There’s a clear parallel between the protests now and the ones during the Vietnam War. In fact, it could easily be argued that not since then has there been such a widespread American uprising. Bolstering the analogy is the fact that both groups used particular events as a focus, when, in fact, the main point was a much larger, more abstract statement. In other words, during the 70s, the demonstrators were against the Vietnam War. Now, it’s Wall Street. However, in both cases, the message was really one of anti-establishment.
Additionally similar is the lack of formal leadership. No one voice is standing out downtown (and across the country—and now globe) currently, and, arguably, no one stood out in the 70s, either. This is by no means a negative critique; it’s merely the case at hand. Another commonality.
And though there are these similarities, there is also a massive distinction regarding the solution. Whereas the goal during the 70s was to show just how many people were against the War, and thus bring an end to it, the goal here is a little murkier. Well, that is, how to achieve the goal is murkier. Who, really, is supposed to meet the list of demands now? They’re not asking to withdraw from Vietnam (or Afghanistan). So, while the president has the ability to end a war, Obama isn’t capable of fulfilling the goals of the current protesters—and even if the desires are just representative microcosms of the larger, overall anti-establishment message, Obama’s inability to implement the specific requests becomes frustrating and, well, may very well lead to an impasse. The reason for this is that, now, the power is in the hands of many different people (sure, it was then, as well, but bringing the war to an end could ultimately be achieved by Nixon, signifying a success for the demonstrators). So who is to respond today? What could Obama really do? It’s not as if Bank of America is going to comply.
Alas, I suppose the answer, as Hendrik Hertzberg wrote (channeling Zhou Enlai), is that it’s too early to tell.
So, in the meantime, here are some books that might be worth reading, or rereading as may be the case.