If you have never driven the Pacific Coast Highway (the PCH, aka Highway 1) through California's Big Sur region, you are missing one of the most spectacular drives on this or any other continent. The ninety-mile drive through bucolic stretches of forest, mountains, and spectacular ocean-sprayed inlets is filled with frequent (every 1/8 mile) turnoffs for adventurous folks to explore, or just park and stare wide-eyed.
This past weekend, my wife and I were fortunate enough to navigate this incredible destination. But just as we were rounding a bend in the highway, still gawking at the landscape, we hear car horns blaring and frantic shouting coming from a turnout. Waving a large American flag and holding hand-painted placards, one reading "1:99," were about seven aging hippies. Yes, Occupy Wall Street had thundered onto the curves of this otherwise peaceful drive.
There wasn't much I could do but shout an anemic "boooo" from the passenger-side window (my wife was driving) as we blew by. On the way back, however, we stopped, and I took a photo -- but by then, there were only half as many greasy-looking guys left to man the signs and flag. One of them shot us a peace sign as we drove on.
I couldn't help but think what would motivate anyone to take a most gorgeous Saturday in perfect-degree weather and idyllic surroundings and, frankly, spoil it. There are times and places for making points. This wasn't one of them. And by bringing your "cause" here, you send a different message: you are the 1 to the rest of us 99.
The "1" defacing the PCH are the one percent in this nation who are loud, obnoxious, self-righteous, and arrogant. They're the "1" who fill our parks, private and public, with noise pollution, trash and filth, and escalating violence. Many seem to have little self-respect, so it's not surprising that they have little respect for others.
So many people I know are overworked and overtaxed. They put in fifty-plus hours per week and end up totally exhausted on the weekends. They work, they save, they give. They're part of the "contributing class" -- in the face of the protesting one percent of those with "no class."
It's interesting, too, that this whole Occupy Wall Street (by way of Highway 1) thing doesn't take into account the sometimes behind-the-scenes infusion of cash from previous and current über-weathy. New York City, in particular, is home to myriad foundations with beaucoup bucks to distribute to worthy endeavors by making grants in scientific research, environmental causes, social engineering, and other areas that can be life-enhancing in some form or fashion. Typically, the money was set aside years back by billionaires (Rockefeller, Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, to name a few) who were, in their day, conservatives. Today, staffs of foundations, from presidents to receptionists, are mostly left- (even far-left-) leaning. So the money amassed by conservatives ends up being "redistributed" by liberals to mostly liberal causes.
So the incredibly rich contribute and redistribute in many ways -- including much of the land donated back for public use from landowners living along Highway 1.
And you don't have to be "rich" to feel demonized by these particular one-percenters. Here's how a friend broke it down for me: in a city and state like New York, NY, when you combine federal, state, and local taxes with sales taxes, his personal tax burden is forty-five percent. He told me he also gives a combined ten percent (a tithe) to his church and other charitable organizations.
"The way I see it," this friend concluded, "forty-five percent of my money goes to the government to create the problems that only ten percent of my money tries to solve."
We're all shoveling money into a system where the numbers just don't add up. In fact, since half of us pay taxes and half of us don't, 50:50 is a more appropriate sign for these 1:99ers to flaunt.
Oh, well. I wonder if those few dissenters are still camped out along the Pacific Coast Highway. Do me a favor: if you happen to drive scenic Highway 1 any time soon and you see that ragtag bunch, please do not contribute to the despoiling of the scenery -- resist the urge to slow down and flash them half a peace sign.