It's been a big week for potential revolutionaries. There's been this major international movement, you may have heard of it :-) That's right, the Occupy Lawrence movement has been going strong for three weeks now (I think? Maybe a little longer), and occupiers have camped continuously in South Park for over a week. It's incredibly exciting, and one part of me wants to be involved up to my ears, move into the camp, get arrested, go to every protest, every General Assembly, days of action, help cook, set up emergency Algebra I teach-ins (ha, ha, ha)...
My life does not allow me to do this right now. I sat down and thought about it, and quite frankly, I am proud of most of what I do with my time. During the day, that is--my nighttime internet browsing isn't exactly my best trait. But my full time work with young people, trying to help them realize their dreams, and around the edges trying to make the world a better place for them (and for me, and for the rest of the kids, and for my future kids, and everyone else too), is probably the most effective thing I can do for any movement.
This week, I have attended a couple of General Assemblies; like most observers whose accounts I've read, I find them hopeful and inspiring, but also endless, and not necessarily the best possible use of my time. Reaching consensus on everything takes time. I understand that in a cosmic sense it is probably worth it, but in another, less cosmic sense, I have a lot of stuff to do, and a limited lifetime in which to do it.
However, I've found some things to do that were worth my time. Saturday night, the campers at Occupy Lawrence were harassed and physically assaulted by some passers-by (read: drunk people going home from bars). This is obviously shameful and ridiculous. So we brought over some coffee for them; while we were at the occupation, a need to pick up a participant from the jail arose. I found out where the county jail is. If you couldn't get ahold of someone to come get you from there, it'd be a long walk back to Lawrence. The jail itself is deceptively well-designed; it looks more like a school should look, plus creepily steampunk bolts on the doors.
On suggestion from Alternet of other ways to help, I'm going to record here, publicly, how I am part of the 99%.
The most painful part, for me, of being part of the 99%, is that even as a professional full-time worker I cannot afford to have a baby. The skyrocketing costs of health care force me to postpone childbearing. I have many years yet to have a child, probably without huge problems, thankfully; however, that this decision has to be financial, and not emotional or relational, makes me very angry and frustrated. Should we have a child, I have no paid maternity leave, no ability to take off from my job to take care of my child, and also no access to decent child care if I wanted or needed to keep working. And, the most damning part, no way to provide health care for me and my child if I do quit work, not enough money for health care for my child even if I don't quit work.
My profession has been under continuous attack from the 1% under the dubious guise of "school reform," which generally seeks to shift all blame for student underachievement, drop-out, lack of engagement, etc., onto teachers. Never mind the large body of research that indicates American schools without large populations of kids that live in poverty are among the best schools in the world, that poverty, not teachers, drags down kids. The economic inequality that keeps all kids from achieving their full potentials is not teachers' fault. Yet movements to limit our rights to collectively bargain, movements to reduce our salaries, to take away our benefits, to lengthen our hours, are rife and gaining speed.
Meanwhile, 20% of kids in the USA live in poverty; another 20% are near it. My students often mention that they can't get medical treatment; they can't attend the school play because of the $5 admission; they can't participate in school activities because the budget cuts forced us to institute an activity fee.
Indeed, even as a worker in a position of privilege (relatively stable work, relatively good benefits, acceptable salary, all resulting from my high level of education and being born into the middle class), I am still a worker. I stand in solidarity with all workers whose rights are dissolving in a pool of cowardly political pandering to the wealthy.
I encourage you also: share how you are part of the 99%. Share what changes you would like to see. And if you are so inclined, stop by your local occupation and see what you can do to help.