Disclaimer: Sorry for the incohesive and unorganized thought process of this blog (and the possible typos/grammar issues, I’ll fix it up later). The blog post almost runs along like a tangent. It’s just a few reactions I had while I thought about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Thanks for reading.
“A riot is, at bottom, the language of the unheard.”
– Martin Luther King, 1967
When I think about Occupy Wall Street, it’s really hard. Let me explain: there’s a lot of reasons why I got married at a young age. There’s a lot of financial and practical reasons why I got married to, honestly, my best friend and the love of my life, who happened to join the Navy at a difficult, financial time. I’m part of the 99 percent. My father is having a hard time, with a multitude of problems that range from immigration to economical. Our house was foreclosed last year. My husband’s family and their house, the one they’ve been living in for 22 years, was foreclosed. My husband, after attending community college because his parents didn’t have the money to send him to college, got into all the amazing schools he applied to (UCSD, UCI, and UCSB, just to name a few). And he was going to go to one of these colleges. And he did pay his enrollment fee. Then, we got his financial package in the mail, and it looked a lot like mine. Although my father does make a good amount of money, he’s usually in the negative because of his debt. That debt unfortunately was carried over to me because I wanted to get a good education. I ended up graduating college with a lot of loans despite the amount of scholarships I had. One time, I even got a hefty $3,500 award for one of the short stories I wrote, but about a third of it was taken away from me because, as USC said, “They gave me too much aid.” Bullshit, right? Being in the amount of debt I am in right now is ridiculous; it’s above the average debt for undergraduates. My husband, who was at the time my boyfriend of nine years, saw that we had a life together in the future. He didn’t want to add to our debt. So, he made the decision to join the Navy and study nuclear engineering. The Navy is paying for his competitive schooling and he’s going to be debt-free. We made a lot of decisions last year because we are in the 99 percentile. Our parents are in the 99 percentile. Our parents had a lot of trouble keeping themselves afloat, and we made the choice to take our own lives in our own hands and make it better for our family and our future kids (we don’t have any kids yet, and not planning to have any until I’m 30). But, we don’t want to put our future kids in this similar difficult situation. I don’t believe it’s our parents’ fault that we’re in the 99 percent. A lot of people are. And like a lot of people, we’re frustrated. Although I do have a good job making history books, it’s not like I’m making bank. I still have a lot of loans to pay off. And though my husband does get paid a good amount, we’re scared the nation might cut our military pay (and we already get paid pennies, practically). So when I see people marching out in a movement like Occupy Wall Street, I feel them. I’m angry too. But, I’m at a loss as well.
I have a good friend who’s part of that 1 percentile. And he is one of those people who has gotten rich by himself. His family was as poor as my family. I don’t feel right bashing the 1 percentile when I know someone from that percentile who gives back more than any of us could ever give back. His company does produce jobs, his philanthropy is massive and overarching, he has built over 4 villages in the Philippines and has housed over 600 people there (and, he brings people from UCSD to help build those houses, one of those Alternative Spring Break charities). He pays a lot of taxes, more than you and I could ever pay. He gives back to the community. He gives a lot back because he’s able to. But he feels if he’s taxed a hell of a lot more, he won’t have that power of giving to those causes, nonprofits, etc. that he wants to. And there’s a lot more to it, a lot more politics in it and the way of life he has earned through his hard work, and I get that. I really do.
I don’t know. I just don’t really know how I feel. I’m frustrated at the system but I’m still trying to work the system because that’s all I have. I want a good life. And I’m getting there, even if it’s slow. I wasn’t blessed like a lot of my friends at USC. Most of them don’t have hefty college loans like me, and most of them can live wherever the hell they want because of their parents. But I’m not angry at them. It’s not like it’s their fault that they’re richer than me. It just means I have to work harder. And I don’t know how we can bring structural change to our economy. But I do want change. As I said, I am one of those people who are marching outside on the streets, demanding change. I want change. I want peaceful change. We all do. That’s why I’m really hoping these protests won’t end up like the London riots a few months ago. They were angry. They were frustrated. And yes, we’re angry and frustrated too. But we can’t just blame the 1 percentile. The rich do get richer, especially during these times. I remember a friend at USC once told me about her work day while she was interning for the City Hall of Beverly Hills. She said she overheard a few ladies talking about the home foreclosures and the housing market. But it was different. It wasn’t how we, the 99 percentile, talked about the housing market. They talked about it as if they were kids in a candy store, excited over the fact that they were able to buy whatever house at whatever place for a hell of lot cheaper than before. But is it their fault that they were in a better socioeconomic standing than me or my friend? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I just don’t think we should be angry at a particular entity. Yes, we’re angry. But more so, we’re frustrated. It isn’t necessarily the government’s fault or the rich’s fault. Most likely, the blame should be on banks and people on Wall Street, but I just don’t think we should focus on blaming someone or something. We should just be focused on changing it, inciting dialogue and building community over these issues. When I was researching the NYC General Assemblies, I found that, yes, maybe we will be able to incite social change through peaceful means. I just want people to be careful. Don’t fight fire with fire. It will only burn us all.