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Occupation

As protestors line the streets and fill the parks of cities throughout the United States, I wonder what it is they are protesting, why they feel “occupying” those specific areas will bring about changes they desire, and what the changes they desire, if met, would mean for the rest of us who are not occupying anything at all. I suppose that there is an official site with specific grievances and that those grievances have been ignored, manipulated, or exaggerated in the media. I also assume that after absorbing the wrong message many confused followers flock to these spaces in order to do things that the original occupiers did not intend and do not desire, leading to the correct charge that the movement is not unified. I know that those Americans who object strongly to the Federal Reserve have joined the protestors to express their own dissatisfaction with the corporate environment and its government counterpart, adding numbers, while also attempting to adjust the message from one against greed to one against a system doomed to fail. Regardless of any official message or organization, it is clear that the American people are frustrated. Some at the banks, some at the corporations, some at the government, and some at the people who are frustrated with the banks, the corporations, the government, the media, or anything else people tend to get a little angry over. It is unfair, however, for those who are not protesting to treat those who are as if they are something they are not and a lot of that, too much of it, in fact, is going around. Americans have the right to assemble and to express their grievances, regardless of how accurate their claims are or how misguided their solutions may be.

Unfortunately, both the protestors and the anti-protestors seem confused about what is good and what is bad. I am not claiming that I know what is right or wrong, but I do think that actions like these are incredibly divisive and should always be approached cautiously. It is irresponsible to take something of this magnitude and ignore its consequences. That would be like, well, Bush abandoning the mission in Afghanistan to fight a war in Iraq. If you are unaware of the problem, unsure of the solution, and uncommitted to carrying it through to its end, you are really just wasting your time for nothing. Now, this is something Americans are particularly good at because, relatively speaking, most Americans are the “one percent” to the rest of the world. Most Americans have not and do not understand real hunger. Most Americans have not and do not understand real poverty. Most Americans have not and do not understand what terrorism really is. This list could go on and on when we compare our trivial problems, often coined “first world problems” online, to the everyday experiences of billions of people on our planet. Why is it that so many people flock to the United States from other countries each year? Many will say they come to take advantage of a welfare system, but I would think that most who come do so for one very simple reason: It is better here. We should all reflect on why that could be true.

Do not confuse this with American exceptionalism or patriotic zeal, it is not. Do not take this as a dismissal of those in America who are suffering and the very real reasons behind their suffering that, at times, are out of their control. Clearly, America is not paradise for everyone, but neither is it Hell for everyone and sometimes, in the midst of everything we have to complain about, we forget the awesome things this country is doing. While you may not support the current president, is it not amazing that he was elected in the United States of America when, just fifty years ago, he would have been required to use a different restroom? Is it not awesome that during a global recession, we still have more than eighty percent of our adults employed? Is it not amazing that our nation is currently involved in two wars, yet our homes and businesses are not being destroyed and our children are not being killed? Is it not incredible that our children can use their phones to explore the world around them instantly and have more access to information than any generation before them? This list can also be greatly expanded without much of an imagination. Ask anyone who has traveled to developing or undeveloped nations overseas how they feel about America compared to those places. I am quite positive, if the person is not a condescending type, that you will hear gratitude in their voice as they share their opinion. Now, there are problems and there is conflict, but I just have this feeling that most of us could count far more blessings than curses in our lives. At least I hope we can and do.

We can still make positive changes for the United States and the world, and there will be plenty of disagreement when we look for ways to do so. I would hope that most of those changes would be brought about voluntarily, without the threat of force or violence. Peaceful, voluntary action is always better than compulsion or violence, regardless of who initiates it. If the police and the protestors understood this, perhaps these occupations would inspire change we could all accept or promote. This may be idealistic, but, maybe there is some merit to this kind of idealism.