Last night, a Facebook friend of mine, who I’ll call Norman, posted a link to a CNN article about the recent backlash against the Occupy movements that have swept America. The article writes, “They call themselves the 53%…as in the 53% that pays federal income taxes.” In his Facebook post, Norman declared, “I *am* the 53% that pay taxes, and one of the .001% that has served in our military.”
Honestly, given the cryptic, shorthand nature of Facebook posts, I’m not even sure what Norman’s view on either Occupy Wall Street or the 53% backlash really is. Norman is an old high school classmate. We’re not close friends, and I don’t spend enough time on Facebook to have an accurate sense of his political inclinations.
What I do know is that my frustration with the 53% is so strong that I risk rendering myself incoherent.
53% supporters seem to believe that protesting economic inequality somehow equates to not wanting to work and pay taxes. Stories of “personal responsibility and work ethic” fill the 53% blog. Assuming that Americans who protest economic inequality don’t want to work and pay taxes is baseless and prejudiced.
One protestor defends his stance by saying, “I took jobs I didn’t want, suck it up.” Is this really the kind of world we want to live in, a world where everyone hates their job and just “sucks it up”? Where the brilliant potential of every human being is dimmed in a job they hate? That’s not the world I want to live in, nor the life I want to lead, and it is not the kind of world we have to settle for. We humans – we Americans – can do much, much better than that. Don’t believe me? Try reading Yes! magazine http://www.yesmagazine.org/, especially the Fall 2011 issue, for a take on what’s possible, a sharp contrast to the 53%’s perception of what’s not.
In a literal sense, I am the 53%, too. I’ve always paid my taxes on time. Any friend or colleague can attest to my strong work ethic and sense of personal responsibility. With regards to economics, I simply want, for myself and my fellow citizens of America and the world, to work in fair conditions, to be able to make enough money to provide for myself & my family, and to have access to affordable health insurance. Anyone who tells me that is too much to ask for has lost sight of the American dream.