The emails are nice. I appreciate getting them. I’ve gotten more than a dozen in the past few weeks. From strangers emailing through my contact form, from friends, from ex-friends with whom I haven’t exchanged a real-time word in fifteen years. From business acquaintances who read my blog. From friends of friends I’ve met once, and run into at parties. Many people in my life seem to have a message to send me, and it’s something like: thank you. Thank you for being committed to the Occupy Movement. Thank you for writing about it. Thank you for being there, in the middle of the night; for taking shit from testosterone fueled cops wielding batons; for taking photos and sharing them; for representing our generation (of thirty- not twenty-somethings) in this time of great upheaval.
The real message, as I understand it, is something like…thank you for doing what I have not. What I’d like to say instead of thanks for the thanks is stop thanking me and, you know, do something on your own.
There might be this idea that I have more time on my hands, or somehow have more room in my life for Occupy. I’d like everyone to know that every day, I go to work. I have two regular part-time jobs, and three freelance jobs, and sometimes I work at all five on a single day from 7am till 1 or 2am. I spend hours in the car every week going to and from these jobs. Once a week, I take an evening continued education class in Chinatown. Between my partner and myself, we have a host of pressing family obligations, which we meet, including celebrating all the funny little milestones of grade school nieces and nephews, babysitting toddlers, and making time to break bread with my elderly dad who’s dealing with a new heart situation. I do errands like laundry, housekeeping and repairs on housewares, shoes or clothes. I go grocery shopping with coupons that I’ve taken the time to clip or print. I cook meals, clean up from cooking, and store the leftovers. I walk my dog two to four times a day; I feed him; I throw the ball or one of his weirdly sexual looking rubber toys on a daily basis. I make or shop for birthday and holiday gifts. All that’s the ordinary. We also have fun, sometimes, too. We go to dinner parties and shows, occasional movies. We have lots of friends and we try to see them when we can, and support their stuff like art shows and music shows. I love to dance and try to fit that into our social schedule when I can. I read plenty of fiction (though not as much as I’d like) including New Yorker magazine’s bi weekly fiction pics. I do my nails once a week, which takes awhile. Oh, and it takes me about an hour to do my hair, when I’m really trying.
So all this considered, I also managed to visit Zuccotti Park several times a week when the encampment was there. I don’t blog as often as I’d like, but when I have a spare few moments, I whip up a post. In between every activity, and sometimes while I’m doing other things, I’m checking links on Twitter, Facebook and my RSS reader to get as much information as I can, in order to continue sharing. While I brush my teeth and do my morning ablutions, I prop my iPhone up on the back of my sink and watch Democracy Now’s daily news update. I fill my browser with open tabs till they’re each about 3 millimeters wide, and come back to read them whenever I can. Sometimes that means I’m reading 5-day-old stories, but so be it. Tonight, sick with a cold (bestowed from one of those school-aged children I mentioned), I have no plans and instead sat here for hours writing this post, and this one, and this one.
I’m telling you all this not because I want extra gratitude, or whatever it is I’ve been getting. It’s to demonstrate that you can probably find the time, too. If you have children, your life is no doubt even more complicated and unwieldy, but still. I guess it’s a matter of deciding what’s important and attainable.
I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of what makes someone an armchair-supporter versus a more active supporter. I’ve been trying to identify with some degree of specificity what makes me, for example, rip my pajamas off, jump into boots, and head down to Zuccotti at 1am when I hear the encampment is being evicted compared to what other people’s (admittedly more normal) reaction might be.
When asked, a good friend said, “I support it totally, but I’m not gonna go downtown and stand in a street and get beat about it. No way.”
I asked why not, and he answered generally instead of specifically, but still thoughtfully.
He said, “I guess when it gets bad enough for everyone.” Dot, dot, dot.
I guess that’s the whole story right there. If you have a job, if you feel good about your life, if you personally don’t feel directly impacted by the disaster of our current national situation, if you’re comfortable enough, it’s just not important to you. No matter what I say, you won’t believe your life is right this second being tinkered with in ways that negatively affect your future; that being passive about injustice is the same as condoning it; that by the time you are uncomfortable, it might be too late to do anything.
But here are a couple of thoughts that might make an impact.
Educate yourself on the issues in order to be an active participant in your own life. At the very least, know the names of your local politicians. Know who represents you in congress. Read up on them. Find out which companies have donated to their campaigns, then research those companies and see what sort of ethics they live by. Connect the dots between your local representatives and their biggest donors to see who your employees – remember, politicians serve us – are loyal to.
Buy some handmade Occupy gear, and rock it out loud so that everywhere you go, people know the movement is with you. Read this list of 11 Ways to Support the Movement post, and pick something – just one thing – that you can do quietly, maybe even without leaving the house.
If there’s a big action, like a march, attend. The joy and energy at the marches is overwhelming and so positive. It’s enlightening and inspiring, and the more bodies the better. There’s very little violence on big days of action, and it’s easy to not be arrested. (The big marches tend to have permits, which means you’re not breaking any laws by being in the street, which means they’re basically just long walks with a few thousand walking partners.)
Not everyone is a writer. Not everyone can keep a blog. Not everyone is a cook who can bring trays of rice and veggies down to their local encampment. But everyone can, in some way, be a supporter of Occupy Wall Street. Supporting OWS doesn’t have to mean sleeping a park. It doesn’t have to mean standing on a street corner waving a poster. It doesn’t have to mean spending all your free time at an encampment volunteering or attending a working group. Those actions are great, but they’re not all there is. Emailing me to say good job and thanks is so sweet, and it really is nice to hear, but rather than say it to me, say it bigger.
Most importantly, I think, if you support the movement, but haven’t said so “out loud”, get on Facebook or Twitter right now. Right now. And come out of the Occupy closet. Just say: “I haven’t said this yet, but I support Occupy Wall Street”. Talk about it with friends. Ask questions. Email me, if you like, and ask me to write something specific. Every public declaration of solidarity is another coal on the fire of the Occupy Movement, and we need as much fuel on our fire as we can get.
- Occupy Wall Street Does, Actually, Know What it Wants
- 5 Things to Know About Moving Your Money to a Local Bank or Credit Union
- 8 Ways to Defend the Occupy Movement to Your Conservative Family Over the Holidays
- 11 Ways to Support the Occupy Movement Without Sleeping in a Park
- OWS: Recommended Reading & Viewing