Today the New York Times reports that over 80 percent of New York City residents are in favor of Occupy Wall Street and that New Yorkers actively support the effort by a margin of 2 to 1.
One of the many reasons for this acceptance is the authenticity of the movement. The protestors simply repeat their grievance, hour after hour, day after day. “I’m a college graduate and I can’t find a job” or “My mother is a single parent and we’re in deep debt.” It’s a form of testifying. Speaking plain truth. They chant it and they post it on the sign they carry.
We hear you.
I’ve been waiting for this. No one knew how to get it going. No one knew what to do, myself included. But lots of people are unhappy and the list of serious problems is immense. I used to tell my significant other Jim, only half kidding: “We have to take it to the streets,” in the old-fashioned sixties way. And he would say, “They won’t let you assemble in any place that has visibility.”
Who would have guessed Zuccotti Park?
Sometimes, at a particularly disturbing lecture or panel discussion, for instance, I’d nudge Jim and say: “Come on. Let’s just all stand up, walk outside, and have this conversation on the sidewalk.” The place would be simmering with fury but no one dared to budge.
Let’s do something. I was a broken record. But then I’d stop and think, do what? Say what?
What’s my issue? Which of the many should I embrace and give my energy to? The desperate need for affordable health care coverage? A public school system that doesn’t put testing ahead of education? Sanctions applied to runaway capitalism where astronomical profits are valued more than the common good? A system that nurtures and supports entrepreneurs? Should I agitate for mental health care that isn’t punitive? The list is long and the problems are many. Here’s one. I’d like to see 50+ percent women in every photograph of heads of state, leaders of business, in the corner offices of nonprofits, in every boardroom. The 99 percent has been so busy trying to make ends meet they’ve failed to push back. Perhaps they thought that’s what elected officials are for. Jim says forget that. Getting re-elected is their primary motivation. Our elected officials are pre-occupied.
I tell people that what we’re hearing down at Zuccotti Park is a cacophony of causes, but no one person gets drowned out. To me, there’s harmony in this rallying cry. In the melting pot that is Zuccotti Park, we begin to see some common denominators.
Americans, I’m discovering, are seriously impatient. They ask, what are the goals? Who’s the leader? What are they doing? I say, let’s try it their way. Let’s give our young people a chance and all the help they need. Let’s see what happens.
For me right now, it’s enough to listen to the issues being raised by earnest people who have taken on the burden of representing the rest of the 99 percent. I liken it to hunger strikes. The protestors lend their bodies to the issues, at great cost to their personal lives and comfort and well-being. I am grateful and will support OWS any ways that I can.
Note: Jim and I set up an Occupy Wall Street Chelsea Outpost in front of Chase Bank at the corner of 10th and 23rd in Manhattan. We will be back there again on November 1. We’re looking for volunteers to join us at the table.