Wall Street is occupied, but the roads from Lower Manhattan to Washington, D.C., are not. Firemen huddle with homemade signs, stapling calls of distress in Sharpie and Crayola, as the newlyweds strum folk songs in their tents. Housewives manage the makeshift library while house cleaners distribute coffee. Sprinkled across the grass are the university students, noses hidden behind cell phones, with Macbooks in their laps.
News conglomerates attempting to confine the Occupy movement to a single demographic have been unsuccessful, because their aim is too narrow. Despite the youthful advances of these protestors, their frustration is universal. Few have prospered from the wealth consolidation of the Tea Party and the upper sector of the country, so many have joined the conversations gaining steam across the country.
What they’re asking for, who is leading them and when they will be satisfied are shifting variables, but this openness serves as a bigger banner than any concrete doctrine.
Those seeing no reason for protest probably haven’t asked. Any participant would be more than happy to tell you exactly why they’re occupying. The only true surprise should be the variety of responses. Nannies and liquor store owners chat side by side, taking turns at expressing their inability to field steady jobs. Google consultants and circus performers swap cigarettes as they point to the increasing ranks of the poor, citing extreme financial inequality as the catalyst of a permanent underclass. Undergraduate and graduate students alike mill at makeshift performances in Zuccotti Park, but they’re quick to tell you that the jobless rates for students under 25 is sitting just under 10 percent, while the rate for high school graduates nears 22 percent. The fact that our society has grown comfortable enough with these gaps to the point that many accept them should be reason enough for a major protest, but there are more than enough contributing factors to punctuate the gesture.
All major political movements begin faceless and spontaneous. Martin Luther King, Jr., did not materialize at the crack of the first civil rights shot. It took time for Gandhi to hone the methods of civil disobedience that came to characterize the movement for Indian independence. If the 21st century has shown us anything, it’s that our interconnectedness allows for many faces to be seen in the same light. Having accepted this notion in the workplace, on television and over the Internet, should we expect the first major protest of the century to be any different?
As it turns out, the same parties asking when these protests will end are in direct control of its extension. The job of a protestor, as fate would have it, is to protest. A legislature that fails to fulfill its obligations has no right to haggle the people for fulfilling theirs. In this way, it’s plausible that neither group has been keeping tabs on the other for the past few years, but this is where the difference lies: Occupy Wall Street has shown that we are ready to try.
So the men and women of New York, Seattle, Chicago and Houston will continue to mill about. They’ll chant their chants and sip lattes as their coat and tie counterparts pass them on their way to work. They’ll sing songs and tweet about the weather, crowding under umbrellas in the afternoon and blankets in the night. The backgrounds are diverse, and the reasons for participating are even more so, but this gathering has painted as poignant a picture of the American community as any we’ve seen. They are upset and would like to see change.
But it’s no rush. They’ve got all day.
Bryan Washington is a sociology freshman and may be reached at [email protected]