I am struggling to understand my own feelings about the Occupy Wall Street movement. I share their frustration, even anger, with the abuses on Wall Street that lead so directly to the suffering of millions of Americans.
I don’t know a person who witnessed the bailout of big banks, later read what their top executives earned in the same year and didn’t feel physically ill. There has clearly been so much abuse by some of the top 1 percent that has harmed many of the 99 percent — abuse that has been allowed, and in some cases protected, by our elected officials.
These are all reasons for anger, anger that warrants the voice this movement is giving to the cause. A non-violent voice, in most cases, which is a perfect use of the First Amendment, something I will always defend and usually applaud.
Here is where I get confused. As I drive by the tents at Pioneer Park on my way home from work each day and I see the people skateboarding and hanging out, the rows and rows of tents of the Occupy Salt Lake movement remind me of the cover of a Woodstock album, and my hyperactive work ethic won’t be quiet. So much human capital!
Imagine if the energy spent protesting was spent in service. If that very afternoon those people were painting, helping, working, or creating, how much good could that do?
I hear the naivetÉ in my comment. And I realize much good has come from the act of protesting. I think of Martin Luther King and even now of the brave people taking part in the protests as part of the Arab Spring. There is value in protest alone. I know.
But so much could be done! Couldn’t it? When presidential candidate Herman Cain criticizes the Occupy movement and says, in essence, stop criticizing Wall Street and get a job, does that speak to you? At all?
“Yes,” Olga de la Cruz, the director of corporate relations and planned giving for the South Valley Boys and Girls Club told me on “A Woman’s View.” “If you’re unemployed, we need you. All non-profits need you. We need accountants and IT people, whatever your skill might be.”
De la Cruz shared stories of mothers she works with whose children attend the Boys and Girls Club, mothers who work three jobs, one to pay the mortgage, one for the bills and one for day care. These mothers don’t have time for protesting. They’re too busy working.
“I like him,” author and speaker Carol Tuttle said of Cain. “He’s an entrepreneur. He’s the businessman in the group. He knows what it takes.”
“And while it’s difficult to find a job,” former Republican National Committee woman Nancy Lord chimed in, “it’s not impossible. Are you doing whatever it takes, beating the bushes, weeding somebody’s yard, giving blood plasma? Seriously.”
I hear her. You know why? Because I’m a parent. I’m going out on a limb here to say that there is a difference between parents and non-parents on the issue of employment and possibly even the Occupy movement. Parents do whatever is necessary to feed their children, all the way to blood plasma. If that’s what it takes, I’d roll both sleeves up. I have no time for anything else until they’re fed, and usually no energy for anything else after they’re fed.
“The problem with not working is you develop an unemployed lifestyle,” Tuttle said. “Do you get up and act like you’re ready to go to work? No. You start staying up late and sleeping in. You’ve created an unemployed lifestyle. People get in that and then they wonder why they’re not getting a job.”
I know for a fact that many of the people involved in the Occupy Salt Lake movement are employed because when we tried to interview them on KSL, they were at work.
But I have to ask — is sleeping in tents creating an unemployed lifestyle? What is it creating? I long to have that energy harnessed into something I can vote for, support, do something about.
We are a nation of doers. Tell us to do something. Tell us who to vote for or against. Tell us to sell our stock or buy American. Start a business and employ your fellow protestors (or my son.) There’s a Mark Zuckerberg among you. I just know it.
Build. Create. Begin.
Discussion is simply not enough for us. It hasn’t been since the 60s. We’re all too sober now to be satisfied with hanging out, however much we enjoy each other’s company or agree with each other’s assessments of wrongs perpetrated against us.
So until there is something to do, we’ll be at work. Because, you see, we have to feed our children.