I vowed The Curious Reader would never be a platform for my political beliefs. But then I thought..."What the hell?"
A case was filed earlier this year. A young lady showed up at a late night holiday party as the guest of a guest of the homeowner. She had had a "few" glasses of wine prior to arriving; when she got to the party she wanted to use the restroom. Two identical doors were located adjacent to each other in the hallway. She opened one of them, took a step, and found herself at the bottom of the basement stairs following a painful journey. It is a classic "step in the dark" case; and, if the law is properly applied, it will be found to have no merit.
There are protesters in New York - and now other cities - gathering headlines. Not many, but a few of my very intelligent (and loved) friends have expressed support for these folks. Their support is, I am certain, very heart-felt, but I (gently) submit I strongly disagree.
The freedom to assemble is as old as the Bill of Rights. It does not matter whether the assembly is the result of joy (the Cubs winning the World Series - I wish), or sorrow (the spontaneous gathering outside The Dakota following John Lennon's death) or anger (students protesting the war in Viet Nam back in the day). The power of a state to abridge freedom of speech and of assembly is the exception rather than the rule... penalizing...utterances of a defined character must find its justification in a reasonable apprehension of danger to organized government. U.S.C.A.Const. Amend. 14. (Emphasis added)
In 1937, Chief Justice Hughes wrote, "These rights may be abused by using speech or press or assembly in order to incite to violence and crime. The people through their Legislatures may protect themselves against that abuse. But the legislative intervention can find constitutional justification only by dealing with the abuse. The rights themselves must not be curtailed. The greater the importance of safeguarding the community from incitements to the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve inviolate the constitutional rights of free speech, free press and free assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion, to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people and that changes, if desired, may be obtained by peaceful means. Therein lies the security of the Republic, the very foundation of constitutional government." Don't you just love him? So, in principle, I whole-heartedly support the right of the Occupy Wall Street crowd to gather and protest. But I do not support them and I can explain why.
What is my beef with the protesters? First, their gripes are totally disjointed. Trying to figure out the basis of their displeasure is like grasping smoke. Are they protesting for something, or relief from something? While one young woman preached for the overthrow of capitalism, a young man carried a sign calling for the rich to be "taxed until they are poor." A few other college-type kids admitted to a reporter the much loftier goal of "looking to score some chicks." That goal I can understand. By the way, the petite well-dressed blond calling for the overthrow of capitalism was apparently unaware of the lively sales in heroin and cocaine taking place under her very nose. I will bet my salary the drug dealer had a profit motive. She might want to proselytize to him first on the evils of capitalism.
One unfortunate (and not very smart) soul made the mistake of telling the news that he thought the Occupy Wall Street crowd would afford him a good place to hide from the police; he was wanted for burglary...the old "needle in the haystack" theory of survival. Unfortunately for him, he was arrested anyway - not for the outstanding warrants, but for attempting to grope a girl.
Aside from the multitude of complaints - many of which might be justified if they were expressed with less heat and more light - I find some of the behavior offensive, destructive, and bordering on violent. In particular, I submit to you the protester carrying the "head" of a bank CEO - dripping with fake blood- on a pike, or the one with the sign suggesting gay teens kill their parents rather than contemplate suicide. Let's not forget the classy dude caught on film relieving (and exposing) himself on the sidewalk.
Shall I mention the irony of protesters carrying signs beseeching us to save the earth (which is a cause I do get behind) not noticing the trash accumulating around their ankles? It has been reported the extra cost to the City of New York for clean up and security alone is $1.9 million - so far. That would feed a lot of kids, or supply them with books and crayons and rulers. Shall I mention what I understand to be the miasma of smells? The dirty bodies, urine, and...well, you get the picture. Thankfully, I'm not there to confirm, but it makes me think...the good old days of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. They're back.
Unfortunately, as time groans on, groups with less than altruistic ideologies are filtering into the mix. But in the beginning the crowds were overwhelmingly young. The naivete of youth is endearing, really, and a part of me hates that they might someday lose that lusty belief in a cause. One of the problems, as I see it, is that very few of them have a well-defined idea of the cause they are attempting to champion. Hating The Rich doesn't get one very far in the real world. It sure as heck doesn't "get you rich" yourself. Not unless you take what isn't yours. We all know what that is called. Perhaps, as a group, they will become more cohesive, more focused on an issue. Perhaps they will become more mature in their approach, put down their shock-value signs and tackle whatever they see as "the problem" in a reasoned way. Perhaps they will start in their own towns by running for local office, on a platform they believe in, changing hearts and minds with reason as well as passion.
I wonder whether my friends who give blanket support to the crowd currently occupying Wall Street have given it enough thought. Perhaps they spoke too quickly. I have to believe so, because they are intelligent people who would not want what is happening on Wall Street to be happening on their street. Of course, they might disagree with me and my arguments. Even so, that demonstrates open discourse is alive and well.
For myself, I can say this. My daily toil requires that I sift through facts and weigh circumstances before coming to a reasoned conclusion. I try to do just that, not always successfully, I'll admit. But I know that if I jump in feet first...if I step into the dark and base my opinion on a theory - or my gut - without turning on a light, I will end up at the bottom of the basement stairs sitting in the dark with bruises on my behind.