Thursday, December 29, 2011

COLUMN: Occupy

I am a HUGE fan of online commenters. You never realize just how much people like to argue until you give them the power to do so anonymously. Nowadays, even the most innocuous of news stories can result in epic acid-tongued online warfare. In other words, it is pure comedy gold.

I like to picture these people in their day-to-day lives. Is the guy grocery-shopping next to me really "AwesumDude38" who believes our President is a Kenyan-born Antichrist? Is the sweet-looking little old lady in the next car really "SilvisMama" who believes the CIA was behind 9/11?

Some people think anonymous public commenting is annoying. I think it's cathartic for all parties involved -- of which there are TWO: extreme left wingers and extreme right wingers. If you're a moderate these days, apparantly you don't have internet access (or perhaps have better things to do.)

It's always been my dream to figure out a way to write a column that gets BOTH sides of the fence riled up... and after half a decade at this, I may just do it here today.

It's not very often that I bring politics into this column -- other folks get paid to do just that and they do a MUCH better job at it than me. Still, I've never really made it a secret that my own political views tend to swing rather liberally to the left. But I've got to admit, I'm having a crisis of liberal faith, folks. There's a movement afoot that should normally have my blue state toes a-tappin' -- but they're not. Instead, I sit with raised eyebrows and a curious expression over something that I just don't comprehend -- and I'm worried that my lack of understanding means I'm secretly becoming (a) Republican, (b) my parents, or (c) just plain old:

Occupy Wall Street. I don't get it. Now please don't take away my liberal decoder ring and membership badge.

First, let me see if I've got this right: You're mad because 1% of the population has gobs and gobs of money while the other 99% of us are struggling. You're right -- that sucks. You SHOULD be mad. We should ALL be mad. So let's get united, let's get together, let's make change, let's make history, let's... hang out in a park and hold up signs saying how bad things suck?

I'm all for improving things, and I respect anyone right now who calls for progress. If there's a movement to be joined, count me in -- or at least sign me up for your mailing list. But I don't exactly understand what Occupy Wall Street expects to change by their current methods. If anything, I'm afraid that it's making even the outspoken, intelligent members of our 99% come across as smelly, whiny neo-hippies with an astonishing sense of entitlement.

The main goal of the Occupy movement appears to be raising awareness. But I don't need a sign that says "The Economy Sucks" to know that the economy sucks. Almost 10% of us are unemployed. Foreclosures are rampant. Daily existence is a struggle for WAY too many families. I don't think any of us are blindly walking around whistling "Zip A Dee Doo Dah."

Change doesn't come from having a month-long campout. If you're sick of the way things are, don't stand around in a park with a smartphone waiting to film police brutality. Be pro-active. I know it's hard to find a job, but you're never going to get one if you don't at least TRY. Make products that help commerce. Invent something. If you want to change government, run for office. Go to city council meetings. Petition Congress. Let them know that you're a voter and your friends are voters and you expect more from your elected officials. The system wasn't made for Wall Street -- it was made for YOU. USE it.

You've actually got a leg up on the fat cats on Wall Street. Know why? Because YOUR generation was raised on the internet. My dad can build a house with two bare hands, but he doesn't even know where the power button is on his computer. This gap gives your generation the advantage of global communication. Stop looking at videos of Chuck Testa and run with it.

I believe in the power of the common man to make change, and I believe that with the right leadership and cooperation, we can crawl our way out of this economic mess. If I didn't, I'd be my uncle who lives down south and keeps a "ready bag" at his door full of ammo and supplies for the day that the economy fails and the world descends into anarchy.

The intentions of the Occupiers are good. Like I said, people are desperate and they at least care about changing things, so that's half the battle won right there. But let's be realistic. Last week, I logged onto Facebook and received an event invitation to something called, I kid you not, "Drum Circle for Economic Reform." Really? REALLY? We're standing on the precipice of a global recession and THIS is your plan?

I just don't think you're going to find too many people in the 1% who are going to be moved by your bongo solo, no matter how wicked cool it is. Instead, you're going to find people like Newt Gingrich telling you to "cut your hair and get a job." And, God help me, I kind of agree with him.

What I'm really honestly hoping is that I've got it wrong. That I've fallen victim to the media's incorrect portrayal of a movement with the capability to make a real difference. I hope an Occupier reads this and comments and takes me to task for being short-sighted. I want to be with you, I really do. But right now, I'm just not seeing the point -- so PLEASE, convince me otherwise.

This doesn't mean I'm flipping sides, either, so bait me or hate me all you want, right-wingers. Like most of you, I'm in the 99%, and I just happen to believe I'm with the right (left) people to get our country back on track. Do I have all the answers? Heck no. I'm the guy who just wrote a whole column about Slurpees, so go easy on me while I occupy my couch and read your online comments.

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