Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
October 25, 2011
I still remember someone yelling “Get a haircut!” at me back in 1970.
Really. Someone yelled that. And my hair wasn’t even that long.
But I was unmistakably a hippie back then, and “Get a haircut!” was what people shouted at hippies.
These days, of course, there aren’t any hippies left (which is really a shame), but people still have slogans to shout at “the great unwashed masses” (which is to say, anyone who doesn’t agree with them).
The slogan of the moment is “You stink!” And it’s directed at the Occupy Walls Street protesters in New York
Well, OK. No one is actually shouting that, but it’s what conservatives of all sorts are saying, every chance they get.
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Or, as everybody’s least favorite Republican hag, Mary Matalin, said, “Only in Obama country could maggot-infested people, as Rush would call them, squat and take over a whole park like that and call themselves a political movement. … Somebody at my house last night said ‘I could smell them through the TV.'”
I have to admit, the premise isn’t unreasonable. Those protesters (almost certainly not “maggot-infested,” no matter what the lard-infested Rush would say) have been hanging out in a New York park for weeks now, without the benefit of bathroom facilities. So claiming that they suffer from rampant body odor doesn’t seem like much of a stretch.
Except for the minor detail that it isn’t true.
Oh, I’m sure that there are plenty of people in that park who don’t smell particularly delightful. (Have you ever been in a crowd in New York? Have you ever been in a crowd anywhere?) But I checked with my sister, who lives in New York and has been down to visit the Occupy Wall Street (let’s just call it OWS from here on) protest several times.
She is an impeccably, actually somewhat annoyingly, clean woman, and her report was simple and direct.
“They don’t stink.”
I’m going to take her word for it.
But even if they did stink – as noted, not an unreasonable assumption – that wouldn’t mean that their message isn’t valid.
What’s that? You say they don’t have a message? Of course they do – and it’s perfectly clear to anyone who wants to listen, instead of shouting “Get a haircut! Get a job! You stink!”
Their message is a protest against economic injustice.
They are protesting the fact – and it is an actual fact – that the richest 1 percent of Americans are gobbling an ever-larger slice of the pie – and the other 99 percent are being left ever further behind.
They are protesting the fact – and, again, it is an actual fact – that social and economic mobility in this country is disappearing.
This used to be the country where you could pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but that disappeared right along with bootstraps, whatever they might be.
These days, as the gap between social and economic classes grows ever larger, the chances of moving up the ladder become ever slimmer.
In fact, a recent international study showed that the only major industrial democracy that was more class-bound than the United States was England – where they still have an actual monarchy and aristocrats who inherit their titles.
The tea party people like to declare “We want to take our country back!” And I always want to ask, “Take it back from whom?” I assume they mean they want to take it back from the majority that elected Barack Obama president – although we’ll never get them to come right out and say that.
But I think the OWS movement could adopt that same slogan and they would have a very clear answer to my question: We want to take our country back from the 1 percent who have corrupted our democracy, looted our treasury, pocketed billion-dollar bonuses, and demanded tax cuts … all so they would have even more money to pour into corrupting our democracy.
Not surprisingly, that 1 percent don’t much care for the message.
They and their representatives are remarkably eager to discredit (or, to use the specific and appropriate term, “slime”) anyone who dares to proclaim that message.
So they (and their representatives in the media – most of whom are almost certainly also in the top 1 percent when it comes to annual income, including the despicable Matalin and her pal, Rush) shout, “You stink!”
Or “Get a job!” Which is amusing, when you think about it, since part of what the protesters are protesting is the fact that it’s painfully difficult to get a job in this country. (And the Republican Party, almost entirely in thrall to the 1 percent, is refusing to do anything about it.)
But if you want some clear evidence that the sliming machine is turned up to full throttle, consider the recent spate of claims from the right that OWS is “anti-Semitic.”
They are basing those claims on a handful – a tiny handful – of anti-Semitic signs that were held up at Occupy Wall Street protests. And they immediately put out an ad with video of Nancy Pelosi and President Obama supporting OWS, intercut with shots of those signs. Message: The protesters are anti-Semitic and so are the Democrats. A nifty two-fer of shameless dishonesty.
Sure, there are a few anti-Semites who are either part of the protests or just hanging around the fringes of the protests.
No one can stop them. This is, after all, a free country.
But, again, I checked with my sister on this. She and her husband are relatively devout Jews (just as I am a totally non-devout Jew). She laughed at the thought.
They had, in fact, been down to the OWS encampment specifically for celebrations of recent Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
No problems. No anti-Semitism as the Jewish celebrations were held. As they were held, without problem, on Yom Kippur.
But the sliming continues full-throttle.
Or as it says on the shampoo bottle: (Work yourself into a) Lather. Rinse (your conscience clear of any shred of morality). Repeat.
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