I don’t love everything about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations going on. I am a person who likes definite guidelines, expectations, and order. I like to know what people expect from me, and I really hate crowds. So, when my friends Forrest and Emily told me they were taking their two children (four and under a year) to demonstrate with Occupy Wall Street on a beautiful Saturday, I thought they were nuts. This was just about the time the pepper spray video was going around, and the Brooklyn Bridge march had recently happened. I couldn’t imagine feeling in control enough to be comfortable with my two pre-schoolers in the midst of all that activity.
But they went. They went, and it was amazing. They went, and their children loved it. They went, and they felt a part of something alive and important and good.
I support many of the reasons for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. I am angry that the Bush tax cuts were extended. I am angry that banks that (not who, that) received taxpayer assistance have the audacity to bestow huge bonuses and pay raises to their employees – mainly the already highest paid employees. I am ashamed that the judicial branch of my country believes that corporations have a say via pocketbook in who gets elected to represent me. I hate that the disparity between the Haves and the Have-Nots is ever-widening. And I am frustrated that some of us who are not in desperate straits, pretend we did it completely on our own – both hard work and luck played a part. Others, in much more cozy situations than I, also support the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations – and not just Warren Buffett’s son.
I recently wrote about the Family Sleep Over held by the Parents for Occupy Wall Street group. You can read it here, on Baristakids. What struck me while doing the research for that posting, was that every person who had been involved, no matter how temporarily, felt exhilarated by the demonstrations. Thom Kennon, a Montclair dad, wrote a fantastic piece about bringing his children to deliver pizzas to the Occupied Kitchen. Here is an excerpt:
“My three kids and I stopped there in the center of Zuccotti in the middle of it all, and listened and nodded softly, quietly, probably all thinking we’re lucky. We live well, but maybe, just maybe we’re also totally rare in the grand scheme of things — when you think about the rest of the upside-down planet and all the people who lost their jobs, their homes, their heat, their food, their cars and their minds over the past generation of diminishing returns. All those people forced out of living, into the brute fate of existence alone. ” — Thom Kennon
I also asked another Montclair resident, Forrest, about how and why he decided to get involved with the demonstrations. He was open and forthright in his responses. Please read them below.
1. Where and when have you joined in on the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations?
As of this week, I’ve participated twice, physically.
The first time was Oct 8th, at Washington Square Park, with my family, including my mother – we walked down to Zuccotti Park afterwards.
The second time was in Charleston, SC – we were there to visit extended family. On Oct 15th, We walked to Marion Park, only to run head-first into an Occupy Charleston march. We were happy to join their march down Meeting Street.
I have been passively involved online, digesting the minutes of the General Assembly of NYC (nycga.cc) – and the various working groups/subcommittees. I also keep eyes on the myriad of other organizations who are coordinating intel and ideas across the globe at all times.
2. Why did you decide to “physically” join in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations? Why did you decide to bring your children?
Physical presence is an important part of Democratic Expression. I believe we need to work for our Democracy, and that I was not doing enough by sitting at home clicking “Like” or “Share”. Standing-up for one’s share, and working to defend one’s rights is important – I want my children to know, and experience this value.
We did not even consider leaving them home.
3. Did you have any reservations? How did it go?
We had no reservations about OWS itself.
The behavior of the NYPD Whiteshirts has been erratically violent on occasions – yet I don’t see this as a direct threat, unless one plans to march in the vanguard, or on a chaotic splinter-mission.
Generally what we saw were kind people all-around. Most the NYPD at Zuccotti were considerate and friendly, some even posing in pictures with smiling Occupiers. That was a nice surprise.
Another nice surprise was at how organized, and committed to problem-solving the General Assembly seems to be. They are far from some loose band of anarchic scruffabouts. This is a diverse array of people – who all seem dedicated and working hard, to sustain a platform from which we can express ourselves.
4. What did you hope to accomplish by joining in at Washington Square Park and Zuccotti Park? Do you think you accomplished your goal?
I hoped (despite being just one grain in many) to add mass, and morale, to a movement which deserves to be recognized, and discussed. I hoped to show others not-yet-involved, that OWS is indeed about the 99%, working families like ours – not just a fringe of “unemployed hippies”.
5. Who do you define as the 99% in the “We are the 99%” slogan?
Many have tried to define this as strictly a class issue, or by using hard income margins – I don’t agree with that.
1% is a mindset of overt greed and corruption; leveraging and enabling its own existence, through corporate, political, and financial machinations. It’s the mindset that no matter how much one has – they deserve better than to pay their share of the burden.
It’s the idea that corporate gains are privatized, while corporate losses are socialized.
99%, is everyone else.
1st photo from nrbelex’s flickr. 2nd and 3rd photographs courtesy of Forrest and Emily.