Opinion » Ted Rall

Our F-You Government

Anti-Occupy crackdowns highlight lack of services


Governments are supposed to fulfill the basic needs of their citizens. Ours doesn't pretend to try. Got a problem? The U.S. government has an all-purpose response to whatever ails you: f-you.

During the '80s, I drove a taxi in New York. Then, as now, there were no public restrooms. At 4 a.m., the coffee I drank to stay awake posed a significant challenge. Yet the City of New York didn't provide public restrooms. So I did what all taxi drivers did: I found a side street. It went OK until a cop caught me peeing under the old elevated West Side Highway.

In the middle of the night on Nov. 15, NYPD goons stormed into Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. They beat and pepper-sprayed members of Occupy Wall Street and destroyed the books in their library. Citing "unsanitary conditions,"

New York billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, then told reporters: "I have become increasingly concerned ... that the occupation was coming to pose a health and fire safety hazard to the protestors and to the surrounding community."

Four days earlier, The New York Times quoted a city health department statement about the possible spread of norovirus, vomiting, diarrhea and tuberculosis: "It should go without saying that lots of people sleeping outside in a park as we head toward winter is not an ideal situation for anyone's health."

According to the Times: "Damp laundry and cardboard signs, left in the rain, have provided fertile ground for mold. Some protesters urinate in bottles, or occasionally a water-cooler jug, to avoid the lines at [the few] public restrooms."

Of course, there's an obvious solution: provide bathroom facilities--not just for Occupy but for all New Yorkers.

Doctors noted a new phenomenon called "Zuccotti cough," with symptoms similar to those of "Ground Zero cough" suffered by 9/11 first responders.

Could Occupiers be suffering the results of sleeping in a should-have-been-Superfund site for two months? We'll never know. As under George W. Bush, President Barack Obama's EPA still won't conduct a 9/11 environmental impact study.

One of the most ironic complaints about the Occupations is that they attract the mentally ill, drug users and habitually homeless.

To listen to the mayors of Portland, Ore., Denver and New York, you'd think the Occupiers beamed in bums and nutcases from outer space. When mentally disabled people seek help from their government, they get the usual answer: f-you.

When people addicted to drugs ask their government for help, they are turned away. F-you again. When people who lost their homes because their government said "f-you" rather than help turn to the same government to look for safe shelter, again they are told: "f-you."

And then, after days and years and decades shirking their responsibility to provide such staples of survival as places to urinate and sleep, food and medical care, our "f-you" government has the amazing audacity to blame us, victims of their negligence and corruption and violence, for messing things up.

Which is why we are finally, at long last, starting to say "f-you" to them.