The undercurrent of dreading the inevitable percolates beneath our heavy layer of cheap perfume. We fear becoming sick then losing our jobs or the other way around. It doesn’t matter because if one happens so will the other. Then, we’ll also lose healthcare. We fear so much that we accept too much.
I look at other mothers and fathers, men and women, and we nod, we smile, a resigned not yet angry smile. Occupy Wall Street hit an impressive nerve. Secretly, in those quiet corners after work ended, we smirked, vindicated for our silent sufferings.
But now, when I look back at Occupy Wall Street, I look back even further.
The Great Depression plunged Americans into a surprise hell where a response left them mute then violent. Today you can view the violent protests on YouTube.
My great grandfather, whom I had the pleasure of knowing for a whole two years before his death, owned a bakery in Chicago, Illinois. He hired as many people as he could invent jobs but still couldn’t help the majority of the people who’d been abandoned by their employers. He fed people free bread on a daily basis. He made sure he sent word to anyone he knew that there was a good man or woman ready to work. He did all this with a push and a shove from my great grandmother who never let anybody she met go hungry.
Even so, they couldn’t help everyone. In fact, the amount of people they could help was simply too small. The circumstances had cut too deep, the wound unable to heal. So the masses had to speak up.
Like the Occupiers, they mustered the strength and anger to do something, anything about their situation. Whether born from desperation or frustration, it really didn’t matter because that’s more than many people could or would do.
My great grandfather watched his all-American, capitalist ideals drop from the tears in his eyes as he handed men and women their dignity in the form of bread.
In the 1920s, there were those who misspent their money on extravagant delights. It was a time of overindulgence and rebellion that set Americans up for failure.
The similarities between that and the outrageous spending habits of the 90s blend quite nicely. In 1931, about 60,000 people protested new eviction laws in Chicago. Violence erupted, some were killed, many injured. Read more about it at http://griid.org/2011/08/03/this-day-in-resistance-history-–-the-chicago-eviction-riots/
Protests are cries for help, shouts of the guttural kind, when people just can’t stay quiet any longer. Riots happen when no one listens.
Right now, many of us still have our stuff. But, we’re struggling—our eyes show it.
We, the workers, we’re tired.
But, whom do we blame? Them? Do we blame the credit-crazy monsters of the 80s and 90s? Do we blame the people who bought into the idea that you can live a luxurious life and still pay your bills? Sure, why not. Maybe we can even say, “Look what you did. Take responsibility for it.”
Then what? Do we dig a hole for them and say, “Jump in,” pushing them if they won’t go, covering them in dirt, suffocating them?
Or, do we offer them a hand, a piece of bread in the form of dignity.
Written by Lisa Chesser