For the past few days, I have been trying to resolve my inter-conflicts with the Occupy Wall Street protests throughout the US and the world.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, protesters want more and better jobs, more equal distribution of income, bank reform, a reduction of the influence that corporations wield in politics, and a populist set of government priorities (bailouts for student debtors and mortgage holders).
I understand these ideals, yet I am conflicted about the protests. I don’t oppose protests in general and in my younger years, I actually encouraged people to protest and have their voice be heard (yes, I also made tie-dye t-shirts). My conflict may be caused by my upbringing.
I was raised in a modestly middle class family, but my family never let me or my brother forget where we came from. My family comes from poor dirt farmers in the rural south. My grandparents would tell me stories about when they were little picking cotton with their families to have money for food. My grandfather was born in the 1930s and he used to say that he didn’t know that there was a Great Depression because his family was so poor that they didn’t notice. He would tell stories about not having enough money for a person’s basic needs. My grandmother would tell me stories about having to pawn her engagement ring and wedding ring because they needed money. I heard stories about how Christmas presents sometimes were only oranges and apples for my mother and her siblings. While I was growing up, my grandparents lived in a house that was built from trees that they cut down themselves with a shallow well that they dug and a small farm that produced their supply of eggs and vegetables.
Yet, my grandparents didn’t protest. They worked whatever job they could get to support their family. Sometimes, my grandfather had two jobs. My mother didn’t protest that she was poor and the wealth wasn’t distributed equally. Instead, she got a job to support herself and her family. None of my mother’s immediate family had a college degree, but yet, they have come so far from what they were born into.
I have a bachelor’s degree, a law degree, and a master’s degree (if you don’t count the unfinished thesis). I am in student loan debt up to my eyeballs. When I moved from Fayetteville to Little Rock, I was willing to take whatever job I could get to support myself. It didn’t matter if I had to forbear or defer my student loans. I knew that I had to do what I could to survive. You pick yourself up by your bootstraps and you do what you have to do to take care of your basic needs and bills.
So, the Occupy Wall Street Movement is hard for me to comprehend on a basic level. I know that people want better jobs and that there aren’t better jobs available, but a part of me asks so what? There are illegal immigrants flooding this country to do jobs that Americans don’t want to do. Why can’t Americans do those jobs? They don’t pay well, but it’s a job that could help feed your family and pay your bills. Going to college or graduate school does not entitle you to a better job in pay or benefits. It simply means that you have an education. Do you really think that there aren’t highly educated immigrants doing jobs that are below their education level whether it’s driving a taxi cab or cleaning someone’s home?
In addition, I can’t help but think about whether these protestors are really the 99% that they claim to be. Are they in poverty? Are they wondering about their next meal, their student loan payment, or their mortgage payment? If they really are in the 99%, then are they taking care of their wants or their needs? How many of them own the newest smart phone or tablet? Do you really need the newest smart phone or tablet? Do you really need to buy designer clothing or gourmet ingredients? There are hundreds of things that I want, but my basic needs and bill payments always come first.
Z says that I sound like GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who has said such quotes as “If you don’t have a job and you aren’t rich, then blame yourself” and “It’s not a person’s fault if they succeeded, it’s a person’s fault if they failed.” The mere fact that my comments sound similar to a GOP candidate shocks and appalls me because the basic ideals of the Occupy Wall Street protests are similar to my political beliefs.
I believe that regulations provide a check and balance system to protect the population. I have never agreed with the fact that lobbyists for big corporations can get bills passed that aren’t for the good of the people, but for the good of the corporation. I identify with liberal Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I would love for the government to give bailouts to student debtors instead of large corporations. Despite my political support, I am cautious about completely supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement … and I don’t think my upbringing will allow me to resolve my inter-conflicts for full support.