Today, we had family Christmas, or, the meal that happens sometime before actual Christmas where my Granny and her two siblings and her sister in law, their kids, and their kids’ kids all get together and eat food and catch up. It’s always a good time and I always have a political conversation (or two, or three, or…).
Anywho, today while we were sitting at the table after dinner, my grandmother asked me if I’d been to Occupy Wall street. I said yes, I’d been to Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Philly, and Occupy Providence. She then said it seemed like these people were “trashing” the parks where they were staying, and that when they “left” they left a lot of trash behind.
This led to a conversation about whether they were leaving of their own volition, how the police have handled evicting the protesters, and the general nature of the Occupy camps I’ve been lucky enough to visit. I told her that the stories I’d read about the camp evictions described police forces who came at night, gave the protesters little to no time to leave, and then were more rough than was necessary. She asked if there was any other way to get them to leave, and I said that they are nonviolent protesters who believe it is their first amendment right to gather in Occupy settlements.
I explained how Occupy is committed to direct democracy, and how having a central space where people can always be is integral to that vision. I talked about how physically occupying space makes it harder for people to ignore your message. I told her about how tents might fall under a person’s right to peaceably assemble.
She asked how it started, and said she thought it started because people were angry at “rich people” in the “top five percent,” and that protesters had gone to CEO’s homes and places of business.
I said that, from what I understood and from my perspective, the Occupy movement is about calling out inequality. The inequality in this country is not sustainable. 1% of the population controls the vast majority of the wealth. The way our political system works now, corporations and those with access to PACs and lobbyists have far more influence on political decisions than the average person who can vote and write letters and contact their representatives. Those people who hold ridiculous amounts of wealth and exercise political influence through campaign contributions and lobbying are tied into the financial crisis. The people who caused the crisis aren’t paying for a damn thing, while the middle class, working class, and poor are carrying the heaviest burden for crimes we did not commit.
And you know what my southern, Texan, Republican, “Is Barack Obama a muslim?” wondering, “but there will be death panels” worrying, lifelong Southern Baptist grandmother said to me? She said that she was angry, too. She said that a lot of people are angry. She said she worries about her grandchildren and she worries about herself. She hopes she can keep on and continue getting along, but she doesn’t trust in security in this country anymore. She wants her grandchildren to have opportunities, but she is afraid for our future. She is mad that the people who pay the most taxes aren’t the ones who can afford it, and that those who caused the crisis are getting off totally free. She’s mad that Rick Perry wants to cut government spending, but not when it comes to his own pension. My grandmother is mad, and she’s afraid, and she isn’t sure what the answer is or if there even is one.
She may not be sure that it’s the answer, but my grandmother believes in what Occupy Wall Street stands for. If anything could convince me that this is a noble cause, that it doesn’t matter what the media and the pundits say about it being a “fringe” group, that was it. Sitting at the dining room table finishing up a slice of her pecan pie while my granny told me she was angry, too.