Sunday, November 20, 2011

Come Ye Thankful People Come

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us.  A holiday I greatly enjoy, although I'm thinking that I ought to give Evacuation Day a try.  Sounds like quite a fun time (pole climbing?  Really?) and I hate that it has been pushed off the national stage in place of Black Friday melees as we are encouraged to go into debt to save money on things we don't really need, but the retailers are trying mightily to convince us that out lives will be but hollow shells without having.

Then again, melees are getting to be quite common with us.  Let's see . . .

In Berkeley, where you'd think they have some experience with student protesters, an English professor was grabbed by her hair and hurled to the ground.  Look at the clip - she's the first one who gets so hurled (but not the last) - and tell me what she's doing that warrants such treatment.  Her specialty is British Romanticism - obviously a clear and present danger to the cops decked out in full riot gear.  At the same protest, English professor Geoffrey O'Brien was beaten while on the ground and suffered broken ribs.  Robert Hass, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet who once held the rank of United States Poet Laureate, was repeatedly jabbed with a police baton.  He's 70 years old.  Guess the cops were fearful of blank verse.  Don't take my word for it - check out the link and watch the video.  Cameras are everywhere these days.

In solidarity with their Berkeley brethren, students at UC-Davis sat down with linked arms on the quadrangle, refusing to move.  That's okay, said the cops, we know how to deal with such uppity, meddling kids!  Open wide!  The chancellor, Linda Katehi, had called in the UC-Davis police to clear the quad and had since minimized the actions of the police.  (That's her, at the top of the post.)  Again, cameras are everywhere.  In a reaction that I find nearly poetic, her students watched her leave the administration building after an hours-long impasse during which she refused to address the students.

That's all.  Just watched.  And it's not with the cries of rabid wolves, or even the baleful eyes of the defeated upon seeing their conquerors.  No, this is much, much worse - it's the cold contempt of those who find the coward in their midst not even worth the trouble it takes to call the coward names.

Oddly enough, I find this heartening.  Look, even if you think the student protesters and the Occupy Wall Street ilk are malcontents, the undeniable truth is this - they have the same Constitutional rights as you do.  And to borrow from George Orwell, "When I see a policeman with a club beating a man on the ground, I don't have to ask whose side I'm on."

Our country is in trouble.  The super-committee is about to admit they can't agree on how to cut the deficit, so they're just going to go home.  The trigger that was to punish such milquetoast behavior may be "untriggered," in which case why are we even bothering to pretend that our representatives are grown-ups, as they all seem to merrily dance as the ground crumbles.  Newt Gingrich (very close to "Grinch," I'd like to point out) thinks that we need to put 10-year-olds to work with caustic chemicals to teach them the value of a dollar (wouldn't it be better to find opportunities for their PARENTS to find work?  Just askin') - an idea so loony, so out-and-out crazypants that I went to FoxNews for the link.

Maybe we should all line the sidewalks, watch these architects of disaster leave their workplace and not talk to them.  I'm not sure what is left to say.

And yet I'm grateful.  I'm grateful for a country in which excessive force used on students takes the form of pepper spray, not bullets.  I'm grateful for youthful enthusiasm and idealism that says that dammit, this time, things CAN change.  I'm grateful for the presence of cameras to document what happens so the spin stops.  And I'm grateful for students who understand the power of shame.

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