Watching the world's youth combat the rapacious oligarchy that has poisoned their futures reminds me of a student who told me in the early 2000s that he was graduating with a $40,000 debt. That young man was born at the dawn of the Reagan Revolution. Those in the streets today were born at the end of its namesake's eight years in office. They are all Ron Reagan's kids. And their futures have been stolen.
They've been biologically contaminated since they were zygotes and psychically assaulted since the first reverberations of corporate media penetrated their developing auditory canals. Their parents ignored the clear and present dangers posed by the totalitarian-capitalist economic system Reaganism spawned and embraced it wholeheartedly. As a consequence, they have now lost, or are at risk of losing, their incomes, homes, retirements and children.
These kids' elders allowed priests and football coaches to molest them with impunity. Their first political icon – Barack Obama – turned out to be more Gerry Ford than Abe Lincoln. And their older siblings, like my former student, enter their adult lives in servitude.
Where else would Ron Reagan's kids be but in rebellion? No system, no matter how corrupt, can dumb them down that much.
While I still can't fathom what took so long, the Occupy Movement's youthful rebels have awakened, and they are building the sort of social revolution that must arise if their generation is to have any future at all, literally. Time is running out for life on this planet.
On the political level, evidence of their resonance surfaced when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor quick-changed his rhetoric – from "mobs" to understandably "frustrated" citizens – within days of the first occupation in Lower Manhattan. Carl Rove subsequently cursing them and Bill O'Reilly last week declaring them "dead" boldface the point.
"The Occupy Movement shows Ron Reagan's kids have awakened, and they are building the sort of social revolution that must arise if their generation is to have any future at all, literally."
Overnight the Occupy Movement redirected the nation's political conversation from Tea Party folderol to creative, passionate exposition of the real issues facing this nation – social inequality and institutional corruption foremost among them.
Other signs of the movement's potent reverberations are its viral spread across the globe to Europe, Asia, Oceana and the Americas and the stunning electoral turns of the past few months – the historic recall of two Wisconsin state senators, the move to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the repudiation of Ohio Gov. John Kasich's union-busting agenda by voters in that state.
And while the Occupy tenet that Barack Obama's presidency has been beneath contempt – and Democrats are as guilty as Republicans – is a fact, the Occupy Movement's impact on political discourse still matters. Anytime the news media says anything about it, anytime a politician adopts its rhetoric or agenda, it's a small victory, co-optation notwithstanding (at least at this early stage).
It's not why politicians adopt, or why reporters report, the Occupy agenda that's important. It's whether the message resonates with the public. That is especially true at the presidential level. And according to a Dec. 3 news release from the White House, Obama will amplify the Occupy Movement's message in Kansas on Dec. 6 by telling middle-class Americans that this a "make-or-break moment" for them.
"He’ll lay out the choice we face between a country in which too few do well while too many struggle to get by, and one where we’re all in it together – where everyone engages in fair play, everyone does their fair share, and everyone gets a fair shot," the release says.
The White House is comparing the speech to Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 call in the same state for a "New Nationalism, where everyone gets a fair chance, a square deal, and an equal opportunity to succeed," the release says.
That message will resonate, thanks to the Occupy Movement, and it will advance the cause.
The willingness of an estimated 5,000-plus protesters nationwide to get arrested and the courage of thousands more to endure teargas and pepper spray – and to shed their blood – is the stuff fundamental social revolution has always been made of in the United States – labor, civil rights and antiwar the most compelling examples.
"Overnight the Occupy Movement redirected the nation's political conversation from Tea Party folderol to creative, passionate exposition of the real issues facing this nation."
Using their own media, Occupy demonstrators have indelibly etched the image of the 21st century American police state into the average American's consciousness. Police brutality is not reserved for the Rodney Kings and Abner Luimas of the world. College girls can also be targeted and abused for actions like sitting down on public streets and in university hallways, just like they were at Kent State in 1971.
Ditto Iraq war veterans, like 24-year-old ex-Marine Scott Olsen, who took a projectile in the head during a confrontation with Oakland's paramilitary police units on Oct. 25. Anyone who doubts the depth of this generation's commitment and desperation should consider his words.
"You'll be hearing more from me in the near future, and soon enough we'll see you in our streets!" he said in his first public statement on Nov. 13. Two weeks later, Olsen reiterated that resolve in a televised interview with MSNBC's Ed Schultz.
The Occupy Movement may shun leadership at this stage of its development, but heroes and leaders must and will emerge. Olsen is among the first. As the Iraq vet told Schultz, he sees his participation in the movement as a continuation of his military oath to defend the nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Domestic enemies of American democracy shot Scott Olsen in the head.
The simple fact is, responsibility for the dismal future Ron Reagan's kids face does not lie with Barack Obama, the Democrats or the Republicans. Its their parents'. They embraced Ronald Reagan and allowed their democracy to be hijacked, their environment to be polluted and their pockets to be picked by his revolution's top generals.
Now, their children are expected to pay the price? Predictably, the kids protest. They shouldn't have to pay for their parents' civic failures. Those who poisoned and stole their futures should.
Their rebellion is righteous. And they will carry the day. Their domestic enemies have left no other choice.
Steven Higgs can be reached at .