Sunday, October 23, 2011

Occupying Eric Cantor

by Gaije Kushner


Until now, the erstwhile occupiers of Wall Street, and wherever else, have been little but an annoyance to me. Almost everything they've said, or done, or Facebooked, has irritated me beyond description. But last Friday, shockingly enough, some of them, the Philadelphia branch, to be precise, did something fabulous. They shut down, shut up, Eric Cantor, which can only ever be a good thing.

Cantor is, of course, the House majority leader, tea party suck up, and D.C.'s foremost douchebag du jour. He is also a power hungry media whore, and a bad, bad, man. Yesterday he was scheduled to give a speech at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school. He'd no doubt anticipated a cozy gathering of one percenters, baring their tiny souls, and sharing tax evasion tips. But that, alas, was not to be.

No tickets had been sold, or reservations taken. Nothing to ensure the friendly audience Cantor had expected. Instead, admission was on a first come, first serve basis, for the first three hundred in line. If that kind of free for all wasn't bad enough, imagine Cantor's dismay upon hearing all three hundred were likely to be protesters associated with Occupy Philadelphia.

Maybe he saw no point in wasting his words of wisdom on people who would never donate to any campaign of his. Maybe he wanted to keep his illuminati plans to help the 1% complete the enslavement of the other 99 a secret from the rabble. Maybe he was scared the mob would teeter over the brink of violence, and burn his castle to the ground. Whatever the reasons, Cantor cancelled his speech, making the world a better place, as long as he stayed silent, and disappointing the 500 protestors who'd gathered to greet him.

Happily enough, the university's student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, obtained a copy of the speech Cantor had planned to give. It's hard for me to imagine it wasn't handed to them by some GOP staffer, who just didn't understand it was full of the kinds of things nice people just don't talk about in public.

Surprisingly, Cantor did acknowledge the existence of income and opportunity inequality. Even feigning empathy for a moment:

We know that we all don’t begin life’s race from the same starting point. [...] The fact is many in America are coping with broken families, dealing with hunger and homelessness, confronted daily by violent crime, or burdened by rampant drug use. Recently I was asked, “What does your party say to that 9-year-old, inner city kid scared to death, growing up in a life of poverty? What can you do for that little girl?  That child needs a hand up to help climb the ladder.

He almost sounds human here, doesn't he? Recognizing other people exist, and might even be deserving of a little help sometimes?

As second in command of the House majority, Cantor is one of the few lucky people in a position to actually offer real help. What might he propose? Subsidized after school activities? A private/public partnership to get poor kids into internships and summer jobs they might not otherwise have access to? Reimagining subsidized housing, or community policing? No, of course not. Don't forget, that empathy was only make believe. Instead, he offers something he calls, "The Steve Jobs Plan."

I believe that the most successful among us are positioned to use their talents to help grow our economy and give everyone a hand up the ladder and the dignity of a job. We should encourage them to extend their creativity and generosity to helping build the community infrastructure that provides a hand up and a fair shot to those less fortunate, like that little 9-year-old girl in the inner city.

So, the plan seems to be asking the billionaires amongst us to do nice things for poor people. Which I'm just not seeing turning out terribly well for the poor.

Surprisingly enough, Cantor's non-plan somewhat echoes what some of the occupiers have been saying about shifting the culture's moral compass, rendering greed and the will to power socially unacceptable. I didn't think much of the idea coming from them either. Maybe seeing their thoughts reflected in such an unflattering mirror will bring about an occupational epiphany, a new understanding of the impossibility and irrelevance of shifting a nonexistent moral consensus. Then this might not be a one time thing. They might start to annoy me significantly less, on a daily basis. They might even start thinking about accomplishing something real. That would be delightful.

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