Friday, October 21, 2011


I’m feeling a little guilty not to have posted yet about the #Occupy movement. But I have been, shall we say, pre-occupied. There’s a few reasons I’ve been procrastinating on it:

1) Legitimately busy. Now accepting prayers for my job search.

2) Trying to figure out the right balance of internet-anonymity and self-revelation.

3) I am mortified that people aren’t sure whether I’m in favor.

So I’m going on the record now: I am in favor. I’m in favor of people’s movements. I’m in favor of more democracy and less corporate influence on government. I’m in favor of closing the yawning gap between rich and poor.

Of course, there are things about the movement I’m struggling with, and here comes the self-revelation part. My spouse works on Wall Street. Not anywhere that got bailed out, and not anywhere that directly benefited from CDOs and credit default swaps and toxic assets and all the other horrific financial instruments we all learned about on Planet Money. But he does work in finance, and near Wall Street itself. (Incidentally, many of the places that did get bailed out and did benefit from screwing with poor people's hopes and dreams and credit scores are located in midtown. I know that Wall Street is a cultural symbol, and it wouldn’t pack the same rhetorical punch to occupy Park & 53rd or whatever.)

So I’ve been struggling a bit, and here’s where I am. Economic injustice is complicated. It is interconnected and subtle. We are all complicit in it, in some ways, or at least most of us are. It’s like empire. It’s like patriarchy. There’s not just one bad guy who makes it all happen – it’s in our hearts and our heads; it's in our anxieties and our desires for fancier toys.

When you know some of those Wall Street guys (mostly guys), it’s hard to look at them and be like “Yes! These people! They are the villains!” Mostly they’re cisgendered guys in their 20s and 30s from middle- to upper-middle-class backgrounds who have spent a lot of time thinking about math, and not a lot of time thinking about social issues, who have worked their butts off their whole lives and are aware that it was really hard but unaware of the ways they’ve benefited from privilege (it’s invisible to the privileged, that’s what makes it insidious). They want to pay off their student loans and they’re anxious about what will happen when their (middle- to upper-middle-class, but probably struggling) parents get older and/or sick. They want to live in nicer homes than they can presently afford, which is a universal desire if we’ve learned anything at all from this whole mess.

Most of them are in the 99%, but I suspect that the 3 million wealthiest Americans (the 1%) are similarly lacking in evil intentions and sinister mustaches. Many of them are probably interested in having a government that serves the needs of all the people. Many of them are probably just as puzzled as the rest of us about how to make that happen. Many of them probably feel alienated by the 99% slogan.

So I’m standing by what I’ve said before and I’ll say again: God doesn’t make bad people. If you want to separate the wheat from the weeds, it’s going to be more complicated than skimming off the top 1% (or if you’re not of my political persuasion, the bottom 47%). It’s going to be more complicated than Wall Street Suits versus protesters. (Also, PLEASE remember that a lot of the “suits” are administrative assistants and HR representatives and other support staff. Be kind.)

We need to do something about this. I hope we can do it together.

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