Wall Street has been “occupied.” And not by those fancy investment bankers who moan about the size of their annual bonuses.
There is growing wave of Americans that feels like there is nothing that can be done about the economic situation they’re in other than to highlight it by protesting in the streets and “occupying” their own towns. As the original Occupy Wall Street crowd has done for weeks now, parents and families are taking to the streets to bring attention to the ever-growing divide between the haves and the have-nots.
That’s right — moms, dads, kids, dogs (I haven’t seen any gerbils yet). Families are protesting to put a middle America face on an effort that some people want us to believe is nothing more than “hippies” and “trust fund babies” whiling away their unfilled hours to get a little media coverage. Some of those critics, who called the tea party protesters hard-working patriots, want you to think that the people making the signs and staging sit-ins are spoiled college students or lazy, unemployed workers who’d rather have a soundbite on TV than a bite to eat or are torch-carrying mobs coming to drag us out of our homes.
But that’s just not the truth.
Regardless of your politics, take a minute to notice who else is out there — in Washington, D.C., in Los Angeles, in St. Louis, and so many other cities and towns. Our neighbors and our friends are part of this effort, as well as middle class parents who thought that feeding their kids and keeping a roof over their heads was a given. Moms and dads are marching not because they think everyone is entitled to an annual family trip to Disney or even a weekend outing to the beach, but because it’s become clear that we have a system that’s failing too many people — people who believed that if they worked hard they’d be able to make ends meet, keep their kids healthy, put them through college and maybe retire someday.
But when was the last time you saw families marching in protest? Or staging a sit-in for anything? (Waiting in line with your kids to see Yo Gabba Gabba doesn’t count). If mothers and fathers are taking to the streets to get lawmakers to notice that so many are struggling, we’ve turned a sad corner in our history, one I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to explain to my daughter.
If parents have become the new face of civil protest, then it was a forgone conclusion that the “Occupy” movement would take itself online. There is already an Occupy Twitter effort underway, and blogs are focusing on it, as well. But can the world of social media do any good? Many conservatives who started tea party protests and marches similar to what we’re seeing across the country found their political voices and have definitely changed our country. While FOX News and others want to portray the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon as a liberal effort, there’s nothing partisan about losing our jobs or hoping that there’s enough money in the savings account in case one of your children breaks an arm. And people are at a loss about how to change that other than to join others who are in the same boat.
As you look at your own family finances and job situations, would you march in your hometown to protest this anti-Robin Hood moment where the rich seem to be getting richer with few signs of helping others? Or are you more likely to use your social media super powers to let people know how you feel about “occupying” America?
Joanne Bamberger writes the blog PunditMom, and is the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (on sale now at Amazon!), a bipartisan look at how women online are changing the world.