I can’t tell you that I know everything about Occupy Wall Street. I can’t tell you exactly how it started or how the protestors get through each day down at Zuccotti Park. But I can tell you that it means a lot to me that they’re down there, doing what they’re doing.
For most of my politically aware life, I have known something is Wrong. That’s untrue: for most of just simply my adult life, I have known something is very, deeply Wrong. I can’t tell you I always knew what it was. Sometimes it came down to “Those stupid Republicans…” and other times it was much better thought out, realizing that neither side is really doing very well.
OWS can really encompass what you want it to. That’s where a lot of people are struggling, asking the movement to take a stand, to demand things or move on. But please don’t miss it: they are making a stand and a very important one. It’s the kind where you can think what you want about the situation and decide for yourself how best to fix it. At least, that’s what I believe because you can walk down to the protest and hear 1000 different ideas on how to fix what’s broken. The thing is: every single person there knows that something is broken. The status quo we have been living in can’t hold.
I will never forget when the healthcare reform bill passed. Passed. This thing that I had wanted for so long was coming true. The president that I voted for was putting into play something that I personally believed in. Wow. That was how this worked, right? I vote for someone who shares my values and they make my values play out in legislation! What a magical concept, one that really shouldn’t be so alien to me. Say what you want about healthcare, but the point here is that it shouldn’t be a novelty to feel like your ideas are being represented. It shouldn’t feel surprising that something that might actually benefit you is being passed through your government.
But back to OWS: we’re never going to agree. Republicans vs Democrats vs liberals vs conservatives vs your mom’s meatloaf. Wouldn’t it be nice to just all be on the same side? Wouldn’t it be nice to lose knowing that you had a chance at the game? That’s it. If you’re confused about what OWS wants, there you have it: they just want everyone to have the same shot.
I don’t need a hand-out. I would never ask anyone to erase my student loan debt (nevermind that I can’t currently complete my degree because of the fact that my job doesn’t allow me to keep the school schedule I require to graduate, but I have to keep my job to pay my student loan debt on the degree I don’t have because the job doesn’t allow… see the cycle of joy?). I don’t need the rich to give up their riches. I’m not asking for people to have it “easy” and not have to work hard to be successful. What I would ask is for a more level playing field. I think that’s what OWS is really asking. They want jobs so that they can pay their bills. They want everyone to pay their share of taxes, not find every loophole to avoid them. They want Wall Street and the government to treat people fairly and as people. They want to be represented. They don’t want corporations to be able to give money to political campaigns because corporations aren’t people. They want social programs that work. They want us to invest in us, not in the 20 different wars of the week. What’s wrong with that?
There is nothing wrong with knowing that the system is broken and wanting it to be fixed. Love it or hate it, OWS has at least allowed us to start that dialogue. The people that don’t want it to be fixed, who give money to the NYPD to buy their protection from peaceful protestors, who badmouth the movement on tv, those are the people who feed off the brokenness. Like it or not, you are probably part of the 99% that OWS is talking about. OWS doesn’t want to be the 1%. They just don’t want the 99% of us to be ruled in one way or another by the 1%. That’s the brokenness of the system. That is what this movement is bringing to light and that is why I love them.
Say what you want about the movement or the protestors… You can say their message isn’t clear and that they aren’t being effective. But they have you thinking, right? That’s the first step in any revolution.