When I was young, I passed the entrance exam for Hunter College of the City University of New York by one point. I was lucky to have stayed on the academic track and grateful to cops who cut me a break in sticky situations. New York City then had four colleges in different boroughs where students who passed the exam could attend for some twenty dollars per semester. Texts were free too, loaned out at each college’s massive bookstore.
This magnanimous gift was made possible through taxes and a city government that invested in education. New York was then a middle class city. A bus, train, candy bar or comic book cost a dime, maybe fifteen cents as time wore on.
In the summer of 1963, for the second time in his career, Mickey Mantle came within a foot or so in hitting a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium. Pitcher Bill Fischer of Kansas City wasn’t upset. “That’s why he makes $100,000.”
Switching to the present, the occupiers of Wall Street, which spontaneously arose from a small number and since flamed to Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco as I write, this are paying the bills for three wars—putting aside the recent evil manipulations of banks and investment firms. These latter escape “rule of law” and continue to prosper as if never you mind.
The country changed direction in the Vietnam years. Young people, who merely wanted to get on with their lives and plan for the future, were mercilessly pressured to serve by every local, state and federal governmental entity. “I ain’t got nothing against them Cong,” was spoken by Earl Monroe, a star guard for the New York Knicks, a feeling shared by multitudes who got ensnared by the draft. This did not include Clinton, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and many another. Unlike the Korean War, celebrities also got the bye. Ted Williams served in the Korean War. There was no such parity with Vietnam.
President Lyndon Johnson’s line then was guns and butter …
Those called had three options: flee to Canada, revolt against the government they had been raised to trust, or serve. As many chose the first two as the third. Despite the wealth of praise deservedly given to the military today, something omitted during Vietnam, had there been a draft during the “run up” to Iraq, my guess is the discord of Vietnam would have been revisited.
The young today are in a similar box. Their lives are not in immediate danger from a foreign enemy, but rather a feeling of strangulation from the powers within holding their futures hostage. Herman Cain can wax eloquent about getting a job and that anyone who works can get rich. Yet can all in the throngs be made up of loafers and malcontents? Not so if you count the steady trickle of executive-types joining in, as well as mandarin celebrities. Foreign media outlets are now on hand.
The mayor in Boston talks about disruptions, but in New York the occupiers are a tourist attraction.
The day that Eric Cantor called the occupiers “mobs,” a German television program on PBS showed the opposite: clearly-marked stations for sundry, donations of food and clothing coming in and distributed, and, overall, a situation where cooperation was at last trumping competition.
The question is: what exactly will local metropolitan governments do when they are either cutting back on services or just making it? Services mean police, detectives, prison guards, jails, clerks, food, fire departments, schools, libraries and everything else that makes for a civil society, even judges. One violent incident will light a media bonfire.
The Vietnam protest was not as depicted in movies: young men with bandanas screaming epithets. Had that been so, there would have been no protest since the nation is conservative by tradition. I worked on Park Avenue then at a company owned by millionaires. They were against the war, the people I knew where against the war, and so were the little “blue-haired” ladies—all before Walter Cronkite.
The same may be happening here: the young who feel robbed being joined by a cross-section of others who are equally fed up.
Finally, in this information age, it is easy to access the Internet for information about where everyone in the government gets his or her contributions. When you see the amounts given by Disney, the big banks and financial institutions that wrecked the economy, big oil and giant health care institutions, among others, it makes you wonder who the real mobs are.