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How bad parenting created Occupy Wall Street

Courtesy of Occupyshirts.com

It’s a nice time of year for an uprising. Temperatures in New York are in the high 60s to low 70s. Sunny skies, little rain. It drops to about 50 at night, so the free blankets come in handy. Every so often you march. The rest of the time you do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight. Occupy Wall Street is a Bonnaroo-ed version of a revolution. If T.G.I. Friday’s made a civil rights movement, this would be it.

I get why they’re there. My family is middle class. I once had Bank of America stock that could pay for Jackson’s college education. I now have Bank of America stock that could pay for Jackson’s college sweatshirt. We scrutinize our account balance. We drink domestic. We drive South Korean. We Coinstar.

We know the unemployment rate (over 9 percent) and the number of us living in poverty (more than 46 million. That’s roughly one in seven). But Occupy Wall Street is not helping those people. Occupy Wall Street is a temper tantrum in a private park. And it’s parents, moms and dads, i.e. us, who are to blame.

At some point on the parenting evolutionary chart, we went from restrained to indulgent. We went from being parents to being friends. Peewee baseball games stopped keeping score. Everyone got a trophy. If there was a problem, there was always a Boogieman: allergies, ADD, auditory processing, a bad teacher. We stopped saying “no,” and started saying “no because…” We negotiated. We gave them options (Cinnamon Life and Frosted Mini Wheats? Big Time Rush or iCarly?). We told them they could be American Idols and astronauts, all while knowing they were tone deaf and terrible at chemistry.

Those kids went to college, and got useless degrees (full disclosure: film major with a psychology minor). They graduated, and then failed at being American Idols and astronauts. Without a decent set of coping skills, they’ve turned rejection into anger. They’ve lived a life where there were always options, where they never lost, where they thought the moon overhead followed them. They’ve been kicked out of the nest, having never been told their wings don’t run on batteries.

And now somebody owes them $150,000 for their education. No one said your major in horticulture was a coupon good for one free career.

Occupy Wall Street is not a movement. It’s a paper Tyrannosaurus. Zuccotti Park, filled with people who are drinking Starbucks (publicly traded company) and using the bathrooms at McDonald’s (publicly traded company) is a petri dish for YouTube, Twitter and the 24-hour news network. It’s something to fill the CNN newscrawl between updates on Conrad Murray and Rick Perry. It’s a clever slogan on a piece of cardboard that made you click "like."

There is a silver lining here. By never losing and always winning, by having good-hearted, hard-working moms and dads who would do anything for them, these kids walked away with something important: hope. These kids believe anything is possible. It’s no surprise that Barack Obama won the presidential election with the second largest youth turnout in American history. (The largest turnout was in 1972, the first year 18-year-olds could vote.)

But by its very definition, hope is an expectation, not a reality. And here’s the reality: Very soon stiff icy winds will hustle across the East and Hudson, and New Yorkers will start pinning their chins to their chests as they walk uptown into the blast. Once those gunmetal grey skies close in, Zuccotti Park will thin out. The kids will quietly go home, where Mom and Dad will give them hot plates of food and control of the remote. And the legacy of Occupy Wall Street will be Facebook wall photos, Twitter hashtags and MSNBC soundbites—things none of us can ever touch.  

 

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