Monday, October 10, 2011

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Contributed by Katie Foley

In another nod to the fact that GOP candidates for president don’t “get it,” Herman Cain explained to Bob Schieffer of CBS’ Face the Nation that he stood by his earlier comments that the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the tens of thousands around the nation participating in solidarity protests are simply “jealous” of those whom they are protesting.  He described the protests as “un-American” and an example of “class warfare.”

On the same program, Mr. Newt Gingrich, another GOP presidential nomination “contender” voiced his opinion “that a ‘bad education system’ that taught ‘really dumb ideas’ was to blame for the protests.”

First I’ll address the idea that these protests are un-American.  The Founding Fathers, you know, those men about whom the Tea Party and others of their ilk tend to wax poetic, created this country from the smoldering ashes of revolution. Protesting the government, in their case the English government, is at the very heart of our nation’s founding. Therefore I fail to see how exercising rights important enough to have been in the First Amendment could be construed as un-American.

As for the idea that the protesters are laboring under the mistaken assumptions imparted upon them by their crappy public school educations, how do you explain all of the well-educated participants? My exposure to a “bad education system” got me a 28 on my ACT and two higher education degrees by the time I was 25. How do you explain my participation?  Or was it the silly ideas of  “personal liberty,” “work hard, be rewarded,” or “you too can have your American dream” I was taught that have left me cheering for the occupations taking place around the nation?

Perhaps, for some people, the claims of Misters Gingrich and Cain are correct.  Maybe some people are jealous of bankers’ “golden parachutes.”  It’s possible that drastically reducing public school funding has left many of those protesting with less-than-adequate educations. But more than likely the people protesting Wall Street, claiming to be the 99%, would not include “jealousy” among the emotions they feel. 

For example, I’m not jealous of Herman Cain’s net worth of $18 million USD, I’m just exhausted from working three jobs to pay for my peanut-butter-and-jelly diet. I’m not jealous of Herman Cain’s wife and two grown children, I just regret that working three jobs leaves me no time to date. I’m not jealous of his M.A. from Purdue University, I just resent that, in this economy, my J.D. is worth less than the paper upon which the degree was printed. 

I’m not jealous that Herman Cain used to be CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, I’m just dismayed that my J.D. has gotten me to where I am able to deliver Chinese food for minimum wage. I’m not jealous that Herman Cain has a pulpit from which to preach his offensive brand of politics, I’m disillusioned by the fact that people are taking a man who has never been elected to public office seriously.

I’m not jealous that Wall Street stock brokers drive BMWs and Mercedes, I’m distraught that I barely make the car payment on my Chevy Cobalt each month.  I’m not jealous that the wealthiest 1% can afford haute couture or designer clothes, I’m just bitter that I have to budget a trip to the Goodwill. I’m not jealous of those who live in Beverly Hills mansions or estates in the Hamptons, I’m just perturbed that $300 rent credit to clean the building I live in has been a godsend this past six months. 

I’m not jealous that Wall Street banks were bailed out by the government, I’m just disgusted that conservatives still have the nerve to call ours a “free-market system.” I’m not jealous of people fortunate enough to have pulled up their bootstraps sufficiently to land them in a prestigious career, I’m just enraged by the idea that the rest of us just need to “work harder.” I’m not jealous of people who have such wonderful health insurance coverage that they fear a single-payer system, I’m just incredulous that Obamacare protestors want to keep government out of their Medicare. I’m not jealous of all of the press the Tea Party got by demanding “their America” back, I’m just incensed that it took so long for the so-called “liberal media” to even begin covering the Wall Street protests.

I’m also angry that I do not have the funds or credit to visit my mother in Florida.  I’m frustrated that I don’t have the funds to replace the clothes I bought ten years ago while I was in high school. I’m disturbed that I have been so hungry that I’ve eaten the food off of the plates of strangers while I’m clearing their table. I’m resigned to the fact that receiving an $80 grocery gift card from my step mom causes me to weep with gratitude. I’m stunned that the GOP insists that there is nothing wrong with the current economic system, when in actuality the whole global monetary system is at risk. I’m reluctant to exercise my Constitutional right to peaceably assemble because I’m not sure I can take the time off work to participate in Occupy Minnesota. I’m also fed up with the fact that the movement is being deliberately misunderstood by people like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. 

But most of all, I am determined to keep working my ass off so that I can make my life work on my own terms.  I am relieved to have friends and family that love and support me. I’m optimistic that this movement could lead to the type of change that Obama promised and then failed to deliver, and I’m invigorated that the 99% have finally rose up to strike fear into the hearts of their oppressors.

So you see, I’m a lot of things, jealous is just not one of them. So, Misters Cain and Gingrich, along with all of you other conservative talking heads who want to discount the movement as nothing more than lazy, unemployed hippies who want everything for nothing, I have only one thing to say to you and your need to deliberately misconstrue the growing desperation of the working/middle class: you had better be right, because I’ve read about something like this before, and I can tell you that it didn’t end well for those in the upper classes.   

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