I am distressed as I watch events in the United States unfold; as much as it pains me to say it, it seems like the “united” in United States is in serious jeopardy.
I’d like to test the pulse of PRB readers, get a reality check to see if I am imagining things.
Let me see if I can summarize what I am seeing.
I see people protesting in several large, and some smaller, U.S. cities. Some of them are legally assembling; some are defying authority and gathering without permits or beyond their permitted time.
In some cases the protests turn violent. Protestors throwing bottles and rocks, police shooting tear gas, shooting bean bags at people.
The protestors call themselves “occupiers.” They’re calling these “occupy” protests, i.e., “Occupy Wall Street” and “Occupy Atlanta.”
The word “occupy” in this sense carries a militant connotation, in my humble opinion. Generally, armies occupy enemy territory. These are Americans on U.S. soil; or, at least I assume they’re all Americans.
I don’t really know who these people are or where they come from, not all of them. The ones I’ve seen interviewed on TV seem to be Americans concerned with the direction of the country.
But for every one interviewed, there are 10 who aren’t, and I don’t know who they are or if their objectives are in the best interests of a United States.
Mayors now have to make decisions about whether to protect protestors’ rights to assemble or protect other citizens’ rights to their peace and quiet. The threat to public health is real as trash and other remnants of human presence collects in the streets.
I don’t really know what protestors want, either. They say they’re protesting the “fat cats” of Wall Street, the rich and powerful. I condemn some of those fat cats who obtained their money through fraud and deceit. But ironically, the honest fat cats are some of the very people who could put America back to work.
I talked to a lady recently who began to weep as she talked about watching these protests. She said it made her fear for her children’s future. My soul was weeping with her because I know what she means.
It seems to me that the protests are indicative of a wider frustration among Americans about things other than just Wall Street.
There are overt frustrations: a bogged-down economy, high unemployment and a dismal job market, a political stalemate between the “left” and the “right,” with the American people caught in the center.
There are other more nagging indicators that are hard to put a finger on, making it difficult to ferret out the facts.
I am certainly no authority on this, but I ran across an article by noted author and historian David Kaiser. He suggests that something of historic proportions is occurring.
He lays out the several big-picture issues that underlie the American condition: the banking debacle, the decades-long de-industrializing of our economy, the “dumbing down” of our schools, the mortgage industry collapse, the assaults on American principles from within and without, the actions taken by all branches of government that are in conflict with the basic precepts of our Constitution, and other items too lengthy for this column (Google him to find out more).
The point here is that all these things he talks about on the macro-level eventually roll downhill to the micro-level: that’s us grassroots Americans. And we all know “what rolls
downhill.” And it seems like the hill is getting steeper, because “what we know rolls downhill” seems to be coming at us more often and faster.
Why does this affect PRB readers? Because you represent a slice of America.
You are professionals in an important field that provides important services to Americans. You are like other slices of America; like Joe the Plumber, you represent a part of what makes America the great country it has become.
E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One.
All slices of America stand to lose if we allow the United States to become un-united. The adage “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” isn’t just drivel some philosopher dreamt up while eating mushrooms. It is what has kept this the land of the free and home of the brave for 235 years.
So on this Friday, November 4, what are your thoughts on your American condition?
Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is a regular contributor to PRB and lives in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (678) 350-8642 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.