True Confessions: The 99%, Occupy Cal

Much life-ness going on, and much I'm not sure I want to talk about on this blog. The truth is, there are many things I'm just not sure about. And there is enough not-sure-ness to keep from writing coherently about it. But these things are haunting me - enough so that I feel compelled to write something, despite the not-sure-ness I feel. So. True confession time.

I sympathize with the frustrations expressed by the Occupy Wall Street crowd. At one point I was reading the We are the 99% Tumblr and shaking my head inside. I am blessed enough to have been born into a fairly well-off family, enough so that I could afford to attend college and graduate with no student loans, private or federal. (I still owe a lot back to my family, but I'm lucky not to have the atrocious terms attached to outside loans.) I am lucky enough to still be covered by my family's health insurance plan, though I'm paying out-of-pocket costs of several hundred dollars for annual doctors' visits and prescriptions. I'm fortunate enough to have found a full-time job right out of college that enables me to pay for those visits, as well as the occasional dinner out or new dress.

But there are so many people who don't have those privileges. A response Tumblr, We are the 53%, seems to have an audience saying (generally speaking) that the 99% are nothing more than lazy. That if they just tried more, or worked harder, they'd be fine. Again, I have nothing more to say than "Screw you," to those folks.

Sure, there are some people complaining about nothing much in their own lives. I'm sure there are some currently unemployed people who are lazy. But for most of the 99%, at least what I've seen, this couldn't be farther from the case. Most of 99% messages I saw referred either to crushing student loans (the majority of which were over $100,000), or exceptionally high health care costs, usually related to a severe illness such as cancer. So, 53%, are you blaming these people for getting cancer?

I don't pretend to know the best way to fix this country. But I do know there is something terrifyingly wrong when our citizens' futures are compromised because of circumstances largely outside of their control. I believe there are minimum services the United States government can and should provide to all citizens, at affordable prices. Students should not have to work full time so they can afford to attend college at the same time. Every person in this country should have access to affordable health insurance and health care. Getting a quality education should not put anyone into insurmountable debt. Being diagnosed with cancer should not be an automatic bankruptcy sentence.

Back to Occupy Wall Street. I'm not sure what can realistically come of the movement, but I support the motivation and the right of the people to protest nonviolently. I'm pretty sure that for this next bit to make sense, I need to out myself as a Berkeley resident. I moved here to attend UC Berkeley, have since graduated, and now work full time in Berkeley.

So I heard about Occupy Cal as it was happening. I rode past it on my bike, though I was not part of the crowd. I heard the helicopters outside. I watched the live broadcasts online late, late into the night last Wednesday. And I was absolutely disgusted to see what I saw, and read what I read following the incident. (Please see this link for fairly comprehensive coverage, as well as this article at The Daily Cal, the UC Berkeley student newspaper.) These are students and professors being beaten and offering no resistance while being arrested. (Arrests which, I should note, they did not resist.) One notable professor, Celeste Langan, was yanked by the hair and forced to the ground in the course of her arrest.

Berkeley, I don't know what to say. I admire the UC Berkeley students and professors who stood in peaceful protest. I condemn the UC Regents leadership and police team, whose use of force in the events of November 9, 2011, were atrocious and completely unwarranted.

What's my position on all this? Nebulous and not easily articulated. But I've been thinking a lot about it recently, and I hope you will as well.