Monday, October 10, 2011

Ninety-nine percent tea party.

Interesting times, these are.

Every morning, I pass through Westlake Park in Seattle's downtown shopping district, and each day for the past two weeks, I've woven my way through soaked, discarded signs and soggy people. After having been told to remove their tents last week or face arrest, folks lie about on the wet cobblestones, their bodies shivering under rain-puddled  tarpaulins as the sky slowly lightens.

The "Occupy Wall Street" movement, a grassroots rebellion against corporate greed and financial corruption, has spread to Seattle...with a vengeance. The people are mad. The people are disillusioned and frustrated. Oh, and based on some random whiffs of crisp morning air, some of the people are baked.

Now that the left has countered the conservative Tea Party's groundswell of followers, each side has provided the other with plenty of ammunition for critique.

The Tea Partiers claim that the Occupiers haven't a clue what they're even protesting, that they're merely an unruly mob of kids looking for something to do.

The OWS crowd asserts that the Tea Party comprises nothing more than a mass of ignorant lemmings, out to fulfill the wishes of the corporate elite through anti-government, anti-taxation rants.

Hurling accusations of socialism, fascism, communism and slackerism, the Tea Party beckons the "Ninety-nine Percent" movement to get haircuts, take showers, put down their hacky sacks and print out some résumés.

Lobbing racism- and homophobia-laden grenades, the Occupiers call upon the conservatives to emerge from behind their façade of patriotism and religion to lay bare their molten core of hypocrisy.

It's prayer circle versus drum circle, Marlboro Reds versus British Columbia Green.

And beneath it all, they share one glaring commonality...they're scared, and they're sick and tired of being helpless.

When I was a little kid during the late Sixties and early Seventies, the nightly news broadcasts were saturated with stories of the Vietnam War. Along with the footage of casualties and suffering in Southeast Asia were images of protests, mostly on America's college campuses.

Our citizens, heretofore accustomed to achieving consensus and fighting for a common cause, chose up sides and carved a jagged chasm right down the center of Main Street. The youth, fearing forced participation in a sketchy police action, faced off against an adult establishment who had already fought a "just war" twenty years earlier and feared the rapid spread of bolshevism.

And here we are again, forty years later. I'm not crazy— I've got no solution for halting America's vicious infighting; I just want to make a few points:

Barrack Obama is not Adolph Hitler. He is also not a Marxist, which would be the opposite of Hitler. He's not secretly Muslim and he's not the Anti-Christ.

Most corporations are not evil. A vast majority serve a legitimate function and many are quite beneficial to our society.

Government waste is indeed rampant. Even so, taxation is necessary to provide for our country's infrastructure and to curb widespread poverty.

Homosexuality is not a choice. Gay rights are not special rights; they are civil rights.

Even though we may disagree, we're all Americans and we want our country to prosper. Most of us, regardless of political ideology, love hash browns, the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team and Thanksgiving.

I'm sure there are at least five or six other things, too.

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