Blogs > HNN > Why aren't people in the streets of America protesting and raising hell?

Apr 3, 2009 5:33 pm

Why aren't people in the streets of America protesting and raising hell?

Where's Mary E. Lease? She was the Populist hell-raiser who tore across the country in the late 19th century. Yet her kind is not to be seen these days.

In the pages of the NYT they are flummoxed by the quietness. Like Bob Dole, some are wondering, where's the outrage?

(See the NYT letter to the editor page, 4/3/098.)

A pundit on the Times's op ed page suggested the other day that the clue lies in the new technology that has divided us from one another, leaving us to suffer in silent isolation.

Others suggest that the Obama administration's acknowledgment of the crisis and its obvious attempts to address it has taken the sting out of the reaction.

Here's a different explanation, from David Kennedy:

Among those who were perplexed by the apparent submissiveness of the American people as the Depression descended was Franklin D. Roosevelt. “There had never been a time, the Civil War alone excepted,” an associate recollected Roosevelt saying during the 1932 presidential campaign, “When our institutions had been in such jeopardy. Repeatedly he spoke of this, saying that it was enormously puzzling to him that the ordeal of the past three years had been endured so peaceably.” That peculiar psychology, rooted in deep cultural attitudes of individualism and self-reliance, worked to block any thought of collective – i.e., political – response to the crisis. Understanding that elusive but essential American cultural characteristic goes a long way toward explaining the challenges that faced any leader seeking to broaden the powers of government to come to grips with the Depression.

Kennedy's explanation doesn't account for the occasional outbursts of domestic violence that one finds in even the most staid US history textbooks. But it nonetheless has a lot of merit.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

mary lili jory - 8/16/2009

I like very much the writings and pictures and explanations in your adress so I look forward to see your next writings.
In the present lively world, food and clothing put on the line in our life have already to obtain the sublimation, life needs the entertainment, in the market shoe's design is all kinds, Women is Dakota and Sundance UGG Boots were the riotous multi-colors, each kinds of color and design are finitely looks like the young women's hairstyle , every day them use the ghd Hair Straightener to changes themself hairstyle,when went out they brought MP3 to wear the fashion to symbolize that Bose in ear headphones and Bose on ear headphones ,let us feel the fashionable news of life.
People to enjoy music, a need for a high-quality sound equipment to show the moving melody to enhance the music quality of life,It is the use of bose headphones.Now bose headphones for sale in hot.

Oscar Chamberlain - 4/6/2009

Kennedy's analysis is persuasive. I'm sure it is part of the answer, but I'm not sure it's complete. A few thoughts.

1. As you note, there is a sense that, right or wrong, Obama is working on it. that matters because . . .

2. Most Americans are not in imminent danger of being unemployed. Their fears are in the future. They hope, fingers crossed, that their own efforts, Obama's current policies, or just plain luck wins the day.

3. Protest how? Taking to the streets is not simply risky; it's also pretty counterproductive right now. What's the last large scale "out of doors" protest in this country that had any success in creating either short term or long term change? For whatever reason, most Americans rarely find protesters compelling, and any violence against them--which might change the popular attitude--is carefully off camera.

4. Work for change versus words about change Online, there have been many letters, blogs, twitters, and who knows what else complaining about the situation and suggesting solutions. I find myself wondering if the online world is diffusing protest by letting many people who would have been active in earlier generations confuse an audience with an impact.