to get lower middle class homeowners into big houses beyond their means by ignoring bad credit histories. Sort of a perfect mortgage-failure storm.


So now, with an economy in the tank, with the wealthiest 1% of Americans watching their accumulated wealth grow by over 270% while the rest of us struggle to make it all work, and with our federal political leadership more concerned about which political party gets the blame/credit, legions of the disconnected and disaffected are gathering in tent cities thrown up in our larger urban centers.


Organized labor and Democrat interest groups are falling over themselves to embrace the smelly occupiers; big city mayors and police chiefs are struggling to maintain order; and the news media is having a field day pitting one against the other.


The other night in Oakland, CA, the protests took on a dangerous, yet altogether familiar, theme. Protestors, refusing requests from police to disperse, tossed stones and chunks of concrete into the ranks of uniformed law enforcement personnel. In return, police shot tear gas canisters into the crowds.


Somewhere in all of this, a young Iraq/Afghanistan War veteran was struck in the head. Protestors claim it was a tear gas projectile, police haven't said what they think it was, and opportunistic politicians are calling for investigations.


Regardless, this young soldier, fresh from defending our interests abroad, now lies in a hospital bed in critical condition. Was this a case of wrong time/wrong place, or a young American, exercising his right to protest in the public square, a victim of overly enthusiastic order keeping?


It just doesn't matter.


What matters is that we stop blaming someone else, the proverbial boogeyman under the bed, for our lot in life. What matters is that we have the right to point our finger and shout when we see fundamental unfairness, and somebody ought to listen.


There are CEOs and bank board members who should be in jail. The manipulation of wealth was, in a number of cases, criminal and intentional.


The fact that justice still has not been done in these cases fuels some of the passion for the protests.


Similarly, there are Occupy Wall Street protestors who should be in an employment line, not a protest march. Someone once said that the American dream is reserved for workers, not dreamers.


In the background, Congress appears unable – and President Barack Obama seems incapable – of working in concert to address the underlying economic problems.


No amount of bitching, complaining or coveting the wealth of another acquired legitimately through hard work and risk will make the complainer wealthy. There is but one path to success.


A vulgar slogan will not make young protestors any less burdened by their student loan. Maybe political science or philosophy majors from the University of California at Berkley view it beneath their station in life to flip a burger or stock a shelf.


For most of these protestors, the best lesson in life can be found in personal histories of their families.


If a placard-waving, unemployed college graduate would put down the sign, call their Grandma or Grandpa on their iPhone, and ask them what they were doing when they were in their 20s, they might find the answer to the question on their sign.


Instead of blaming someone else or coveting the life status of another, their grandparents would have worked 2-3 jobs to provide for their needs and the needs of their families.


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