Americans generally are unused to images from the Occupy protests being domestic ones. Grandmothers and unarmed college students pepper-sprayed with alarming casualness. Reporters singled out and beaten. Veterans returning from war in Iraq only to be gravely injured trying to exercise the precious liberties for which they supposedly risked life and limb.
Perhaps, we hoped, that these things were only possible in clearly authoritarian regimes such as Syria, Burma and Iran, but they are now home-grown creations, sharing both technique and intention to keep people from peacefully assembling and asking for a redress of grievances, the most precious right enshrined by the Founding Fathers.
New revelations show complicit activity between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and local police forces to repress the Occupy protests, a collaboration that violates a host of regulations, laws and the very Constitution. Given the pattern of violence in the coordinated response to peaceful demonstrations, it is clear that those in elite positions of government are at the very least guilty of overreaction fueled by anxiety and confusion, or are at worst behind a conspiracy to repress the free speech of Americans asking for political reforms that are entirely reasonable within a functioning democracy. Once again, as it seems to happen so often these days, America's leadership fails.
The United States has been careening into catastrophe after crisis after scandal for more than a decade under the current crop of leaders in the public and private sector. From the frivolous Dot Com bubble to the financial scandals of the Enron era to a disastrous war of choice in Iraq to the creation of a global torture regime spanning from Virginia to Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib to a housing bubble based on pure fraud ending in a trillion-dollar bailout to propping up a debt 'supercommittee" that couldn't agree on how to manage a bake sale. America's leaders seem chronically incapable of doing the right thing.
In the decade since the world-uniting tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, America has faced a great number of difficult situations, and, repeatedly, our leaders cannot manage the institutions of the United States to honorable, successful outcomes.
But this aggression against American citizens with no other goal other than to repress free speech is a turning point. America's leaders can no longer hide behind simple incompetence, as they have with every other scandal from Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction to the badly blown bubble of fake mortgages. These events are not the result of poor foresight, and "Nobody could have seen it coming" will not function as an excuse. This time, the leaders know precisely what they are doing.
Those currently holding elite positions of influence have shown themselves ill-fit to the job of leading a great, peaceful, just and prosperous nation. The baby boom generation, whose members hold the highest posts of government, military, finance, industry and the media, has failed to produce a cadre of leaders capable of anything other than fulfilling their own selfish interests, either by loading up their pockets with outlandish compensation packages or by staying in positions of power for personal gain while wrecking the institutions they pretend to serve. Given their gross incapacity to function in the positions they currently hold, it is time for society to dismiss these pretenders in the hopes of moving forward to find better, more qualified candidates.
I am completely aware that I do not have the power to actually fire anyone with a mere essay. No member of my generation, individually or collectively, could muster the power to dislodge the current elite from the positions from which they inflict failure on society. And with the violent repression that they have recently coordinated at local, state and federal levels, we are aware that they see this as a brute power struggle. And almost no Americans are interested in that unwinnable game.
And so, no doubt, they will continue to stay in their positions of influence, wasting blood and treasure in the deserts of Central Asia, letting Wall Street gamblers keep our economy on the brink of collapse, bankrupting America's health care system and running their increasingly tiresome and pointless political sideshows.
Yet, because this is the case, a change in nomenclature is due. If anyone should be accused of Occupying America, it is the group of amoral, disaster-producing chair-warmers currently impersonating the leaders of a great nation. They certainly aren't actually leading anything, but they occupy the positions. Until they step aside and allow a new generation to come to influence, America shall remain an occupied nation.