Study after study tells us that Americans are lazy, that we’re fat, that we have short attention spans. They say that Americans have an “I’m not getting involved” attitude, that unless it’s our problem or directly affects us we don’t care what’s going on.
And let’s face it: those studies are, for the most part, right.
But just how lazy are we?
Look at what’s going on in the Middle East, this whole “Arab Spring”. People are protesting by the thousands, if not millions, in several countries because they’re unhappy with their government. The Greeks have gone so far as to riot. All over the world people are taking to the streets in protest of one thing or another.
Here in the US, we had the Occupy Movement. While it was a good idea, I think what caused it to falter is that the people involved spread the idea too thin. They tried to take on too much at once. They wanted to take Wall Street money out of politics. They wanted to make sure that people had access to affordable health care. They wanted to talk about jobs and unemployment. They wanted to talk about the price of higher education. There were just too many things factored in to make the message cohesive and lasting. When they were interviewed by news sources, they usually found the craziest looking guy there to put on television. This didn’t help, and led many to think that the Occupy Movement was nothing but a bunch of hippies who didn’t want to work.
I do realize that there are still parts of the Occupy movement that are alive and well here in the US (and abroad), but it’s nowhere near as large as it was at its peak, and it doesn’t get the coverage in the news that it did at its peak. And here in America, with our short attention spans, out of sight really does equal out of mind.
So why did the Occupy Movement fizzle out? I think there was a number of reasons:
- There wasn’t a clear message. Lack of a single solitary leader was a good thing, but as I said above, they spread themselves too thin. If they’d kept their message less than 140 characters (“Take Wall Street money out of politics!” – still leaves you with 101 characters!) then people may have caught on.
- People were afraid to get involved. After seeing what amounted to (and continues to amount to) police brutality, many people were scared to go out and protest. And they weren’t just afraid to protest with the Occupy groups; they were afraid to protest anything at all. And when you have the FBI and other initialed agencies in the government keeping a file on you as a “possible domestic terrorist“, it’s no wonder people were afraid.
- A lot of other people simply couldn’t get involved. This includes the people who were unable to take off work or leave their jobs for an extended period of time. Leave your job to go protest? Well, guess what? Now you have plenty of time because you have no job. American employers have their employees by the proverbial short and curlies.
- A good number of the rest of the population was misinformed. Yes, there wasn’t a clear message, but there was an underlying cohesion; all you had to do was take the time to try and understand. But as Kimberly Wilkins of Oklahoma City said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
- There were other hassles from the government and powers that be. Public parks were shut down and cordoned off. Bicycle paths were closed. People were hassled and harassed by the police (and other forms of law enforcement) simply for being in the area, whether they were part of the protest or not.
Another issue that we have with protesting here in the US is simply a lack of attention span. You can blame the MTV for that (or whatever else you want to blame), but the end result is that we can’t keep focused on an issue long enough to actually make a difference.
And it’s not just political things that do it to us. We hear about a tragedy like the Sandy Hook shooting. We all agree that it’s horrible. It’s all that’s on the news for the next week or so. After that? We barely remember it even happened.
Take, for example, that crazy guy who shot up the theater during the Batman movie last year. What’s going on with him right now? Any idea? No?
We know the names of these news-worthy events, be they tragedy, protest, or what-have-you. We even remember the names. Occupy Wall Street. Aurora. Sandy Hook. Columbine. The Boston Marathon Bombing. Benghazi. Nine Eleven. (You didn’t think I’d forgotten, did you?) I know tons of people who still have the little yellow ribbon magnet on their car.
But much like those ribbons that were once bright yellow and proclaimed that we as a country were standing together against terrorism, our memories and thoughts of these events very quickly fade to the point that the yellow is more of an off-white, the words still legible only because you know what they used to say.
We mourn the passing of this guy, we stand united with that country, we keep up with the stories we’re fed. So when the news moves on to the Next Big Thing, we move right along with it, making room in our minds for whatever it is we’re supposed to worry about now.
A lot of people from other countries often ask online, “How is it that Americans can see the shape their government is in and they don’t take to the streets to protest?”
When you boil it all down, it stands at three reasons:
- We’re lazy.
- We can’t afford to take time off from work to actually protest.
- We’re tired.
That’s right – Americans are tired. We’ve been in a constant state of war and/or fear for over a decade now. We’re no longer scared of the brown people who wear turbans. We’re too tired to care that the NSA is listening to our phone calls. Bradley Manning? Yeah, I hate what happened to him. Where is he now, anyway? Snowden? Haven’t heard anything about him in a while.
Folks, I don’t know what it would take for the citizens of the US to stand up as one and say that we’re done with the bullshit coming out of Washington. But if we don’t do something soon, the whole shithouse is going to go up in flames, and we’ll be standing here holding the matches.
Clyde O. Watson