Street' Threatens to Divide American Society
the Tea-Party movement and the anti-Wall Street demonstrations mark the
beginning of a real division of U.S. society, the situation will be fraught
with danger. If the confrontations intensify and it becomes yet more difficult
to resolve problems though dialogue, the possibility of social unrest cannot be
Intensifying anti-Wall Street
demonstrations, which began in New York, are threatening to divide U.S. society.
In a single day earlier this month, about 700 protesters were arrested. The
demonstrations, now in their third week, have expanded to Chicago, Los Angeles
and other American cities.
Lacking a charismatic leader,
one can't help but wonder what the goal is of participants in the
demonstrations, entitled, "Occupy Wall Street." Their demands appear
to vary from person to person. And it remains to be seen whether the movement
will develop into a major political force that can confront the conservative so-called
"Tea-Party movement." Nevertheless, close attention should be paid to
the protesters, since their movement could adversely affect U.S. foreign policy
and the 2012 presidential race.
The protest movement appears to
have spread through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and is rapidly
expanding with advocates from the younger generation. As the campaign's title "Occupy
Wall Street" suggests, the anger of demonstrators is directed at
executives of leading financial institutions.
Three years since the
collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the financial crisis, few U.S. citizens have
seen any improvement in their lives, which is reflected in an unemployment rate
that remains at 9 percent. Meanwhile, bank executives, who sowed the seeds of
all the misery, continue to keep their wealth without serious penalty.
In the eyes of the public, the
U.S. Congress, where conservatives have expanded their influence, favors preferential
treatment for the wealthy and large companies while seeking to cut spending on social
welfare. And the Obama Administration has failed to find effective solution to the
country's economic problems. The situation seems to be amplifying peoples' indignation.
And "Occupy Wall Street"
demonstrators are not only poor and unemployed people dissatisfied with the
current economic situation. The demonstrations are at times quite festive, with
some participants offering street performances. These protests are legitimate,
lawful and commonplace in a free society, and don't warrant any immediate
concern or pose an immediate threat to American society.
However, if the Tea-Party
movement and the anti-Wall Street demonstrations mark the beginning of a real division
of U.S. society, the situation will be fraught with danger. If the confrontations
intensify and it becomes yet more difficult to resolve problems though dialogue,
the possibility of social unrest cannot be ruled out.
For those of us outside the
United States, including in Japan, it is of particular concern that the United
States will become increasingly inward-looking and tend toward protectionism.
The U.S. Senate has decided
to deliberate on a bill targeting China with sanctions for manipulating the
yuan. Both the ruling and opposition parties tend to join hands when it comes
to condemning China. When both the left and the right in the United States work
together to paint China as a country that "deprives Americans of job
opportunities by manipulating exchange rates," making China into a common
enemy, caution is warranted. Any new U.S. sanctions on China will result in retaliation,
with China imposing fresh sanctions on Washington, increasing Sino-U.S. tensions
and perhaps giving impetus to a round of global protectionism.
No one benefits from
political and social division. Both Obama and Congress should overcome their economic
challenges through dialogue and explanations to the public.
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