Aired Oct. 22, 2011 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: Occupied
Shalom, Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of October 23rd, 2011.
So all these people without an occupation are busy occupying. They’re occupying Wall Street, they’re inhabiting Zuccotti Park, they’re occupying cities and colleges across America because the have-nots are getting a bissel sick and tired of the haves.
It was ever thus, people. Before we all were born, a handful of upper-class hoity-toities looked down on the rest of us. If they were in a generous and tax-deductible mood, they donated a library or slipped a few bucks to charity.
Everyone hates the rich because…they’re rich. And we’re not. Life sucks, then you die.
But now we have a growing segment of the population who are fed up with the status quo and think they can change it by…showing up somewhere and not leaving. Hey, it beats violence, and protests certainly did have an impact on the Vietnam War, racial segregation and the roll-out of New Coke.
Still, I am bothered by two aspects of this “Occupy Somewhere” movement. The first is the “and then what?” factor. Okay, so you shout at the rich, you rail at the corporations, you run the CEOs out of town on a rail – well, more likely a Lear Jet. And then what? What do you replace them with?
If the protesters are saying, “make college affordable, or at least make it so I’m not paying off my student loan with my Medicare and reverse mortgage.” Okay.
If the protesters are saying, “change the tax code,” fine, I’m all for it. Tax the rich until they’re poor, tax the poor until they’re dead, and give the middle class a break for once.
If the protesters are saying, “don’t let stockbrokers, bankers and corporate bigwigs get away with rampant fraud,” I’m for that, too. Let them get away with just enough fraud so that they keep jobs in America instead of farming them out to Uttar Pradesh.
The problem is we don’t know WHAT the protesters are saying except, “we can’t get jobs, the jobs we get don’t pay anything, and the pay we get goes to buy imported crap because we don’t make anything.” Republicans and social conservatives keep wanting to liken the occupiers to Soviet Communists. Well, guess what? Those old Russians were rebelling against the gentry and landowners who controlled everything and gave nothing back. Sound familiar? Communism didn’t happen because the poor wanted to give Fox News talking points, it happened because the peasants found it unpleasant watching the czars eat pheasant.
These hippies and democrats and college kids and ukelele players, they don’t care about words like Marxism or capitalism. They just want their piece of the pie, and they’re not blind; they know that out of ten slices, nine have been gobbled up before the pizza even gets delivered.
So if you ask where my sympathy lies, it is with these demonstrators, even if the only thing they’re demonstrating is how easy it is to get really grimy after three days sleeping in a park.
What I do take issue with is the whole theme of the protest – “occupying.” The organizers took their motif from the so-called Arab spring. You know, where young Arabs got tired of their corrupt, totalitarian leaders so they staged relatively peaceful rebellions that will ultimately bring in corrupt, fundamentalist Muslim leaders? Anytime you look to the Arabs for a moral compass, you’re pretty much gonna float into an iceberg.
The anti-Semitic undertones of this movement are very minor, but they’re there. From the usual grievance that Jews comprise the evil one percent oppressing the other 99 to the idea of that loaded word: “occupation.” Even though the protesters are, themselves, the occupiers, you can bet many of them are weeping for the Palestinians supposedly displaced from the sliver of Israeli land they absolutely have to live on.
And yet, and yet. There is a positive impulse here, and I hope President Obama – and whatever clown the Republicans pull out of their sidecar – I hope they listen to these rebels and take to heart the idea that American wealth, enterprise and future security have been stolen by a handful of families and corporations.
When everybody gets to eat, but some people eat a lot better – so it goes, that’s the world. When people are starving and Marie Antoinette is still eating cake, that’s when the knives come out. Or worse, in this case – the bongs and bongos.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches.
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