Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Hudge & Gudge
(Adapted from an editorial that ran in the January/February, 2012 issue of Gilbert Magazine.)
In the old cowboy movies, such as Hopalong Cassidy, there is always a gunfight where the good guys shoot it out with the bad guys. Usually this is on the side of a hill, with good guys and bad guys hiding behind boulders and logs as they try to kill each other. If, while you are watching, someone joins you bringing drinks and chips, you might be asked, “Who are the good guys?”
Who are the good guys? Even though both groups are shooting and hiding in the rocks, covered in dust and mud and wearing ragged clothes, telling them apart is not so difficult. There are differences between them. As we all know, in Westerns the good guys do not hit women, not even the hardened ones who side with the bad guys. And the good guys are not cruel to children. The bad guys do both of these things.
Which brings us to Occupy Wall Street. The fervour of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has cooled—a by-product of the winter weather. But as spring moves into summer, there is no reason to believe it won’t heat up again along with the election season. So let’s do a little review.
Like our movie example, there are a lot of similarities between OWS and the Tea Party movement. As with walking midway into a cowboy movie, a person might find it difficult to distinguish between the two, even though OWS includes nascent Distributists, as does the Tea Party. The OWS people speak about democracy, they protest abuses of the free market, they say nice things about the poor, and use the word justice a lot. So does the Tea Party.
Indeed, both groups have legitimate complaints about grave predicaments facing our country. But there are differences. And what G.K. Chesterton wrote about the Suffragettes a hundred years ago holds true for OWS today, that even if they have a good cause, they have ruined it by their tactics.
On January 10 of this year, an OWS group in Philadelphia protested what they called anti-choice legislation in Pennsylvania and started fights with the police. During the protests women were sexually assaulted, fights broke out between protestors, confrontations escalated between protesters and the police, and ordinary people were viciously attacked in a manner evocative of Kristallnacht. Cynical politicians had tied the hands of law enforcement, who were unable to maintain order. Similar violent confrontations have occurred between OWS and police across the country. And speaking of “anti-choice” legislation, last November Planned Parenthood, the organization dedicated to bullying women into aborting their children, joined a left wing coalition to support OWS actions in Florida.
In contrast, Tea Party events have pretty much zero incidents of violence, even though many members of the movement wear sidearms, publicly standing up for the Second Amendment. Despite media bias against them, incidents have been few and minor. Tea partiers have protested against the brain-washing of children in state-run schools. While we can safely assume that the Tea Party would not ally itself with Planned Parenthood, we lament the fact that the Tea Party has said little about abortion.
Finally, owing to major differences in the characteristics and backgrounds of their respective members, OWS and the Tea Party hate each other. Which is too bad. Let’s take the Western analogy a bit further. Last year Hollywood released a new kind of Western, Cowboys & Aliens. In it, good guys and bad guys—and Comanches—join forces to fight a new evil, space aliens. Silly? Maybe. But it points to realities about these new political movements and their respective issues that even many of their own members do not understand.
What brought Occupy Wall Street together last summer was anger over Big Business and the breaks it gets while ordinary citizens bear the brunt of its mistakes and crimes. What Distributist doesn’t understand that? What brought the Tea Party together in 2009 was anger over Big Government and the breaks it gets while ordinary citizens bear the brunt of its mistakes and crimes. This too is fodder for Distributists. Yet while the Joneses in Occupy Wall Street and the Joneses in the Tea Party should be natural allies against the greed and crimes of Hudge and Gudge, they remain enemies.
They remain enemies because they are stuck in outmoded and counterproductive partisan divisions. Occupy Wall Street attacks Big Business, but remains blind to the fact that the Obama administration is stuffed with Wall Street fatcats who not only helped engineer the current recession, but made enormous profits doing so. The Tea Party attacks Big Government, yet ignores the fact that when a Republican administration once again occupies the White House, it too will be stuffed with those same Wall Street fatcats, as was the Bush administration.
And this wilful ignorance will be aided and abetted by the great corporate ally of Big Business and Big Government, the Mainstream Media.
We deplore the negative elements in both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, especially OWS’s alliances with abortionists and the Tea Party’s silence about abortion. But until both movements recognize they are fighting the same fight, neither will be an effective agent for real reform.
It is time for the good guys and the bad guys to stop shooting at each other and recognize their common enemy.
—Sean P. Dailey for the editorial board of Gilbert Magazine