Brian Birdnow

The Occupy Wall Street movement, and its host of copycat imitators around the country have garnered much attention recently. They have been largely lauded by the mainstream media, who have explained that the occupiers are idealistic youth guided by altruism and concern for the downtrodden. These are the same media outlets that tell us that the planet is now burning up, and that the Tea Party activists are all closet Klansmen. Small wonder that no one listens to the media anymore. Many conservatives describe the occupiers as aimless slackers who protest without knowing what they are protesting against, and why they are protesting in the first place. Certainly, the protestors/occupiers are inarticulate and the mindless gibberish they spout when questioned about their “goals” is often painful to hear. Beyond all of their sloganeering, platitudes, and childish chanting there does exist, however, a common liberal denominator. The OWS crowd is waging war with life as it is lived by normal Americans.

As I write from St. Louis, I can see the local occupiers sitting around and killing time. Many of the cars parked along the downtown street adjoining the occupied park have been in the exact same spaces for the last three weeks. It seems that our local police force has decided that it is not necessary to write parking tickets in these cases. Our local rag newspaper has suggested that the police realize that the occupiers are on their side, since they protest the reduction in public sector pensions. This is highly unlikely, although the authorities may have reached a Modus Vivendi with the protestors, in the sense that if the occupiers don’t disrupt the nearby World Series, the cops won’t issue parking citations.

The occupiers/protestors themselves seem to be something of a mixed bag. Some of them are the prototypical stoned, white, twenty-somethings who prattle on about the need for free college tuition. Many lament their crushing student loan obligations. It may be possible that some of these folks actually learned some basic economic ideas in college. If they are truly in dire financial straits due to student loans they might be better off taking whatever jobs they can find to start paying down those loans. Protesting usually doesn’t pay very well and in the meantime the interest continues to accrue on the student loans.

Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.