In the face of this, easily the largest social uprising since the Viet Nam era, we see the conservative politicians and media lashing back while mainstream progressives take a quiet, non-committed stance. Eric Cantor (R-VA) calls the protestors “angry mobs,” Paul Ryan (R-WI) calls the protests “dangerous.” In the media, CNN anchor Erin Burnett laments that “nobody seems to know” why there are protests while Glenn Beck states the Occupy protestors are “Only Interested In Destruction,” and likens them to a Maoist insurrection.
In thinking more thoroughly on this, it makes entirely too much sense. We are taught—by action more than word—that strength, power and status are virtuous. We grow up watching the bullies get away with aggression while defending oneself is punished. We see that amplified if the bully happens to have wealthy parents, or happens to be a star athlete (and it seems that it is typically both, because parents with money can turn even the most uncoordinated and lazy into a star high school athlete.)
We see schools and communities put certain chosen children on pedestals while ignoring or pushing down others (to the point where a star basketball player can rape a cheerleader and she is the one punished.) We see rich kids from the burbs get a wrist slap, community-service-sentence for selling heroin while inner city kids do time for possession of pot.
And now we see the media, police and our politicians attacking the 99%—berating, insulting and violently arresting protesters. The Wall St. barons are the adult equivalent of the high school football team. After all, they are rich, and have important family names, and so they must be the chosen ones, we must pander to them. No one at Goldman Sachs will see the inside of a court room for the billions they stole, protest them and you will. This is utterly predictable in light of what we learned growing up. This is an oligarchy, a classist state, but so was our school environment when growing up. And we, the 99%, are getting attacked for our actions now because we failed to learn those lessons in school. We refuse to know our role and behave as the underlings we are, and it will not be well received by the society that taught us not to behave this way. All that we were supposed to learn about social status was designed to prevent this very thing.
And that learning is still occurring on school campuses today. What other explanation is needed for the conservative backlash against anti-bullying laws and initiatives. They do not want a world where the aggressors are punished and the victims vindicated. Because they cannot continue their elitist stranglehold on our economy and society if the next generation is not taught to stay in their place and take their punishment from those deemed superior. And if the net result of stopping the enlightenment that is the anti-bully movement is a few dead kids, that is to be considered a small price to pay. After all, they were probably just queers anyway.
And there is that attitude again, the concept of lesser.
Anyone LGBT identified is lesser—women are lesser, minorities are lesser. Of course progress dictates we not think in such ways. And so, there are the exceptions: the wealthy gay male, the woman CEO, the minority Republican candidate here and there. All of which adds up to the “I am not (racist, sexist, homophobic)—I work with a ( black guy, women, gay guy)” motif that is utterly pervasive in society. We can accept that as progress, or we can recognize that for the patronizing reality that it is.
We too are the 99% and it is our fight as much as anyone’s. Conversely, the fight against bullying, the fight for LGBT equality—these too are vital to the 99%, to the goals of the Occupy movement. Our duty, I believe, is to not only support the goals of Occupy, but to find ways to involve ourselves so that all involved understand that our communities needs are another vital part of the equation. If we are not there, we cannot claim that. At which point, we are of the silent majority that will ultimately take what it is handed, we are the silent grade school weakling, fodder for the class bully. If we want equality, it is time to stand for the larger equality as we stand for our own. Human Rights, means all humans.
BY: CLAIRE SWINFORD