As an American, one usually becomes accustomed to the dust kicked up by opposing ideologues, but ours is a time of great irresolution about political compromise and any fair sense of profit, wages, protection of the environment and so on. It is as if there need be no forms of regulation meant to guarantee clear water, fair business practices, unpolluted air and anything that tends to move away the muck made of corruption and profit. The most naive among us assume that, left alone, the market itself will decide what is right and what is wrong simply because business is an arena in which only the morally strong triumph. Some are born whales and others minnows. That is just the way things always are.
Naive garbage, but so obvious that the Founding Fathers understood what the deal was nearly 250 years ago. The only protection against the high winds of corruption and profit comes from good policy and the option to change the law through Congress when it is found to be unfair, ineffective and insufficiently farsighted.
But the Occupy Wall Street movement is far from naive because it is an expression of public disenchantment with the way business is done in our national financial sector. It is also about the ominous power the financial sector has over Washington, D.C., transcending left or right in the interest of protecting profit margins.
Occupy Wall Street has yet to articulate anything other than Spartan slogans like "justice," which can easily be hijacked by intellectually rotting Marxists. It is, however, too well grounded in public despair about the state of things to boost some clichemonger like Angela Davis into the driver's seat. She will be dutifully listened to, then ignored as momentum picks up.
In America, as in almost every place else, people tend to feel something before they discover the particulars needed to make the general situation better. Great changes seem to always begin with flailing around, stampeding into blind alleys and sinking into cartoon versions of both the complexity of the opposition as well as what will, finally, work against it in such a way that makes things much better for all concerned.
This sort of feeling is even influencing a black website like The Grio, which spends too much of its time mooning over the flimsiest connections to Africa and licking the boots of any man or woman receiving big paychecks. Yet The Grio has recently attacked a tattooed minstrel embodiment of vulgarity like Lil Wayne - say what?
Wonderfully, The Grio is now beginning to question the millions of dollars made by the dangerously decadent airheads at the bottom of the money tree - and are even questioning long-term minor talents like Jay-Z. One might never have expected to see this, but it is happening. We will see if hip-hop strategists like Russell Simmons will move behind enemy lines and buy back influence. It never costs very much.
Another great thing is the reaction to the pedophile scandal Penn State is accused of covering up. It provides another opportunity for Americans to grow and face the tragic complexity that can bring down any institution too proud of its reputation for goodness to do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may. The football program was at the center of a $2 billion endowment raised during the past 40 years. There are many purple crocodile tears wept for the innocent football players finding themselves in a college program that is losing all respect.
Joe Paterno was surely a great coach, and his vision was a strong alternative to Vince Lombardi's slogan that could have been thought up on Wall Street, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." The attempt to keep its reputation sent Penn State down the same path that blew holes in the Catholic Church, which has yet to recover.
On another front, I was greatly impressed by the pacing, nuance and taste of Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar." The film does not deny Hoover his organizational genius for fusing science and law enforcement, but shows him as a deeply troubled man who abused power on the level of a totalitarian, with a huge red stain always at the back of his neck. If anyone were to make a fictionalized film inspired by the tragedy at Penn State, Eastwood could bring off the assignment.
There is always more, but this should be enough to convince you of certain things - if you are interested. We are great enough as a nation to see the huge warts on the face of Wall Street, understand the complexity of Penn State, rise from our knees at the trough of slop dripping from the money tree, question the garbage aspects of hip-hop, get ourselves to hear good jazz, buy some truly good books and comprehend the Richard III brilliance and dubious qualities of our country's most famous federal lawman.
Think about that while enjoying your leftover turkey.
Stanley Crouch can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.