While reading the Facebook roll for Occupy Bakersfield, I came across another group: Occupy Kern River Valley or Occupy KRV. Yippee! They're going to Occupy my hick little valley! I won't have to drive to Bakersfield or Los Angeles! After running some errands, I set off for their General Assembly on a bitterly windy day.
I have no idea why we had to meet in a park, particularly since no one held any signs indicating solidarity to double the meeting as a visual statement. I froze and I shook as I listened to the handful of mostly white-haired activists. They were funny. They were hopeful. They were smart. We set a date to Occupy the corner at the Bank of America in a neighboring town.
The region we live in is unincorporated, poorly educated, and seriously lacking in jobs. What we do have is a lot of widows who retired with men who could live off the land but then quickly died of a taxed liver leaving their women in a valley notorious for its wretched health care. Strange, but true. According to krvr.org, "Kern River Valley’s approximately 16,000 people are generally poorer, older and more disabled than the general U.S. Population."
This is where the idea of an oppressive liberal elite ferments. When looking at all six communities, roughly half of the population earns less than $25,000 a year. It's nearly impossible to argue the value of education to people who haven't had one. I'm not even sure how to explain how confounding that is.
I nervously dragged myself to the rally in front of the bank. Thoughts ran around in my head. "Someone's going to shoot us. They're at least going to throw things at us. This is going to be so hard." Again, I ran errands first. One of the things I set off to do was drop some clothes at a free meal that My Place Restaurant does on several holidays. This one was Veteran's day. As I drove into town, I passed by an elderly hitchhiker. Oh, geez. He's probably a veteran. I swung around and picked him up. Indeed, he was a veteran and, though he smelled like booze, he was rather quiet even when telling me about his various medical problems not being treated because of America's great concern for Veteran's health along with everyone else’s. Yes, insert sarcasm. I'd forgotten I had the pin on I picked up at the GA that said, "When one person is killed, it's murder. When thousands are killed, it's policy." Oops. Wonder if he'd be bothered. Wonder if anyone at the free meal would be?
After dropping him and the clothes off, I arrived a little late to the bank corner. Perhaps I subconsciously stalled the inevitable tribulations. When I arrived, though, there they were! Twenty-two silver foxes, less one or two who haven't hit grandparent stages yet, holding signs, playing guitars, and even marching! Whoot whoot! Many passersby honked in support and only three people soured with two giving the dreaded "finger" and one being the wag of the finger by some concerned ol' church lady. I couldn't believe it. After three years, I felt I might belong here.
With glee, I joined them. I tried to add a little rhythm to the chanting one politico continued to stir. I misspelled my "Human Rights Not Corporate Privelege" sign. Looks right to me still. I ran around taking pictures filled with pride. Then it began to drizzle and we became colder and wetter. Several of us tried to stick it out until I said to one pocket, "You know, we're only here because you're here and we don't want to look weak." They echoed my statement and we all took off before the real raining began, but not before we got a snapshot of me with my wet and smearing sign to remind me, always, even the educated can come off a bit rough.
As I left for my next errand, I noticed a man walking in the rain. He seemed to be carrying a sign. I wondered, "Oh, why wouldn't he have asked for a ride?" Then I considered, "What if it's that crazy religious guy who walks around dragging the cross on wheels?" Sigh. He's the 99%, too, and it's raining. Lucky for me, when I pulled over, it was my sing-songy caller and we were still in rhythm.