Southern Protest

I am now realizing there is no way for me to write about the Occupy Wall Street Movement without sounding like somebody’s mama; Andy Rooney with PMS and a Deep South accent; or a typically jaded, holier-than-thou Generation Xer. I am fine, by the way, with all of those things. I just want you to know I know. I have wanted to write about Occupy Wall Street, but I haven’t really had an idea of what part of it I wanted to tackle. In trying to figure out what avenue to take, I’ve had this conversation a lot:

Me: So what do you think about the Occupy Movement?

Friend: What the hell do they want? What’s their point?

Me: They’re concerned about unequal distribution of wealth and the shrinking influence of the middle class, among other things.

Friend: Well, hell’s bells. Beatin’ on bongos ain’t the way to stop it.

I spent the better part of this morning trolling the interwebz for information on the Occupy Movement (I have unilaterally decided “Movement” must be capitalized in order for democracy among words within the Occupy Movement to flourish) and I have come to this conclusion: There is a reason we are a republic, not a pure democracy, and that reason is the lack of public address systems in colonial America.

The Occupy Movement seems to spend an awful lot of time yelling MIC CHECK! at each other. I imagine the founding fathers had the same issue. I have no data to back up this claim, but I have a feeling the reason more people don’t know the name Button Gwinnett is because he was an Early American Whisperer. Because his husky Georgia whisper could not awaken the rebel beast in his fellow founders’ breasts, the job was passed on to the likes of Hamilton and Jefferson, two well-known Loud Talkers. They soon saw that to preserve their young country, they were going to have to elect men to talk for those Early American Whisperers. Hence, a republic.

Personally, I do not believe in the equal distribution of wealth. I would happily take an unequal portion that is roughly 395,492 times what my personal distribution is currently, but I would settle for not having a tax rate roughly double that of people whose wealth really is 395,492 times bigger than mine. I would also like Santa to bring me a Wii and wooden spoons that can be put in the dishwasher. That really has nothing to do with anything, but I thought I’d get it out there.

The equal distribution of wealth leads to communism. Communism, as we all know, leads to dry aging skin because the Communists zap you of your bodily fluids. I am not for a system of government that leaves me with anything other than dewy skin. I’m pretty immobile on this point.

I agree with Occupiers who believe corporate personhood is wrong. See, corporations are made of people and people have First Amendment protections. Ergo, corporations are people with the same protections. That’s like saying onions are awesome in quiche therefore are delicious in coconut cream pie. Onions are wonderful things in other kinds of pie, like quiche. But once you start throwing them in chess pies, your whole system of sweet and savory pastry autonomy breaks down and then where are you? Putting horseradish cream on top of French silk pie, that’s where.

Here in Memphis, our protesters have been relatively quiet. In Nashville, they’re a little more vocal. And they like stunts like holding human auctions to protest companies that make money from the penal system. I get it. It’s street theater and it’s protected speech. You’re not going to get argument from me on those points. But this is why people hate you. You’re in Nashville, a city literally built by slave labor, and you want to protest a company you believe to be using its power to push for longer prison sentences and increased convictions by equating it with an institution from which one could neither be fired nor quit. Slaves weren’t worried about economic parity in the workplace. They were worried about not being beaten to death in the workplace.

I notice, speaking of tone deaf, that on the Facebook page of the Occupy Mississppi Movement, there is a habit of addressing women as “Ms. Insert First Name Here. That’s how your mama raised you to talk to women who were close enough to be called by their first names had they been of your generation. The woman who runs the toddler room at your church is called Ms. Norma. Your elderly neighbor is called Ms. Bessie. There is no place for that in a movement about equality. It doesn’t show you to have good manners. It shows you’re not ready to take a leadership position. Toughen up. There are five people allowed to call me Ms. Susan. I allow it only because so many years of conditioning physically prevent these few people from calling me anything else. Were I to ask them to call me Susan, they would begin to drool and spend the rest of the day holding the door open for people going in and out of Rose’s.

Of immigrants, Marcus Lee Hanson said, “What the son wishes to forget, the grandson wishes to remember.” I feel that way about the Occupy Movement. People in their 20s are the grandchildren of Baby Boomers. Generation X couldn’t find it in us to protest. That’s what our embarrassing parents did. But as we get closer to retirement and see there may be nothing in the pot left for us, we join with our kids to protest the greed of Everyone Else But Us. The Occupy Movement is important, but I think it will be seen more as an exercise is what the First Amendment means in practice more than a movement towards equal distribution of power. The Movement is getting eaten up by tents, meetings, press releases, and finding people to donate pizza. And I understand those things are important to the people in the streets. The Occupy Movement is trying to exist as a pure democracy, bless its little heart. But it takes a republic to get anything done. I support the idea, but I don’t want to sit around outside and yell about it all day. It causes wrinkles.

I believe that sometimes you have to have a big business like Ebay and Etsy and FedEx to support a business run out of a garage. I believe voting with your wallet carries a lot more weight than calling out a retailer’s sourcing practices in a press release. I believe in the movement, but I want to work from the inside out because I don’t have the luxury of working any other way.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some shopping to attend to. Don’t mind me. I’m just going to go occupy Main Street.

Photo Credit: David Shankbone / Wikimedia Commons
Susan Wilson

Susan Wilson

Susan Wilson decided to be a writer in 6th grade upon winning a creative writing contest with an entry defying both logic and basic rules of grammar. Leaving behind a career in retail and training, she launched Yeah, And Another Thing after coming to the astounding conclusion that real writers need to write. A native of Laurel, Mississippi, she now lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and stepchildren. When she is procrastinating mightily, she can be found on The Twitters and The Facebook.