Yesterday when I was at OccupyWallStreet in Zuccotti Park, I was interviewed by a student from Columbia University who appeared to be conducting a real survey of the occupiers. The last question she asked me was something like, “did you see this coming?”. And suddenly, I remembered. I wrote a post about it almost a year ago. Here it is in its entirety:
Are you better off now than you were 40 years ago?
I’m a child of the 60’s and 70’s. Back when I was a kid, most mothers didn’t work. Almost everyone we knew lived on one salary. My dad was career military and although the work was steady back then, we weren’t exactly rich. We moved frequently but always lived in nice lower middle class neighborhoods in townhouses and 3 bedroom ranches. My family benefitted from socialized medicine. Navy doctors saved my asthmatic sister’s life on more than one occasion. In the summer, we went to day camp on the Navy base or to the all day activities at Bandini Street school in San Pedro. You didn’t need to sign up or pay anything. You just walked over to the school and dropped in without your parents and learned arts and crafts or competed in Chinese handball tournaments.
Meanwhile, the war waged all around us. We watched Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news tally up the dead in Vietnam and the dead in the streets of America after the riots. But in our day to day existence, we were oblivious. My classes were integrated and I never experienced the gender biased education of kids even a few years older than me.
By the time I reached middle school, the summer of love was long over. The protest era had ended at Altamont Speedway but I barely knew who the Rolling Stones were. I went to an experimental middle school in upstate New York, taught by those very same hippies who spent the summer in Woodstock. They had traded in their long hair and bell bottom jeans for respectable attire and groomed hair but the spirit lingered on. They taught us the old protest songs in assembly. But for my generation, that was all ancient history. We missed out.
My first protest was something entirely different. It was on the steps of the Capital in Harrisburg, PA, when the legislature had was about to yank money from the state related university I was attending. Reagan shortly followed, the cold war amped up to crazy heights and anyone who accepted anything from government was considered a parasite. For kids like me on financial aid, life became very interesting. Changes to income taxes meant I missed out on a lot of deductions my parents took for granted while I was saddled with a social security payroll tax hike that was guaranteed to keep the system running right through my retirement.
In short, I have never been able to break out of the class I was born into despite my college education and nice salary. My salary buys me the same lifestyle my parents had. On one salary in NJ, I have a nice townhouse in a middle class suburb and I pay for everything. I don’t qualify for any governmental program. My kid will never get a Pell grant and it doesn’t matter if I can’t pay her tuition myself. I can’t save too much for her college education or my retirement. I just pay and pay and pay. Taxes, mortgages, my 401k and fees that are growing over time on everything. The greedy have taken over and have decided to extract every last disposable dollar I have and there are no restraints on the unscrupulous or the criminal.
In the past 40 years, the country has been voting Republican and conservatively. It has been one long pull to the right, at first starting slowly and now picking up steam. The Democrats have been yielding ground as well. The center is now where moderate Republicans used to be and the left is completely ostracized.
It should be obvious to people that they aren’t getting what they want by voting Republican but they keep doing it. They do it because they are terrified and they do it because there was a generation before the baby boomers that also missed out on the cultural revolution of the 60’s. There were the women who were slut shamed into believing their bodies were their enemies. They were shut out of higher education and the workplace. There are men who expected to be at the top of the pyramid and have had to steadily yield ground to the women and minorities of my generation who took advantage of the gains the babyboomers made for us. The older generation indulges in its nostalgia for a simpler age and vote conservative because Republicans have their number.
But it’s pulling us all towards destruction.
It’s time we re-energized that protest age of the 60’s and this time let the ones who missed out carry that spirit forward. That means the women and men of my age and younger and the women and men of my mother’s age and older. Now is the time to hit the reset button. You might have missed it the first time around. But you can shake up the country now by sweeping out the powers that be that have a lock on our government now.
My voting strategy this year is to vote out every incumbent I can.
1.) I am not voting for any Republican. I know nice Republicans. Nice Republicans are friends of mine. Unfortunately, none of them are running for office this year. Republicans are determined to overturn the New Deal and cut social security for myself and my mother. Oh yeah, they would do it. They have no conscience.
Those of you who are planning to vote Republican because you are so angry should know what you’re getting yourselves and the rest of us into. You are obligated to not throw us in front of a speeding train. The Republican party is now composed of predators. They’ve picked off the poor, the sick and the old. Now, they are moving in for the kill. Don’t let them do it. You know what their plan is. They offer nothing but more of the same but much, much harsher. You know it will bring hardship and misery to millions of Americans and you know that Democrats are cowardly. Don’t give the Democrats an excuse to punt and sell us all out. Get tough.
2.) I am not voting for any incumbent Democrat. Fortunately, there is one Democrat running in my district who is not an incumbent who shares my values. That would be Ed Potasnak. He gets my vote. However, if any of your Democratic candidates were endorsed by Bill Clinton, I’d vote for him/her. They’re going to owe him someday if they win.
3.) I’m going to seek out an vote for every left wing alternative party candidate I can. We need new blood in Congress. I may not share all of their goals but without substantial pull from the left, the government will continue its radical slide to the right.
My goal is to vote out as many Republicans as I can and replace them with people on the left. My fear is that Obama and the Democrats are hoping the Republicans will take over at least one house of Congress so the Democrats get political cover for imposing an austerity plan on us that they don’t have the courage to fight. And with David Broder banging the gong for another war in Iran, I’m concerned that they will give in to another bloody mess to distract us and ruin the lives of countless more innocent people.
So be it. Now’s the time to restart the cultural revolution. No matter what happens tomorrow, things will never be the same. But going back is not an option. If we want to have it as good as we did 40 years ago, we have to move forward in a radical new way.
Now’s the time all of you who didn’t participate the first time to wash out the old and bring in the new.
Throw the bastards out.