Why I Support the Occupy Movement

Well, there’s certainly been a lot of discussion about the Occupy Wall Street movement recently, hasn’t there?  I’ve heard things ranging from “they’re communists” to “suck it up” to “woohoo, down with the man!”  What’s interesting is that when I went to search for a list of demands, or what the movement as a whole really wanted, I couldn’t find anything.

In general, the movement seems to be protesting the amount of influence large corporations and the top 1% of the country have on the political process.  Occupy Memphis has published a declaration, most of which seems pretty reasonable to me, such as corporations not being given First Amendment rights that are intended for individuals or being allowed to influence elections through campaign contributions.

Of course, there are those who want all their loans forgiven and to have someone else help them out of the hole they dug for themselves.  I don’t think you can generalize everyone involved in the protest as believing that, though.

I have a college degree that I paid for with scholarships and federal loans.  The only debt I have is from school loans, and in the 3 years since I graduated I have paid off almost half of those (thanks, in large part, to a grant from Americorps for my service in Teach for America).  I try to spend my money responsibly and live within my means, which is honestly not that difficult for me.  Yes, I’m a teacher and feel that I am underpaid for the work I do, but as a single person with no dependents (other than a dog), I am far from living paycheck to paycheck.

Many people would say that I am not the 99%, and that those who are protesting and complaining should just do what I have done and suck it up.  The problem with that argument is that many people who are protesting have not had the opportunity to do what I have done.

I have been very fortunate.  I have had no large medical expenses, have not been subject to the cuts many other teachers have faced, and was able to find a good house in a good location with incredibly affordable rent.  My 17-year-old car still runs with only an occasional hiccup and my commute is short so gas isn’t a huge issue.

While my family may not be in the 1% in the United States, we are without a doubt in the 1% in the world.  The reason I only have school loans is because my parents were able to pay my rent when I was in college.  Yes, I worked, but I only had to cover groceries and gas and the fun things I wanted to do.  From what I’ve seen, many of the people protesting would have loved to have the opportunities I received.  Some people dig themselves a hole of debt, yes, but some people start out already in the hole.

Take my students, for example.  Many of them have to take the horrid public transportation system to school because their parents can’t drive them (they don’t have a working car, they have to work, etc.).  A lot of them cannot afford internet access at home, which can make it extremely difficult for them to get their schoolwork done.  A few students do not even have the money or opportunity to purchase a $12 book that is needed for class.

And these are the lucky ones.  They are at a school where they are getting a high-quality education, which will enable them to earn scholarships and be able to go to college with minimal amounts of debt.  Other students in Memphis are not as fortunate.  I’ve even heard stories of parents who have destroyed their own credit, so they use their kids’ social security numbers and destroy their credit before they even graduate high school.

Maybe I am not the 99%, but my students certainly are and I will support anyone who is willing to point out the injustices and inequalities in our system for their sake.  I may not agree with everything the Occupy movement wants, but I love what they’re doing just the same.

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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

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