Kids who visit the park in Douglasville, Georgia, just call it “Hunter Park,” although its proper name is Hunter Memorial Park, and most of the children running around the soccer fields and picnic areas never stop to study the monument that pays tribute to the park’s namesake. He was voted “Most Talented” his senior year at Douglas County High School, where he won acclaim for his artistic abilities, starred in the school play and was editor of the student yearbook, but his name is not well known today, when he would have been 70 years old.
Robert Gerald “Jerry” Hunter left his native Douglas County to attend the Citadel, where he graduated with honors. He joined the Air Force, became a fighter pilot, and was deployed to Vietnam. On May 25, 1966, Hunter was on his 34th combat mission when his F-105 jet was shot down near the Laotian border. He bailed out — his comrades saw the parachute — and it was initially believed that he had survived. The 25-year-old pilot was listed as missing in action, and the Air Force promoted him from first lieutenant to captain while rescuers searched for him. Hunter’s family, including his young bride Laura, prayerfully waited for word that he had been recovered safely. Seven weeks later, however, the sad news came that his remains had been found in Laos, where he had apparently died of injuries. First Baptist Church in Douglasville overflowed with mourners at his funeral and local businesses closed early that afternoon in honor of Captain Hunter, Douglas County’s first casualty in the Vietnam War. Hunter Memorial Park was dedicated a year later, when I was in second grade, and I remember as a boy reading his name on the monument at the park.
We’ve seen a lot of news lately about young men in parks, but I doubt if folks down home would tolerate any “Occupy Douglasville” protesters in Hunter Park. Jerry Hunter died fighting against communism, after all, and it would be a disgrace to his heroic memory to have the park named in his honor “occupied” by mobs that are clearly Marxist in orientation, if not in name. And if nobody else understands what motivates these protests, certainly the Communists do. “An epic battle is underway for the direction of our country,” the Communist Party USA declared last month. “The Occupy movement is not alone.… We stand with the courageous young people who have sparked this movement and join with the occupiers who are putting themselves on the line to transform our nation and achieve a secure and sustainable future. … The time has come to put people before profits.”
There was a time — not really so long ago — when a ringing endorsement from CPUSA would have been the kiss of death for any political movement in America. Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the anti-communist sentiments of the Cold War seem as obsolete as the F-105 fighter-bomber (finally mothballed by the Air Force in 1984), while a vaguely Marxist mentality inspires headline-making protests from coast to coast. I say “vaguely Marxist” because most of the demonstrators seem incapable of articulating any coherent ideology or agenda beyond a hatred of the rich, hatred of corporations and banks, and hatred of whomever or whatever else they associate with the “1%” against whom they rant and chant: “We are the 99 percent!”
Since these protests began Sept. 17 in New York as Occupy Wall Street, their demonization of the “1%” has been echoed by major national news organizations that strive to ignore the numerous incidents of criminality amid the mob. Even the documented presence of heroin dealers, arsonists, rapists and murderers among the Occupiers is not enough to discredit the movement in the eyes of liberals like Rep. Maxine Waters. “That’s life and it happens, whether it’s with protesters or other efforts that go on in this country,” the California Democrat told CNSNews last week. “So I’m not deterred in my support for them because of these negative kinds of things.” Nor did the Occupy movement lose its liberal friends due to the raving anti-Semitism of protesters who spew hatred toward “Jewish billionaires.” No matter how many criminals and psychotics cluster in the camps of the Occupiers, liberals refuse to repudiate these protests, evidently taking their cue from President Obama’s assertion last month that the movement “expresses the frustrations that the American people feel.”
Expressions of frustrations didn’t get a sympathetic hearing at the White House when the American people feeling frustrated were Tea Partiers rallying across the country in opposition to the administration’s left-wing agenda. Not even the “shellacking” of last year’s mid-term elections could convince Democrats to abandon their class-warfare ideology. Capitol Hill is still deadlocked because Democrats insist that deficit reduction must mean more taxes for the rich and less money for defense, rather than removing a single cent from the out-of-control entitlement programs that threaten to bankrupt the nation. The liberal media, of course, would have us blame the budget stalemate on Republican intransigence, but distorted perceptions have become the media’s stock in trade.
The same news organizations that scapegoat conservatives for the failures of the not-so-super “supercommittee” are also busy trying to convince Americans that the Occupiers are a non-violent mainstream movement, no matter how extreme their rhetoric or violent their actions. Sunday’s Washington Post prominently featured an op-ed manifesto by the ideologues who claim credit for inspiring the Occupy movement, and the paper also offered Barbara Ehrenreich’s suggested reading list for the soi-disant “99 percent.” First on that list was A People’s History of the United States by former Communist Party comrade Howard Zinn. When the works of known Marxists are so highly recommended in the prestige press, as their way of showing solidarity with anti-capitalist street mobs, we might suspect many in the media have adopted the radical motto of French revolutionaries: Pas d’ennemis à gauche! “No enemies to the left” also evidently describes the posture of today’s Democratic Party, which has drifted so far leftward that the heirs of Marx and Engels might plausibly sue for copyright infringement.
Ideas have consequences, as Richard Weaver once warned, and one consequence of the Democrats’ embrace of left-wing ideas is that opposition to socialism has become “controversial,” as if economic freedom were an extremist concept or merely the narrow partisan agenda of Republicans. Simply telling the obvious truth about the Marxist orientation of the Occupy movement — a fact evident enough to the CPUSA — is sufficient to cause liberals to sound alarms about the danger of a return to “McCarthyism.” Liberal outrage, however, seems to depend entirely on who is witch-hunting whom. Advocates of free enterprise are now routinely besieged by the same Occupier mobs whose efforts are enthusiastically admired by the editors of the Washington Post. Two weeks ago, I found myself briefly surrounded by Occupy DC protesters attempting to storm the doors of an event sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. More recently, hundreds of Occupy Denver demonstrators descended on a hotel that was hosting a conference sponsored by FreedomWorks.
The encounter Nov. 11 at Denver’s Crowne Plaza Hotel proved an embarrassment for the Occupiers. The FreedomWorks event was a nationwide gathering of conservative bloggers and evidently the protesters weren’t prepared to confront scores of New Media activists armed with digital video cameras. One of the bloggers, Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit, interviewed a teacher who apparently brought her students to participate in the Occupy Denver march on the Crowne Plaza. Celia Bard said the students from St. Mary’s Academy were merely there on a field trip to “observe” the protest: “We want them to see the democratic process in action.” But another blogger, Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom, interviewed one of Bard’s students who seemed to contradict her teacher’s explanation. “You’re f—ing up our future,” the 17-year-old told Goldstein. “What do you think we learn at school? This is what we learned about.…We’re the 99 percent.”
That expression of Occupier sentiment, from a blonde teenager who attends an all-girls Catholic school where tuition is $14,000 a year, was as shocking to me as any report of criminal violence in the protest encampments. It prompted me to write a long contemplation about how so many American young people have been indoctrinated to regard the “New Left” radicals of the 1960s as heroes. What have these kids been taught about the history of that era? And perhaps more importantly, what have they not been taught?
While liberals were wringing their hands about the Occupier encampments being removed from parks in New York and other cities, memory called to my mind a monument in a park down home. That monument bears the name of a handsome Georgia boy voted “Most Talented” in his high school, a brave pilot who died fighting for freedom at age 25. Today children play in the park dedicated to his memory, and no one can doubt Douglas County gave her best in what John F. Kennedy called “a long twilight struggle” against the totalitarian menace of communism. Can such a sacrifice ever be forgotten, while our nation’s children are taught to admire draft-dodgers and Marxist agitators? If schools want to teach kids about heroes from the Sixties, they should take a field trip to Washington, D.C., where Robert G. Hunter is one of more than 58,000 names on a black granite wall.