Homeland Insecurity

This week we ponder the many permutations of the word “occupy.”

Protesters angry about corporate greed and a lot of other nebulous evils continued to occupy Wall Street, eliciting a fusty response from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who referred to the demonstrators as a “growing mob.” California Democrat Nancy Pelosi pointed out that Cantor didn’t have any problem with similar street theater from the Tea Party “when they were actually spitting on members of Congress right here in the Capitol.”

It became fashionable last week to compare the Occupy Wall Street movement to the beginnings of the Tea Party in 2009, though many on the right were quick to differentiate their street theater from the left’s version because … well, because in their minds the Tea Party occupies a special place in history, whereas Occupy Wall Street is a cadre of neo-Marxists bent on bringing down capitalism. Tea Party Express chairman Amy Kremer likened the Occupiers to “a kid having a temper tantrum because their parents won’t buy them the whole ice-cream store. Their demands are ridiculous, absurd.” Their broad demand is that the nation’s struggling debtors—homeowners, students, small-business owners—are treated with a modicum of the concern (and generosity) that the nation and its taxpayers showed in bailing out the banks. Ridiculous, indeed.

The “mobs” sprouted in cities across the country, including Las Vegas, where several hundred protesters gathered Oct. 6 and marched up and down the Strip, disproving the notion that Las Vegas is too preoccupied with yardlong beers, Celine Dion and “girls who want to meet you” for political activism to flourish. The crowd was enthusiastic but well behaved. It was young and it was old, employed and out of work, angry and resigned, idealistic and mercenary. It reflected our city post-recession and pre-recovery, stalled and frustrated. It occupies a special place in our recent history.

Meanwhile, thousands of Afghans took to the streets of Kabul to register their displeasure with the United States’ occupation of their country, which began Oct. 7, 2001. Afghanistan is now the longest war in American history, two years longer in duration, and counting, than either the Vietnam or Revolutionary wars. According to the National Priorities Project, the Afghan war has cost the federal government $460 billion and the lives of 1,721 members of the American military as of August. American taxpayers will spend $122 billion to pay for the war in fiscal year 2011, enough money to pay the salaries of 1.8 million elementary school teachers. President Obama did not note the anniversary.