Monday, October 17, 2011

Marx Was Right - Woodstock to Zuccolli Park

Conservatives may disagree with Karl Marx’s economic theories, but they must agree that he was right when he said “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. The Occupy Wall Street protestors are a pallid echo of their forebears at Woodstock during August 1969. At least at Woodstock there were real injustices about, such as 19 & 20 year old draftees being sent to Vietnam without ever having a say in that decision via the ballot box. Does anyone think the OWS protestors know that it was President Richard Nixon who on June 22, 1970 signed an extension to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requiring that 18 year olds be given the vote in all federal, state and local elections? This right was ultimately ratified by the states to become the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution at a signing ceremony held July 5, 1971. But the right to vote was not won by the draft dodgers at Woodstock, rather it was won in the rice paddies of Vietnam by draftee grunts.

But the similarities between the dreamers of Camelot generation and those of Hope & Change are interesting and illuminating. Both were inspired by a president who as a young U S Senator had gained the public’s attention through the publication of a very well ghostwritten book. JFK’s Profiles in Courage was written by Ted Sorensen, and Obama’s Dreams of My Father by Bill Ayers. Both men were young and photogenic with nice looking young families. Both could play on an unassimilated alienation from mainstream America, JFK as the Irish Catholic immigrant, Barack Obama as the son of a Black Muslim father. And both made their mark by communicating a message from their ghostwriters as if it was their own, JFK by study and a skill at extemporaneous speech, Obama with the help of a TelePrompter because he is lazy.

Both groups’ protests have been marked by traffic jams, free admittance, piling garbage, poor sanitation, music (or at least drumming) and an orgy of bathos (or should that be need-a-bathos?). And the one complaint that resonates with the broader public from the OWS protest is the need for jobs. Many of the poor pitiful protestors can’t find jobs in their chosen fields after graduating from college! Boo-Hoo! Let me tell you a real sob story.

Like the rest of my generation, I was aware of the Woodstock Festival, but I did not attend. I had a job.

As I mentioned once before, I spent the summer of 1969 working for Grumman Aerospace (nee Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp). In August 1969, we were all basking in the glow of successfully carrying men to the surface of the Moon and back home again in our gloriously successful Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), the Eagle. I was a 20 year old junior thermodynamicist, a computer literate slide rule engineer of the Apollo Generation working on the A-6E Intruder designed to provide all-weather close air support for those grunts in Vietnam. I and others had heard the call of our generation’s creed, “We chose to go to the Moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. I wasn’t just feeling sorry for my contemporaries (and more so for myself) by protesting in the mud, I was doing my best to help them in their worst hours of need. Actions speak louder than words.

Well the politicians could not find a way to fund guns and butter and space exploration, so the Apollo program was scheduled to get the budget axe. As the last hired you can guess what my hiring prospects the next year would be at graduation (Last hired, first fired?). As an added fillip, the government decided to end all draft exemptions and hold a draft lottery for 1970. No longer would a trained, somewhat experienced Apollo Generation aerospace engineer be given an occupational deferment upon graduation. So having drawn a draft number that was in line to be called late in 1970, I found employers did not want to hire me, spend money on me and then have me called away in December after they’d made an investment in me. I couldn’t get a job because I was due to be re-classified 1-A. As things turned out, Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization program ended the draft calls earlier than expected and I was not drafted.

So all I had to do was re-tool my career and turn swords into plowshares. As I previously noted, I ended up helping Ray Kroc and his engineers globalize the McDonald’s French fry. The string of jobs that sprung from that is history; teenagers who couldn’t boil water became fry cooks. Potato farmers found a huge new market, truckers carried the potatoes to the food processing plants to be cut into fries, more truckers carried them through the distribution chain to the stores, where they met the cardboard sleeves that provided employment to lumberjacks and pulp mill workers and printers who’d emblazoned them with the McDonalds’ logo. The counter clerks sold the finished assemblage to eager customers whose money flowed into the paychecks of those workers, and the coffers of the franchisees and their accountants and thence to the coffers of local, state and federal governments.

So my question to the OWS protestors is this, “Any of you still feeling sorry for yourself?” Want my advice? Get a job, any job!

P.S. That Arab Spring you are so enamored with, why do you think the 2011 Libyan Revolution began in Benghazi with calls for American air power? Could it be that the inhabitants remember Operation El Dorado Canyon, where that A-6E I had helped design in 1969 kicked Gaddafi’s butt in 1986? The Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) reads, Jamahiriyah barracks 68 hits & 2 misses, Benina airfield 60 hits, zero misses.

Guess those Libyans learned something 25 years ago! For those who don’t get the connection, the successors to those Grumman employees of long, long ago now make the Global Hawk drones. The bad guys can run but they can’t hide!


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