Every morning I wake up completely surprised to read about how many people are “occupying” public squares, parks and streets. I’m grieved to see it turn to chaos, when it does, but I’m pleased to see the occupation nonetheless. The occupation is important.
I’m more surprised to see how many people still complain about Occupy movement and how many people judge it to be a group of “whiners” who just want to “camp out” and “don’t want to work.” I’m surprised by this and I’m sad, because the 99% for which they are camping include pretty much all of us. Maybe you’d say, though, that you don’t want them to march in your name, that you are satisfied with the status quo or that they’re not doing anything to help the situation. That all might be true, I’ll allow for that.
I was downtown in Chicago a few weeks ago after picking up my daughter from a class she’s taking. We took the train because the first month we lived in Chicago after moving back someone hit my car and totaled it. The insurance company didn’t offer much on a car that, while solid and dependable, had little market value left in it in their eyes. We cannot replace our car on the money they offer and they will not fix it. So, we’re making do as we can, taking public transport as much as possible until we figure out what to do next. It’s not a life or death situation, we have another car after all. It’s an inconvenience and it sucks but we’ll be fine.
We’re all relatively healthy and we’re glad to have health insurance, although we pay through the nose for it because of Dave’s cancer and heart attack. We have enough work and income to sustain us. Overall, we live very well, we’re thankful.
While we were on our way to the train we walked into the middle of the Occupy Chicago march. They were, to say the least, a diverse group. They were peaceful yet passionate. What struck me is that the common theme of this march was that this was a group of people who are not heard and so, they are making themselves heard. They are coming together in cities all over the country. They’re showing up.
In every large gathering of people you’ll find a variety of stories, motivations and moralities. We live in a fairly diverse country with unemployment hovering around 9% and a deadlocked government. It’s fair to say that some of the protesters in the Occupy movement do not have clear or clean intentions, just as we cannot know that everyone in the Tea Party movement have clear or clean intentions, or the Democratic Party or “Insert church denomination name here” for that matter. Groups of people gathering together are not faceless mobs, they all have faces and they all have stories, some of them mirror your own stories.
The best way to understand people in the Occupy movement is not by watching sound bites or YouTube videos but by hearing and reading the stories of the people in that movement. There are common themes in them but no two stories are identical.
To turn away the “Occupy” movement and completely dismiss it is to say, “I don’t care.” To toss off the group of 5000 people who closed the port of Oakland as “troublemakers, vandals and criminals” is to say, “I don’t care that you have problems. We all have problems.” The difficulty is that a large number of the problems the Occupy movement wants to bring awareness to are also problems you have. I promise you that.
My challenge to you, readers, is to go here and read this. Scroll through as many as you can, not to indulge someone’s tough luck story but to remember again what compassion for your countrymen feels like. See how long you can read the stories of the people on this site and still say, “I don’t care.”