Because this column is so fabulous and attracts fabulous readers like yourself, the point being made today comes in the form of a fable.

To be precise, the fable of “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf,” written by Mr. Aesop. You know the story. A shepherd boy falsely tells villagers that a wolf is attacking his flock. He plays the false-alarm trick so many times that when a real wolf turns up, the villagers refuse to help, saying that wolves are a protected species.

Wait! That’s the modern version. But perhaps it is a modern version that has been playing out.

The latest one, called “The Little Boys Who Cried Socialism,” goes likes this: Once upon a time, some little boys (and girls) who were actually grown-up folks but with little thoughts, claimed that a sinister Marxist wolf was now in charge. He was voted in by the sheep — or so they believed — and he was a big socialist spender and what’s more he probably wasn’t born here.

In reality, this wolf wasn’t so unlike the previous wolf-in-chief. Both liked to keep the flock safe by wielding big sticks and both were big spenders, although the second wolf at least had the excuse of trying to encourage jobs that were lost when the economy tanked on the first wolf’s watch. (This was unfortunate for The Three Pigs, whose house survived huffing and puffing but was eventually lost to foreclosure.) Nevertheless, a small group kept their tea kettles and themselves at boiling point and, in their over-caffeinated state, persisted in obsessing about the imagined threat of socialism and insisted that the best thing a modern nation could do was to go back to what it was like in 1787.

They persuaded their politicians that they were right and soon all compromise was abandoned. The village town hall meetings became paralyzed, as the tea-brained zealots took crisis as an opportunity to try and cut all programs that helped the poorer villagers, while refusing to insist on any sacrifices from the major flock-owners.

Then, on cue, a real wolf arrived, as he always does when he is provoked or otherwise summoned into being by little boys who foolishly play politics as if they were playing on a Ouija board, heedless of dangerous spirits.

While this is not necessarily good, it may turn out to be. This new wolf is a revived political animal of unknown intentions. His type had not been seen on the American landscape in any numbers since the 1960s or ’70s. Ironically, his name was evoked so much and the provocations against him became so numerous that breath has been pumped into him by the very people who feared him most.

The chosen habitat for the new wolf is various occupied public spaces across the nation and the world, starting on Wall Street. The wolf yellers have finally got it right: A leftist, socialist movement they can really worry about has arrived.

Are these protests really anti-capitalist? They seem to be. But because no one person is a leader and the participants are so varied, the Occupy Wall Street movement doesn’t clearly convey whether reforming the system or overturning the system is the core agenda.

Of course, according to right-wing pundits, the protesters are the most dangerous people in America — latte drinkers. I say, “Latte drinkers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your froth.”

Still, I welcome these protests only up to a point, and that point is where this ends up going. For years, we have been getting one continuous political narrative of conservative boilerplate. Now, in one park at a time, a new conversation has started. The spell is broken.

But I am a liberal, not a leftist, and I have long believed that the far right and the far left are both equally nuts. In the famous formula, I believe in equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. I like capitalism when it works, when government hasn’t been bought and sold, as it is today. The government has ceased to be the people’s protector and instead rigs the game. That is why people are justly angry.

So tell me that the left isn’t just a wolf revived to hate and howl at other howling haters across the divided canyon of American life. Tell me that this movement intends to get out of the parks and into the polling booths where the system can be revived. Tell me that fabulous news and I’m behind it foursquare.

Now, where’s my latte?

Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Email [email protected]


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