Average Americans are frustrated, even if they haven’t joined movement

A few weeks ago, not long before the first protesters took over lower Manhattan and began the Occupy Wall Street movement, I asked out loud to my other half why there was not more unrest on college campuses.

It seemed to me that college kids circa 2011 had about as little to look forward to as any class since those of our generation. Back in those days, the job prospects may have been better but first we, at least those of us who were male, had to navigate the treacherous political and real minefields of Vietnam.

Back then, campuses were cauldrons of political and social unrest, fueled, so the conventional wisdom went, by radical politics, sex, music and drugs. I think it was really fueled by frustration.

I never took part. When the country called, I went. But I never begrudged those who decided to do otherwise. Many were friends and have remained so through the decades.

Maybe the music today isn’t as inspiring as it was then. And the drug scene is certainly not as intense. But the state of the country, at least it seems to me, is as dire. Occupy Wall Street may be today’s version of the peace movement of nearly half a century ago. Or maybe not. It’s too early to tell.

It’s odd, I think, that the tea party, last year’s protest movement, is doing everything it can to distance itself from the Occupy Wall Streeters. They come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, but they grind the same axe. Both the tea partiers and the Occupy Wall Streeters belong to movements that feel like their institutions have failed them.

The tea partiers think their government has failed. It has become too big and too bloated.

The Occupy Wall Streeters think the financial system has failed. Instead of safeguarding their money, the Wall Streeters have stolen it and used it to enrich a few powerful people.

They are all frustrated.

The tea partiers have never had a clue about how to govern. All they have done is say what they don’t want. They don’t want this guy in office or that guy. They want no new taxes. They want government spending cut. They don’t say how. They don’t know how.

Occupy Wall Streeters at least have a couple of ideas.

They have listed a few specific things they want Congress to do. Most of them have to with reinstating laws that have were suspended during the Bush years, when deregulation was in such favor.

Those are not exactly radical ideas.

But then neither is: Don’t spend more than you take in.

As does almost everything these days, the Occupy Wall Street protests — as did the tea party movement of last year — break down on red/blue, liberal/conservative, left/right, Republican/Democrat lines.

Just listen to the usual suspects:

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Occupy Wall Street: “a popular movement ... angry at the right people.”

Radio host Rush Limbaugh: The tea party is “organic” and Occupy Wall Street is “manufactured” by the media.

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter: Occupy Wall Street is angry at the “wrong ” people and they all need a shower.

Liberal television personality Keith Olberman: Occupy Wall Street was a legitimate grassroots movement that was “ignored by the media” early on.

And so it goes. Is there anything there that makes you want to do anything other than yawn?

The fact that everything that happens in this country always turns into a left/right dichotomy, as predictably as the sun rising in the east, leads me, and I think a lot of other people, to be as disenchanted as all those people who have nothing better to do than Occupy Wall Street or run around and wave the flag and chant, “No more taxes.”

Yes, we’re frustrated, too.

We’re a little fed up ourselves. We’re fed up with a country that can never get a conversation even begun, much less an agreement reached.

There might be more than a few of us.

A Gallup Poll last week found that 26 percent of Americans supported Occupy Wall Street and 19 percent opposed. Fifty-two percent said they neither supported nor opposed it. Twenty-two percent said they supported the tea party and 27 percent opposed it. Forty-seven percent said they were neither.

Those two big numbers, 52 and 47? I think those are people who are fed up with the constant left/right, conservative/liberal, red/blue bickering that goes on in America. We don’t care about choosing up sides.

But we want change, too.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. Email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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