By Felicia Cravens, USDR Contributor
It’s compelling – the way a car wreck is compelling, the way disaster footage is compelling, the way the scary moment in a movie is compelling. I find links to the live feeds of the various Occupy protests going on around the country, and I can’t look away. The serial chanting (the People’s microphone, they call it) and the signs draw me in, and before I know it I’ve lost three hours, sitting in front of my computer staring at the demonstrations and trying to learn what they want.
Occupy Wall Street has posted its list of suggested demands, as have other cities. Houston was after more bike trails among other things, until mocked in the comments on their page. There’s no unifying theme quite yet, though they are coming close with the slogan “Banks got bailed out; We got sold out.” This is actually a theme that resonates widely with people in the tea party movement as well.
But for all the media hype about how Occupy is the “authentic movement that tea party couldn’t be,” the differences are stark, and revealing. Start with the pictures Todd Kinsey captures and contrasts. If your stomach is strong enough after that, you can try Mother Jones’ piece on the origins of the protests. Add to that what Big Journalism dug up about e-mails between journalists and Occupy organizers, and you begin to see how different the movements are, in spite of some overlapping targets.
Read a little further and you’ll find some interesting theories:
Occupy is really about student loan debt
Occupy is after the wrong targets
Occupy self-importantly compares itself to Arab uprisings
But more than anything, it’s instructive just to watch them, and listen to them:
Most of those feeds have a chat room, and I have literally lost hours of time reading comments in them such as these gems, from Occupy San Francisco and Portland (reproduced without correction or alteration):
“GIVE THE COPS A BRICK SANDWICH”
“THERE IS NO LONGER FREEDOM TO BE FOUND ON THIS PLANET”
“PUT DOWN YOUR BADGES PICK UP THE VIBE!”
“baton rouge is watching! cops are animals”
“THIS IS WHAT A POLICED STATE LOOKS LIKE!!”
“Don’t they understand that we won’t be peaceful forever?”
“If Congress was run the way OSF is run, they’d actually get something done!”
“Police brutality is a reflection of getting beat up as children in grade school”
More than anything else – more than the signs, the chants, the confrontations with police, and the deplorable conditions the Occupiers create in their occupied spaces – the starkest contrast is in the worldview. Hearing them articulate their view, on the occasions when they can indeed articulate it, leaves us scratching our heads. And we can’t just dismiss these people as a rebirth of radical hippie chic. Mark Steyn points out in After America that there’s a headline in Acres magazine entitled “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal.” And when everything you want to do is centered on drugs and other profligacy, it’s easy for us to dismiss it.
However, when we in the Tea Party movement attempt to explain that out-of-control regulations are making that phrase apply to anyone who wants to do legitimate business (from eyebrow threading to opening a food establishment to working as an OTR truck driver) we’re mocked and ridiculed. Wall Street didn’t put those obstacles in the way of the small businessperson. Those hurdles were hauled onto the playing field of the market by government; the same government, by the way, that the Occupying Forces are petitioning to restrain the excesses of Wall Street.
The Tea Party has rallied against big government in part because of its regulation addiction. It isn’t that regulation is never needed; sometimes it is. All too often, the regulations are crafted by people already established in an industry, and lean towards keeping those barriers high. The would-be bakers are now selling insurance. The would-be salon owners are instead working as administrative assistants. Those who dreamed of owning their own destinies lease their lives out to someone who has more resources to overcome the regulatory burdens.
More than anything else, the Occupy movement seems to illustrate that this isn’t a mere difference of opinion. The very policies advocated by the protesters are those which the Tea Party recognize as thoroughly destructive to the fabric of our nation. It’s the difference between short-term gratification of all wants and self-sacrifice and long-term investment for the future. The two are divergent worldviews that are completely incompatible. One must prevail, and one must be defeated. There simply isn’t enough room in America for both of them, and only one is rooted in principles that are sustainable – only one even considers whether there’s a future at all.
Felicia Cravens walked away from her accounting degree over a decade ago to become a stay-at-home mom. Since then, she has filled her “spare time” teaching drama in an after-school program and working in conservative politics. She founded the Houston Tea Party Society in 2009, serves as a frequent media contact, and trains and equips people new to the political process. She can be found on Facebook and Google+, and on Twitter as @somethingfishie. She can also be found at LinkedIn.