Occupy Wall Street continues and is spreading to other cities. The press has elevated it from a local act of civil disobedience to an inchoate national movement. Pundits now wonder aloud if this isn't the start of a force to countermand the Tea Party. Older pundits have likened the current protest's style and ambiance to that of Viet Nam era demonstrations at their naughtiest, with counter-culture exhibitionists hogging the spotlight but speaking gibberish in front of microphones.
It all feels much too familiar.
I've attended Tea Party rallies and been struck by the number of senior citizens who apparently haven't considered the implications of their fiscal demands vis a vis their Medicare and Social Security payments. Many have a strong religious and rural orientation and seem to identify the liberal policies they condemn with the depravities of urban life. In other words, the Tea Party wages the latest assault in the cultural warfare that has riven America since the 1960's.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, on the other hand, strikes a blow for class warfare. America is drifting dangerously toward plutocracy as the discrepancy between rich and poor, and the disappearance of those in the middle, makes our country look more and more like pre-revolutionary France.
I'm not the first to observe that the class warriors and the cultural warriors have much more in common than they care to admit. Both sides sound the alarm that middle class life in America is grievously threatened. Both demand justice and accountability. If only they could speak to each other without shibboleths and slogans. If only they didn't look at compromise and bipartisanship as perfidy. If only they didn't drag in social issues.
If only they haven't hated each other for years.
Hair lithograph, 1968. The musical was aptly named: "The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical". For a decade, reproductions of this crude image on posters and record albums, with the green print on a green field, were ubiquitous. But the play never rose above maudlin in addressing the Viet Nam War, while it smugly edified its tribe, i.e. the youthful audience. The revived show that opened in 2009, I've heard, emphasizes the characters' adolescent angst over their social rebellion. Click on the picture for a closer look.