Toward the end of the cold war, we learned that a deep resentment was percolating through Muscovites. After years of failing to ensure adequate transportation infrastructure for the city, a fast growing phalanx of frustrated Communist Party apparatchiks made the motorcade the city's status symbol of choice. Dozens of them zipped back and forth across the city; blocking intersections, running cars off the road and ignoring speed limits. The officials had solved their traffic problem by making everyone else's traffic problem that much worse.
Shortly thereafter, many of these officials found themselves gazing up at the business end of Boris Yeltzin's tank.
Early in my string of careers, shortly after KFC became Yum, my bosses brought me to a meeting at what was still the KFC HQ, just in case any problems arose with a presentation they were making. None did, so I was instructed to wait in the hallway until the meeting was over. The meeting was important, so I wasn't surprised when David Novack himself, the CEO of the new Yum Brands, swept past my humble perch and into the conference room. I was surprised when amid a file of other local business luminaries, none other than the mayor hurried past. And then the governor!
As I whiled my time away in this long ago era before smart phones and Angry Birds, I had a thought that has stuck with me through the years. "Here, I am in the halls of power... in the hall."
Monday morning, on my way to a protest at U of L, Hell suddenly broke loose all around me. I was momentarily surrounded by blaring sirens and dazzling arrays of red and blue strobes, the likes of which could have sent every epileptic in the Ohio River Valley into seizures. In the middle of it all, a line of long, black, bullet proof SUV's swept by. The guest of honor of our protest, Speaker of the House John Boehner [R-OH], had arrived.
After naively wasting time looking for a parking space on Floyd Street, half of which was blocked off by a police car, and against the sternly posted wishes of the McDonald's Corporation, I “borrowed” an unused space in McDonald's parking lot, and made my way to the protest. It was across the street from where it was supposed to be because the police, apparently, had orders to keep protesters, dissenters and other such rabble behind a metal barricade on the far side of Floyd Street.
While the protest noisily went on, I listened to some of the stories that had caused people to trudge out to U of L early on a chilly, drizzly Monday morning to wave their signs and to desperately shout "Jobs now! Pass the bill!" and "What do we want? Jobs! When do we want them? Now!"
A common thread ran through the stories. It is a thread I recognize from the interviews I have been doing at Occupy Louisville and, ironically, from some of my acquaintances who identify with the tea party. The common thread is an overwhelming sense that something has gone badly wrong in America, and that the financial crisis, the recession, the foreclosures, the job losses... they are all symptoms of what it is, but not the thing itself.
“Here, we are in the halls of power... in the hall.”
The thing itself is that we no longer have a seat at the table of the government that is supposed to be of, by, and for us. Government now works for the tiny number of people who have amassed huge fortunes and control global business empires, and the small cadre of people who may not be rich per se, but who can see rich from their houses. The decisions that effect all 100% of us are made exclusively by a few, largely in secret, with the other 99% of us unrepresented and powerless but to live with the consequences.
I only stayed at the protest for about 45 minutes because I really didn't want Mayor McCheese to tow away my car. But a friend called me a while after I left to say that the rally had ended. Two-way traffic was flowing again on Floyd Street. The heavy police presence had returned to normal. And Speaker Boehner's motorcade, sirens wailing and lights flashing, had just blown through a red light and a crosswalk at about twice the speed limit.
Protesters at John Boehner's U of L speech:
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).