I’ve been accustomed to several protest chants during my college days. “The people united will never be defeated” and “Ain’t no power, like the power of the people, and the power of the people don’t stop.” That last one is my favorite.
I’ve marched to the Federal Building, causing major traffic jams on Wilshire Boulevard and led chants against Pilipino World War II Veterans who were denied the same U.S. benefits as their white counterparts. I even participated in a sit-in at the UCLA Chancellor’s office on behalf of student racism. So have I participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement?
My 21-year-old activist self (let’s call her Activist Denise) would be yelling in my face right now. Sadly, as much as I fully support the goals and intentions of the Occupy movement, I have moved from the center of activism to the periphery.
I’ve never felt so much nostalgia and guilt than when protesters from the Occupy L.A. marched in Downtown, and I stood there with my coworkers in suits watching them like a tourist. A guy in an orange shirt, beard and a bit uppity looked at us saying, “It’s your world too, what are you doing to change it?” His look of excitement screamed, “Join us, Denise, you know you want to.”
Instead, I simply wore a blank look of yearning while I followed my coworkers towards the bar.
As I keep up with the protests in the media, there seems to be a consensus from opposite sides of the media spectrum that the movement lacks leadership and a clear sense of an end goal. We are the David, and the corporations are the Goliath, now what? Do we want Goliath dead? Maimed? I can see why the media is yearning to find some cohesiveness in the Occupy movement. It would make it easier to understand.
In effect, the movement just seems all over the place. There’s physical violence over in Oakland, while in Los Angeles it feels like a Woodstock love fest. Ideologically, I do feel impassioned that the burden of student loans, and the economy has had not only a dire effect on me, but my friends and family as well. The American Dream? Shut the front door, really, people still believe that?
I’m with everyone when we say we’re sick of it. How is it that banks who received help from taxpayers continue to gain record profits and still are not providing jobs. What about cuts to education continually stripping away the opportunities and potential for countless Americans? Why is the government easing environmental regulations, allowing corporations to continually pollute our environment on the promise that they would save money and create more jobs?
So Occupiers, I agree with you. I support you. I’m with you. I’m just...unsure about your tactics. Begin internal dialogue:
Activist Denise: Yeah, girl, you gotta walk the walk before you talk the talk.
Me: I know. I’m sorry.
Activist Denise: So you’re just a hypocrite. You want change, but aren’t willing to do anything about it.
Me: I don’t have time. I work 60 hours a week. How do I know sleeping in a tent is worth it?
Activist Denise: Just getting out there, in solidarity, will show the world our collective voice.
Me: Then what?
End internal dialogue. Begin internal frustration.
I know tangible results are possible, but maybe camping out at City Hall isn’t the best way to do it. Based on my experience protesting I’m asking forexactly what media pundits are asking for: a clear goal. Something like repeal Proposition 8, give compensation to Pilipino veterans, support this bill., etc. To say I’m the 99 percent really means nothing unless we’re all on the same page, or even on the same chapter.
For now (you might call it being a weenie), I’ll have to take the bureaucratic route such as voting and voicing my support to decision-makers who will advocate on behalf of my concerns and frustrations. Yes, this is a very long, tedious way of doing things but supporting and volunteering my time to groups that promote access to higher education or provide job assistance is my way of “doing something.”
Take note, Activist Denise.
Occupied by Occupy
By Denise Guerra
Article posted on 11/7/2011
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