I am of the undertow of the Baby Boomers, the last third of a generation, unwilling to let go of our ability to subvert the tide and change the world, defined for us by our older brothers and sisters. Born between 1957 and 1964, we are the President of the United States, the governors of ten states (only three states have chief executives younger than we are), 16 US Senators and almost 100 members in the US House of Representatives. We are Democrats and Republicans, atheists and adherents, activists and apathetics.
The older Boomers who came before us were born in a time of a great, nationalist, moral validation brought on by the victories in World War Two, born when the world was trying to right itself after the end of European colonialism and the beginning of the Arms Race with the Soviet Union. By the time we, the remnants of a generation, came along, it seemed all the hard work had already been done.
Our younger brothers and sisters in the Occupy Movement have made that hard work worth doing again. Many more choose, once again, to link arms in unity against the enemies of social progress, like wealth disparity and growing national poverty, like a government controlled more by a complex of corporate corruption than by the needs of the people who elected them. The money promises to get our overpaid representatives reelected, and the new Super PACs, like the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, and legislative ghost writers from ALEC, promise to keep their political opponents at bay by working to inhibit voter access through laws passed in more than a dozen states.
Just today, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) formally requested that US Attorney General Eric Holder investigate “whether new state voting laws resulted from collusion or an orchestrated effort to limit voter turnout,” the Miami Herald reported.
In one instance, a teacher in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, unknowingly violated that state’s new voter registration laws while trying to teach her students about the importance of becoming a voter. According to a story in the Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“What happened is that [high school teacher Jill] Cicciarelli helped her 17-year-old seniors with the paperwork to preregister for the voting rolls, as she does every year. She’d been on maternity leave in the spring when the Legislature passed a voting law that, among other things, requires third parties to register with the state before they help sign up new voters.
“The law has proved so daunting that the League of Women Voters suspended voter registration efforts in Florida for fear of exposing volunteers to up to $1,000 in fines.”
Nelson told the students, “It is voter suppression,” the Daytona Beach paper reported.
But it’s not just voting rights. The entire debt ceiling debate last summer, and the current travails of the resulting Super Committee, now in session, are about the tax breaks for the wealthiest versus the needs of those who depend on government help to feed themselves and their families.
And that demographic is growing alarmingly fast. According to a September report from the US Census Bureau, between 2009 and 2010, “[r]eal median household income declined,” and “[t]he poverty rate increased.”
More to the point of the younger protesters participating in the Occupy Movement, the Census Bureau report continues:
“An estimated 5.9 million young adults aged 25 to 34 resided in their parents’ households in 2011, compared to 4.7 million before the recession. By spring 2011, 14.2 percent of young adults lived in their parents’ households, representing an increase of 2.4 percentage points since spring 2007.”
Why do so many more live at home at an age when the rest of us couldn’t wait to get out of the house? The report points out, “45.3 percent had income below the poverty threshold for a single person under age 65 ($11,344).”
Some people have folded their arms, unwilling to embrace Occupy because they do not understand what the movement stands for. That might be because there is so much not going right for the future of our country, that one can throw a dart and hit an issue of concern to Occupy’s participants and adherents.
That’s why it is important not to greet them with folded arms, but with linked arms, the position they are proud to take before they are arrested for calling attention to the vanishing American Dream.