If you're not familiar with the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York, you should take some time to read up on the group. The movement's mantra is, "The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1 percent." On Sunday, about 700 protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, where they managed to shut down traffic for several hours.
I don't think the group will be successful (yet) because they sleep in tents, and it will be cold soon. Their numbers are too low, and most of them look like the typical hippie protesters who make middle-aged men scream, "Get a job!" But there's something to these protests because, for once, many of those middle-aged men don't have jobs themselves.
There are a lot of angry people in this country. Washington is about to grapple with the federal debt, and the solution is inconsequential because more people will end up angry than satisfied, no matter the outcome. If Congress cuts Social Security and Medicare, everyone over the age of 50 will revolt. But if Congress raises taxes significantly, or cuts defense and veteran spending, or social aid, or education benefits, there will be an outcry from other groups.
Washington knows old people protest at the voting booth, so expect deep cuts to programs that affect young people. But that tactic is troublesome because young people are already struggling mightily; there are so few jobs that many have sought shelter in higher education, to the point that a graduate degree is becoming the new bachelor's degree.
That student loan debt needs to be paid off eventually though, and already there are a lot of young, highly educated poor people. They're the type who grew up mocking hippie protesters, who thought they'd go to college to get a good job, a nice car and a spouse of above-average attractiveness.
But they don't have any of that. They have a stack of bills from Sallie Mae, a room in their parents' house and an hourly wage. They still have passion, though, the kind that gets swept up in the romance of a large political movement that demands change. Just ask the president.
Except this time, it won't be about hope. It will be about the latent anger that keeps winning Emmys for Jon Stewart over Stephen Colbert, that made "H.A.M." a catchphrase within about 48 hours of the release of Kanye West and Jay Z's new album, the kind that's going to simmer through the winter election cycle because all the realistic Republican candidates are a joke.
It may not happen this year, but Occupy Wall Street is laying the groundwork for a major social movement. Media coverage has been middling because no network wants to show a bunch of hippies playing drums. Maybe a hot babe will be the tipping point.
Think about it: The tea party receives approximately 99 percent of its press because of Mama Grizzly. Michael Moore and Roseanne Barr aren't doing Occupy Wall Street any favors when it comes to media coverage, so the day a beautiful, intelligent woman becomes the face of the movement is the day it becomes front-page news across the country (my vote is for Natalie Portman).
It takes time for political movements to build traction. The first step in taking down the haves is admitting you're a have-not. That's a tough pill to swallow for many prideful Americans, but we've got humor to help us cope. Last fall, more than 200,000 people attended Stewart and Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, and I'm sure this winter will bring a lot of subversive humor about the presidential campaign.
Give Occupy Wall Street a few months to organize, and who knows what could happen. Maybe this year is the joke. Maybe next year is when people will realize the sad truth of the joke and start getting angry.
Christopher Haxel is a senior English major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.