I'm always scared to talk about politics and what's going on in our country. I don't feel qualified; I spent the first 25 years of my life enjoying the sort of blissful ignorance that kids who grew up in an insulated and comfortable environment tend to enjoy. I didn't understand the issues, and I didn't really care, because they didn't affect me.
To some extent, it could be argued that I still live a pretty comfortable life. Never mind: To every extent possible, I live such a comfortable life. I'm a little strapped for cash these days, yes, but good lord, I'm fortunate. I have no student loan debt. I'm working full time as a freelancer and have a glorious apartment in one of Chicago's loveliest neighborhoods. I can afford to buy organic at the grocery store; even my cat's kibble is from Whole Foods. I bought a coat from Anthropologie this fall. (It's really nice.)
But something happened a couple of years ago. Something snapped. Maybe it was meeting the Knight, whose political beliefs were so pervasive in his life and, eventually, our relationship that I couldn't ignore them. Maybe it was becoming more active on Twitter and realizing that the stories on TV, the radio and the newspaper barely scratched the surface.
Maybe it was just being on my own for long enough that I realized something wasn't right despite the lovely bubble I live in.
It doesn't really matter how it happened, but I got mad. Really angry. I'm mad at politicians, even Democrats I've helped vote in. I'm mad at the big banks, even the one I trust my money with. I'm mad at big businesses, even the ones I patronize regularly.
And I am mad at the people who
don't understand refuse to understand.
The people who call Occupy protesters dirty hippies or self-entitled rich kids looking to party.
The people who yell, "GET A JOB!" (Umm, helloooooo?)
The people make fun of the 99 percent despite being deeply entrenched within its ranks (and in denial about it).
The people who think the Occupiers should go home because they've made their point.
People who think change can happen inside a ballot box.
And at the ballot box, people who choose to support candidates whose power stems from fear.
Oh, and people who compare the Tea Party to the Occupy movement in any way. Disgusting.
Much of what's going on in the country today still isn't directly affecting me, but that's…not really what this is about. That kind of thinking is selfish and ignorant and all too common. I'll readily admit that I've been part of the problem. I'm not proud of it, but it takes a while to inch your way down from the pedestal of privileged kid who doesn't get it to citizen in the trenches, working in even small ways toward some kind of solution.
Regardless of how little the many grievances of this movement actually apply to me at this moment, I am the 99 percent.
Which is why I went downtown last night to walk with them. I made the possibly irresponsible choice to put my work aside and march on the two-month anniversary of the original Zuccotti Park occupation. In large part, I was a tourist. A frozen tourist. I could scarcely contain my giddiness to finally be part of something I've eagerly retweeted and argued in support of for the past two months. I took pictures and grinned like an idiot as we made our way up LaSalle St. to block off the bridge for the better part of an hour as traffic came to a screeching, frustrated halt. I went hoarse screaming chants with the crowd, in time with rhythms beat out on overturned plastic pickle tubs.
I wore my Anthropologie coat with a "Stand Up! Chicago" button pinned on. My Chase credit card was burning a hole in my back pocket. I tweeted from my $400 smart phone and looked forward to cocktails later with friends in a warm, cozy bar. And it did not make me any less a part of the movement. I was right at home with the communists and the anarchists. The hippies and the Veterans for Peace. The union activists and traffic workers. The people with homemade signs, even the ones who nearly knocked me over with theirs.
I may have been a tourist, but at least I was there. I was so happy to be there. I'm thrilled we blocked traffic and pissed people off. I'm glad we disrupted the work day. I'm pleased we made people nervous. I love that we refused to be ignored. I'm happy to be angry. This feels like enlightenment.
This may not bring about change we can see any time soon, but it's going to change a hell of a lot more than doing nothing will.
Call it one big party if you want, naysayers. But everyone's invited — including you. One: We are the people. Two: We are united. Three: The occupation is not leaving.