I was watching the NBC news yesterday evening. They were showing video of the police removing people who were participating in “Occupy Oakland.” The visions on the screen took me right back to my experience as a young adult.
In the late 60s and early 70s the anti-war moment was at its height. Our country had never seen such a movement that so polarized us, moved us, incited us, but mostly forced us to thing. It is my belief that it was that movement which made President Johnson decide not to run again for president, regardless of whatever else has been said about his decision. Why? Simple, I think he recognized he was in a no-win position. He realized in 1968 that the Vietnam War was unwinnable but that exiting from it, at that time, was simply not in the cards regardless of what was going on in the country. I also think he was just worn out.
Anyway, what I saw last night were the police firing tear gas into the crowds. They marched relentlessly towards the “Occupy Oakland” people until they won. Now if you dial back to 1969 or 1970 or 1971, you can see that exact same scene being acted out over and over again in many cities around the United States. The anti-war people then, and the “Occupy Oakland” people now were heard to say that excessive police force was used. As we look at either picture we find the truth in that statement.
What I see now that those in power in the 60s and 70s missed, and that I believe those in power are missing today, is that these people have the courage to express in public what many of us think or feel in private but for one reason or another do not express. As the 1960s turned into the 1970s the support for continuing the war in Vietnam lessened until finally everyone wanted out. That is the same thing that is happening today although the solution is far more difficult.
When you are a nation involved in an unpopular and unsustainable war, you find a way to exit that war as quickly as possible and at the least cost. That’s exactly what we did in Vietnam, and now in Iraq. Unfortunately, to solution to the economic ills of this nation are not nearly so obvious regardless of what anyone in either major political party. It is not something as easy as raising taxes, throwing money at the populace, or contending you know how to create jobs. This is a problem that is extremely deeply rooted and is going to be very painful to extract our country from.
The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is just the beginning and is not likely to go away anytime soon. The coming winter may well curtail some of the “Occupy” scenes but rest assured, once spring comes the people will return to their “Occupy” posts and in greater numbers. I believe that now, as back in the Vietnam War era, those in power are feeling very cocky and think that these protestors will go away in time. They believe that time, power, and money is on their side and because of that they will win out. Nothing could be further from the truth as we found out during the Vietnam era.
Once a large enough portion of the population becomes angry it must be respected and a reasonable response must be provided. I have heard the contention that no one knows what the platform and demands of the “Occupy” people is. The only way you could honestly make such a statement is if you had been on a trip to another star and had not been given access to current events. Their message could not be more clear. They are tired of the excesses of the rich and powerful. They are tired of an unresponsive government to these obvious excesses of power and influence. And the believe, rightfully, that their government has been co-opted by those very same rich and powerful people.
There has never been a time in the history of America that when a large enough group of people got angry about something that they did not win. And only once, when one of these movements was victorious, were the results of their victory reversed, that being prohibition. Nonetheless, history teaches us that this is must be attended to. This issue is not going away anytime soon particularly in the absence of a positive response. And while it is impossible to predict how this will all end, it will get more and more painful as the crowds doing the protesting become larger, which they will.