Protesting the Protesters Protesting the President
by Rebecca Schoenkopf
Because the Youngs of Occupy LA have apparently never lived to regret their
two (2) Ralph Nader votes
Until I left, when I called over to them goodbye, and have a fun protest, I never really made eye contact with the 30 or so Occupy LA-ers (they estimated 50) who’d taken a field trip to Hancock Park (adjacent) to protest the “bought and paid for” president.
The elementary school kids who mob up outside my Highland and Wilshire 7-Eleven, allowed in only three at a time, came up to solitary me in droves, wanting to know what the protest was across the street, and was I part of it, with my sign? I explained about the 99 percent of us who aren’t rich banding together to make things more fair, and how much I agreed with the other protesters on that. But I explained that this group was saying President Obama was part of the problem, and that I was there to stand up for him. Most of the children nodded wisely, totally agreeing Obama was awesome, except for one Latino kid who talked about working hard for success in life. I agreed that hard work was important, but gave him the nutshell Elizabeth Warren, that nobody becomes rich on his own.
I have a lot of issues with Occupy LA and Occupy Wall Street, none of them centered on the crustiness or the hippie flair that so annoy Andrew Sullivan. (I love crustiness and hippie flair!) Exhibit A, of course, is the lady who got fired from her substitute-teaching job at LAUSD, for saying the “Zionist Jews” need to be run out of our country, as they have 109 countries already. Only one person? Sure! But if that only-one-person was saying it at a Tea Party rally, you and I and everyone we know would take her as representative, and don’t pretend we wouldn’t.
Exhibit B? The itchy, irksome scene in Atlanta, when civil rights hero John Lewis asked to address the crowd, and it was determined that interrupting the Green-meeting-style agenda would make him “more important” than others. Oh, not at first: at first most people in the crowd were clearly excited to hear him speak. But eventually, the beardo leading the agenda pushed the crowd to the outcome he expected, and John Lewis walked away.
And Exhibit the Third? The goddamn Ron Paulers. They are here at Wilshire and Highland, their bellies painted up “Impeach Obama,” their signs reading “End the Fed.” One comes up to convert me frequently, which is nice of him, and I’m nice enough in return to give Ron Paul credit for his stances on both the drug war and the war wars. But if Occupy Wall Street and Occupy LA are mostly focused on economic justice, Ron Paul is not going to be the man to remedy that. I have nothing particularly intelligent to say on that score, since I don’t have Wonkblog in my pocket, but I agree with Belly over there that Obama’s economic team has been poorly chosen, from Geithner to Summers. And I agree on Obama’s civil liberties record—I hear Glenn Greenwald bitching about it often enough. And the new Justice Department tack on medical marijuana? (Going after not just growers, not just dispensaries, but newspapers that take medical marijuana ads!) Man, I agree with you right there too! You know who isn’t perfect? President Obama! Why, he isn’t perfect at all!
But when my little brother Brad, an Occupy LA stalwart, tells me that it is “counterproductive” to hike up to Wilshire and Highland and “protest a real populist movement,” without seeming to realize that is exactly what his friends are doing when they make Obama the enemy, and when my little brother then argues for a flat tax as the most populist position, I want to take Brad and these little Paulites, with their Love/Revolution flags, and whack them upside their soft little heads. When my friend Juan tells me sticking up for President Obama makes me the equivalent of a battered wife, I want to hold my head in my hands and weep. Juan isn’t a millennial; he’s my age. He was there when we voted for Nader (twice). He fucking well knows there was a difference between Bush and Gore—no matter how much we didn’t believe it until Inauguration Day came around and President Bush’s first order of business was revoking standards on arsenic in our drinking water—and that a moderate-liberal president isn’t going to do everything right, but at least he’ll be working from the right goddamn principles. He fucking well should have learned that hard lesson with me!
On the one hand, I’m thrilled people are massing together and pressuring President Obama from the left—and I’d wager his new plan for mortgage financing is probably a result of that. And on my other hand, I suspect these kids are being coopted to actively sit out the next election, since Obama is clearly just another “bought and paid for” politician. Frank Luntz couldn’t have coached them any better. I’m sure President Romney will do just great, and all these kids’ dreams will come true!
The Occupy LA people get a lot of honking love from cars passing by, especially from people of color. My guess is they wouldn’t be honking if they’d realized the group’s intent was protesting the president, but hey, I could be wrong. I get a couple of honks, not many—my little sign on the back of a gift box is probably impossible to read, and also I might look crazypants. But some bus drivers toot for me, and one black lady, in a very new, very shiny, and very expensive Mercedes, waves to me and holds a dollar out the window. No thanks, I smile at her, it’s cool. I just put on my sign that I am out-of-work (well, besides that it’s true) so the kids wouldn’t think me bourgeois. I give her a thumbs-up and a shy smile, and she gives both of them back.
A couple hours have gone by, and both Wilshire and Highland are shut down, with nobody to wave my little sign to but a handful of cops and Metro workers. I enter my favorite 7-Eleven of kindness and buy a six-pack from the nice lady who owns it, and then I walk down the street to my home. It’s a good afternoon of protesting the protesters protesting the president.