Don’t call us, we’ll call you

November 30, 2011

Occupy Nashville

Filed under: Personal, Politics — Tags: , — llcall @ 10:52 pm

AP Photo posted here: Arrested Occupiers after release

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the Occupy movement.  Sometimes it’s because they know I read a lot of news.  Sometimes it’s because they know I have a lot of political opinions.  Sometimes it’s because they know I have a radical brother-in-law.  Sometimes it’s because I’m the only under-45 person in the room (that happened at my conference in Jacksonville, more than once — I guess it was a really old crew).

Here, now, I’m going to attempt to do something I have never done on my blog before: offer some information without injecting any personal opinion.  I think I can do it, but it might make me light-headed.

I mentioned before that I spent an hour or so at Occupy Nashville; this is because my brother-in-law Tristan (the blond in a blue windbreaker, fist in the air, in the above photo) and his girlfriend Katy are two of the key people involved in the movement (or non-movement, as Tristan told me it is not really a movement — but we didn’t delve too much into that, so I can’t explain it any further).  We didn’t have much time to spend because Addison was napping in the car (attended by Katy; don’t worry, we didn’t leave her alone) and we had a two-hour drive to Huntsville still ahead of us.  But I wanted to do as much fact-finding as I could while I was there.  First, I got my hands on some literature that was being disseminated.  These somewhat-“consensus documents” — there seemed to be some disagreement about whether they had been agreed to by the whole group or whether a few people had decided to create them, but they were on kind of official-looking cardstock and I counted at least 20 or 30 people holding them — listed three aims of Occupy Nashville:

  1. End corporate personhood (this Wikipedia article gives a primer on this issue, which was reignited after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010)
  2. Get money out of politics
  3. Support the Occupy Wall Street movement

Next, I wanted to talk to some people directly and ask, “Why are you personally here?”  When a young (early thirties maybe?) Hispanic woman approached me to ask if I wanted to hold a sign in the upcoming march, I asked her that question. Rossana had a lot to say; it would have been good to have a digital recorder handy.  But I’ll try to relay what I can.  She started out by explaining that she’s concerned about how things are going in the country.  She doesn’t like either major political party or feel they represent her ideas and opinions on the issues.  She doesn’t see them coming up with solutions.  Then she said something to this effect:

Do I think this is going to change things, in the government?  No, probably not.  But it’s changing me, it’s changing us.  And I’m doing something to show what I want and believe.

She went on to talk about her attire — she was wearing a fair amount of make-up and was dressed quite fashionably, but if I even try to describe her ensemble (it was truly an ensemble), you’ll know immediately that I don’t speak fashion.  I can say a few things with certainty: (1) she knows how and dresses much nicer than I do, (2) her scarf, which was more decorative than utilitarian, was turquoise, and (3) her earrings were dangly.  She said that she made it a point to dress nicely when she came to the plaza because she has a job (something PR-related) and she wants people to know that she’s not homeless or unemployed/unwilling to work or just concerned about her own personal plight.  She said that she was hoping to use her international background and PR experience to help the Occupy movement transcend individual locales and become a worldwide movement.

From here, I asked more about her background, where she was from, what brought her to Tennessee, etc.  She was from Chile, where her father had been involved in political activity in opposition to the dictator in power.  He had thus been kidnapped and tortured, and from that trauma had developed schizophrenia, among other mental health issues.  She had gone to Brazil for school and there became part of a radical wing of the Communist Party.  When she eventually came to the United States, she had continued to be involved in violent protests and activism, although she ticked off a few places/events so quickly I didn’t have time to register it all.  She then reflected on how different Occupy Nashville was from things she had participated in previously, where she and her fellow protesters would just “blow sh&%$ up!”

I was hoping to talk to some more people around the plaza, but she suddenly broke off to join the march and most of the plaza emptied out.  People were carrying signs about issues ranging from teacher salaries to free speech to the 1%.  There were lots of blank posters, ready for people to fill with their particular interests.  There was also a food area with donated coffee, bagels, fruit, and other assorted foods, to which I added a partially-eaten plate of hummus (because my falafel lunch came with an obscene amount of it).  We left as the main plaza was emptying and the Occupiers were marching across the street.

So that’s all for my firsthand reporting on the ground at Occupy Nashville.  But a couple of weeks later, Katy wrote this article while they were waiting for eviction from the plaza (Tristan, along with about 30 others, had already been arrested for staying overnight on the plaza).  So if you want to know what Occupy ____ means personally for one Occupier, there’s her thoughts and experiences.

Finally, I’ll hit you with three other links (minus commentary) I’ve found interesting in the last couple of weeks:

  1. Washington Post opinion piece, “Why African Americans aren’t embracing Occupy Wall Street
  2. USA Today piece, “‘Occupiers’ defy simple descriptions
  3. Daily Show clip (I was trying to embed the video, but it turns out I don’t know how to do that.)

So, how’d I do at reporting versus opining?  Admirable effort, no?

But rest assured, I want YOU to opine (and/or report).  What do you think about the Occupy movement?  Do you have any personal or family experience/involvement with it?  What do you think “they” (or you, if you’re involved) want?

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2 Comments »

  1. I think the Occupy’s movement greatest problem is that no one knows what “they” all want. I get these vague ideas that they are against corruption, especially monetary and political, but it’s so hard to unify a group that’s against something. I know our former President Clinton urged them to be for something. While you could argue that those 3 aims were unifying and action-positive, I have always had a sense that all Occupy movements are besieging an invisible fort. I don’t know if that makes sense or if others in America feel the same way. I remember reading an article that compared the occupy movement to the tea party movement–not that their aims or audience or participants are the same but due to a common ground of anger. I think most Americans are angry about things like corruption, large government, the b.s. of our two major parties, etc etc, but ultimately it seems like other than a raised awareness (and yes, personal growth), nothing gets changed. And it is so hard to articulate how to change massive problems like two sharply divided political ideologies.
    I do find group movements fascinating and it is obvious in hindsight the major social and cultural changes that they assisted.

    Anyways, glad to read this!

    Comment by kei02003 — November 30, 2011 @ 11:10 pm

  2. I try not to be too politically opinionated – it tends to cause hard feelings, though I’m not sure why. Fortunately, I think you like me enough, that we can still be friends, even if we happen to disagree. 🙂
    One issue with the OWS movement I had is the desire to release everyone from student loan debt. I’ve talked to two people who have debt (my brother, and a friend of my husband’s) with very different opinions. My brother is getting a masters in nuclear engineering, and he feels a moral responsibility to honor the agreement he made – he knew he’d have to pay back what he borrowed, so he feels it’s ridiculous to demand that be taken away. If you have a debt to a store, you need to pay it, otherwise it’s like stealing in a way from the store. Now, my husband’s friend is getting a PHD in computer science and thinks the debt should be erased. Because of ignorance and rationalization he says he took too much debt out. His primary example though of why the debt should be forgiven is from a few stories he’s heard of someone who gets debt, then goes into a noble field with not much pay, then struggles to pay back the money. Listening to both sides, I guess I think it’s irresponsible to demand that everyone be forgiven. Is that fair to the people who struggle, but pay back what they owe? One reason I didn’t go to grad school even though I was accepted was because I knew I’d have to go into debt to do it, and I wasn’t sure that it would pay off for me because of my wanting to be a stay-at-home mom. Turns out, I was able to work and save my money instead and pay for my own mission, more schooling afterwards, and wedding. Once the baby came and I quit working, I was glad I didn’t have that debt. I was lucky enough to have scholarships pay for my bachelor’s. I think it might be a different scenario if they forgave up to bachelors’ degree, but certainly not grad school.
    Otherwise, it seems like the movement was not really focused… I was not personally involved, so I don’t know much more. I read something where people were saying why they were part of the movement and what they wanted, and it seemed so fragmented and like everyone was there for their own ideas.
    On a side note, the night before Thanksgiving, we went to Best Buy to check out a tablet Matt’s interested in. There were people outside with a big tent and chairs. I said, “What is this, Occupy Best Buy?” Matt realized it was people waiting for Black Friday. I just thought it was funny that I’d associated people with tents with OWS… I hope they got the deals they wanted…. 🙂

    Comment by Sabrina — December 4, 2011 @ 3:25 am


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