Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Move Over Tea Party! Young Americans Are About to Rise Up and Make

Move Over Tea Party! Young Americans Are About to Rise Up and Make

Mark Naison

During the last two years, a political revolt on the Right has
changed the landscape of American politics. A movement which calls
itself the Tea Party, overwhelmingly composed of white Americans over
the age of fifty, has taken over the Republican Party, and with it the
House of Representatives, with a program calling for drastic curbs on
government expenditure and a moratorium on new taxation. The startling
growth of this movement is in large measure attributable to racial
fears triggered by Barack Obama’s election as president. but those
fears are connected to demographic shifts which have made school
populations majority minority in many states, and prefigure a future
when whites are no longer the nation’s dominant group. Economic
anxiety and racial fears have produced a truly vindictive approach to
politics on the American Right. To put the matter bluntly, the Tea
Party has declared war on American youth by trying to cut school
budgets, library budgets, publicly subsidized recreation programs, and
access to college scholarships.

Until quite recently. young people in the country, who do not
vote in the same proportions as their elders, ( the 2008 Presidential
Election excepted) have mounted little no significant resistance to the
Tea Party offensive and showed few signs of dissatisfaction. But this
could change with startling rapidity A wave of protest in other
nations, starting in the Arab World, spreading to continental Europe
and most recently taking the form of massive riots in England, all have
originated among young people using social media to spread their
message. It is not difficult to imagine that this wave of global
protest, both non violent and violent, will soon spread to the US,
taking forms uniquely adapted to American conditions.

Some of this protest has already started.. It is significant that
the most important recent youth protests in the US have taken place in
our prison system, a sector which dwarfs its counterparts in the Arab
world or Europe. There have been two huge hunger strikes in prisons in
the last six months, the first in Georgia, the second in California, in
each case ending when authorities made concessions. Since a
significant portion of the American working class lives in communities
where people move in and out of prison with startling frequency, such
protests are a sign of growing discontent among that section of the US
population steadily being beaten down, not only by Depression imposed
job losses and foreclosures,, but by the budget cuts Tea Party
activists have helped negotiate.

Another sign of this discontent is are electronically
organized commodity riots which the media have called “flash mobs,”
groups of adolescents from poor neighborhoods, who, with the help of
cell phone communication, suddenly descend on a downtown business
district, or a store, and rob everyone in sight, disappearing as
quickly as they’ve congregated. Incidents of this kind have taken place
in Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Maryland, prompting moral
panic among politicians and religious leaaders who view these outbursts
as a consequences of faulty childrearing and parental neglect

But while it is hard to endorse indiscriminate acts of violence
which put forth no program and make no demands, it is also naïve to
condemn them without referring to the increasing poverty and isolation
of the young people responsible for these actions , or to the blithe
indifference to their plight among urban elites and young
professionals whose prosperity has been untouched by the recession.
Can you really expect young people to stand by and suffer in silence
while libraries and recreation centers are shut, while food becomes
scares, while many among them are being forced into homelessness, and
when schools become test factories, especially since their older
siblings in prison are starting to organize and protest against their
plight. As conditions worsen among the working class and the poor,
expect more flash mobs, more school takeovers and walkouts, and more
actual riots, especially when and if police over react to these other
forms of protest.

Now as for middle class students and ex students trapped in an
unfavorable job market, will they remain silent in the face of working
class violence and dissent, or join forces with their elders in calling
for its suppression? I don’t think so. There is not only a growing
awareness among college students about racial and economic disparities
in the country, there are signs of actual activism. College and high
school students were a central component of the protests , marches and
occupations surrounding the elimination of collective bargaining for
public workers in Wisconsin, they have major participants in protests
against repressive immigration laws in Arizona, and they have been
active in protests against police violence and police brutality from
New York to Oakland.. Because of economic pressures as well as moral
incentives, more and more college graduates are choosing to participate
in programs which place them in low income communities, whether it
Vista, Americorps, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, or alternative
certification programs like Teach for America. As the residents of
these communities erupt in protest, they are going to inevitably pull
along a portion of the middle class community workers and teachers in
their midst

In five years, I predict, there are going to be youth movements in
the US, multiracial, multicultural, and multi-class in their
composition, which dwarf the Tea Party in size and importance. Like
their counterparts around the world, they will take a wide variety of
forms, some violent and even nihilistic, some visionary, carefully
organized and inspirational. But they will make demands on this nation
that will require it to sharply change direction in favor of greater
inclusiveness, greater compassion, and greater equality. No younger
generation worth its salt will allow the poor and the weak in its midst
to be driven into the dust, by smug, racist movements, financed by
self-interested elites!

The current concentration of wealth at the top of our nation- that
allows 400 of the nations wealthiest individuals to make as much as the
bottom 150 million- will not go unchallenged forever.

The youth of this country will rise up and demand something better,
and the people running the country had better listen, if they want to
have a country left to govern

Mark Naison

August 17, 2011

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