HE SAYS:

Annemarie and I attended the Presidential Inauguration for President George W. Bush’s second term in January, 2005.  I understood that there would be protests in and around Washington, DC; however, I did not expect to see the extremely virulent, vile, abusive, and totally disrespectful display of protest signs, including suggestions of violence as well as explicit and profane epithets directed personally at the President.   

It is not that I was surprised that the mob of unruly protesters was capable of such rude, obnoxious, and distasteful behavior but that they did not have the good sense to understand that while asserting their right to protest they should have also exhibited some respect for the Office of the President of the United States if not the man himself.   It is one thing to disagree with the government, as represented by the President and his policies or decisions; it is quite another thing to reduce your protest to a personal attack on the person of the President.

It is a sign of the times that people in general and those that feel the need to vent in the streets, in particular, have lost all sight of the social restraint that comes when you have respect for authority.   I am not suggesting that as a free society we should not openly question authority; however, there is no value in simply lashing out at authority figures on a personal level as if berating, belittling, and insulting them will make things better or effectively advance your cause.

As an aside, for several years before I retired from my law career, I did defense work representing police officers who were sued for alleged civil rights violations, usually based on allegations of excessive force.   It always amazed me how many of these litigants fought with, cursed at, spit on, and generally were abusive to the police officers before, during, and even after their arrest, much of which was caught on tape.  It always seemed to me that it would take an incredibly disrespectful not to mention reckless individual to engage in these antics with an armed police officer.  Again, a sign of the times.

As far back as the protests over the Vietnam War, there has been a new breed of protestor that is extreme, disrespectful, impatient, and prone to reduce everything to a catchy slogan or “sound bite” instead of developing real ideas in a positive manner.   My theory is that the post war baby boomers were the first generation raised in an environment of instant gratification and slick advertisements on television where every concept was reduced to thirty seconds of jingles and Madison Avenue slogans and nothing has changed ever since.

I am part of that post war generation and yet I grasp the idea of showing respect where it is due even when I disagree.   I have not agreed with or liked every President, for example, but I always respected both the Office and the abilities of anyone who can rise to the highest pinnacle of his chosen profession.  Respect for our elected officials, the police, or authority figures, in general, may be hard to come by these days; however, we all need to understand that there is nothing wrong with showing a little respect even when we disagree or as we air our grievances.

On Monday, Joe makes some personal observations in “Let Me Get The Door For You”.        

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

If I can steal and butcher a line from Shakespeare to make a point that this country and the world has grown such a thin skin that we get angry over and protest every minor offense, joke, comment, or reference regarding anything and anyone.

Three very recent examples of what I am talking about, I believe, make my point.

Jay Leno made an oblique reference to the Golden Temple in India when telling an innocuous political joke about Mitt Romney and apparently angered the leaders of the Sikh religion and now they are suing him because they were offended by the mere mention of their place of worship.   This religious group should not be so concerned as there is nothing anyone could say that would make people care any less about them.  I know that nothing could make me care less.

There is an animated movie coming out in Britain about pirates that had a scene in which one of the pirates boards a ship of lepers and his victim’s arm falls off as a moment of comic absurdity in the spirit of the over the top humor you might have seen from Benny Hill or Monty Python.   An organization for lepers (I had no idea that such an organization even existed) lodged a protest and as a result the scene was changed.   Apparently, what few lepers there are in the world not only can’t take a joke but are also highly organized and able to protest any assault on the image of lepers everywhere.

There is a movie out that depicts some stranded men under attack by a pack of grey wolves and, sure enough, an environmental group is upset that the wolves are being made out as wild animals who attack people and wants the world to know that grey wolves are peace loving and harmless animals.   I suppose that we will see a class action civil rights law suit soon on behalf of grey wolves and wild animals of all kinds.

The big question that now comes to mind is how did the Road Runner continually fight off the inept attacks by Wile E. Coyote without the coyote lobbyists raising not only our awareness as to the plight of coyotes in general but lodging a major protest against Warner Brothers studio for suggesting that coyotes are both violent and stupid.   I guess that Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote represent a simpler time when people understood that not every joke or comment or depiction was a crushing act of bigotry and discrimination that should set off a whirlwind of protests and condemnation.

It occurs to me that this all got started when the Bible insulted and demonized snakes; however, nothing has ever been done about that injustice.   I would sue on their behalf, except, after so much time I do not believe that they would have a leg to stand on since it appears that no one cares about the reputation or feelings of snakes.   I am sure I will hear from that little known advocacy group called Americans Hysterical Over Lowly Snakes (AHOLS) for this one.

On Monday, Joe provides a riddle for you in “What Is It?” 

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

SHE SAYS:

Am I the only one that feels misrepresented as either a 99%er or a 1%er?  When did this country turn into 1% rich and 99% poor?  How did the typical middle class or upper middle class family that clearly falls into the 99% category as defined by Occupy Wall Street, suddenly become the wealthy enemy?  I am neither one of the 1% nor am I one of the 99%.  Why do these people think they are representing everyone?

The Occupy Wall Street gang seems like an ill-conceived gathering of confused and demoralized people who would be better served if they concentrated on being productive in their own lives.  It seems to me that people have become too good for themselves.

Instead of an attitude of ‘I can do anything’, many young people today seem to think that they are entitled to a job making $250,000.00 immediately out of college.  Gone are the days of working your way up in a company because many don’t even see themselves working for any company for more than just a few years.  If the job seems ‘beneath them’, it isn’t even considered as an option.

In my mind, this creates a domino effect on the economy when no one wants to do the lower level jobs whether they are in a large corporate office or working at a fast food counter.  Many of these young people may have been spoiled by their parents’ economic status because they don’t or can’t understand that their parents were once young and struggled to support themselves.  Success is about planning, sacrificing, saving, and more planning.  Wealth is sometimes achieved with this success.  Now this is something to be ashamed of?

These people should be ashamed of themselves.  Look around the world at some of the countries where citizen groups have toppled cruel and vindictive leaders to try to create a more independent and free society.  They are looking for democracy and freedom, something that the Occupy Wall Street protesters have and take for granted and worse yet, use their freedom to whine and cry about how unfair their world is.

Maybe they should pitch a tent in one of these countries in the Middle East and they will see real oppression and realize just how fortunate they are already.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

We have become the land of “what’s free?” and the home of the “I will brave the street to see what’s in it for me.”

I have been watching the “Occupy” protests with both bemusement and confusion.   What do they really want?   What do they really think they can accomplish?   The message I am getting is that life is unfair because they can’t get a high paying job; or because other people and the businesses they own have amassed wealth; or because the system, as they wish to define it, doesn’t help them; or because they are part of the 99% (as if that is an accurate number) of people who are downtrodden and oppressed by our capitalist society.

On one hand, I can understand that people without jobs or new graduates with few prospects of jobs would eventually use their free time to complain about their lack of options.   On the other hand, I also recognize, as do many others, that what some of the protesters are really concerned about is the fact that they cannot find the fast track to wealth so they want to both blame the rich and bring them down out of some new fairness doctrine that “if I can’t be rich than no one else should be allowed to be rich.”

Such self-serving arguments always sound better if you can present them under the guise that it is unfair.   It has now become unfair that the protesters have to struggle and work their way to success or have to pay their dues to get into the so called 1% club.  To them, it appears that all those who have achieved financial success did so by some devious trickery or by somehow exploiting the protesters.   How else could the protesters try to explain why they have not achieved the same level of success?  It could not possibly be as a result of anything they did, so it must surely be as a result of the inherent unfairness of capitalism.

Where have we heard this refrain before?  The proletariat, I mean protesters have taken a page from other failed movements that have been foisted on society for centuries by many other self proclaimed spokes-people for the masses.  Every attempt to force a redistribution of wealth without earning it has always failed.   If everyone benefitted equally regardless of their effort and contribution, those who work hard and create wealth will have no reason to do so and those who never work hard will have all the more reason to underperform.

So, I have to ask myself, is this a movement with genuine concerns or is it a national tantrum by people with too much time on their hands and too little confidence that they can make it in today’s admittedly difficult world?   Most of us learned, as children, that we could not get what we wanted by stamping our feet and making a scene.   Sometimes, it takes a little more than just complaining to get what you want.

Annemarie will post her views on this subject this Wednesday.

 WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

I understand that we all have the right to gather and voice our grievances with our government and I respect that right of peaceful assembly.

I have been alive long enough and have lived through enough social and political unrest to understand that there are some people who make it their life’s ambition to protest whatever is the injustice of the day.   I am sure that there are many who are well-intentioned and I am equally sure that there are some who protest for a more personal agenda of self-aggrandizement.   It gives them a sense of importance and purpose to be on the front lines of whatever cause is involved; however, they are more concerned with feeling good about themselves than in changing the world.

We have created an era over the last several decades of the “professional” protester and have even made celebrities of some who will always be on hand whenever there is a sign to be waived, a police line to crash, or a camera to march in front of for all the world to see.    I was not surprised to see some of these aging protesters at the “Occupy” events with their eclectic array of signs for the environment; against wealthy people or corporations or capitalism; against big government or big anything; and, of course, the classic stop the war signs although I am not sure and they may not even be sure if they are still protesting the Vietnam War or the current war.

I guess the real problem that I have with the so-called “professional” protester is that they will never be satisfied even if they did change the world.   There would always be something else that would absolutely require that they hit the streets and vent their displeasure with the state of the world.  They look for the injustice in every situation and if there is none they find injustice in the fact that no one is taking them seriously.

Sometimes, it is hard to fully comprehend the message or point of the protest such as my confusion as to what the “Occupy” protest is really meant to accomplish.   It seems to me that many times the goals of the protesters are so vague or amorphous that the message becomes lost in the movement which often takes on a life of its own without any real purpose.

When the “Occupy” movement runs its course and they change whatever it is they think they can change, I am sure that we will still be able to look forward to many more lively protests, in the years to come, about something or anything from our perpetually discontented fellow citizens.   I don’t particularly mind since protesting is as American as apple pie and, besides, I enjoy reading the signs.

Joe and Annemarie share their specific views on the ‘Occupy’ protests next week.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?