Until Thanksgiving Day, I had not paid much attention to the Occupy movement. I had followed the news stories and listened to debates for and against the protests. I had struggled to explain to my children the purpose of the campers outside the local library (“Are they having an art show?” “No.” “What’s in those tents?” “People.” “People are living outside the library?”)
But on a daily basis, I had been too busy occupying my job (make that, jobs) to fully understand what the 99-percenters are trying to accomplish.
Then I read an article about Thanksgiving, Occupy-style, and my feathers ruffled, perhaps overly so given that my husband had just left for a deployment, apparently to everyone’s surprise:
Everyone: “But I thought the troops were coming home for the holidays. That’s what the president said.”
Me/Buzz Kill: “I’m sure some of them are coming home for the holidays. Many more are leaving.”
By Thanksgiving night, my Facebook feed was filled with status updates from military-spouse friends across the globe missing their deployed service members, and with updates from the service members themselves, who wrote about turkey onboard the aircraft carrier or at a base in Afghanistan. These were interspersed with status updates from civilian friends recounting dinners spent with families intact and husbands at home to watch football and eat leftovers.
As I scrolled down the screen, my emotions alternated between commiseration and jealousy.
Then I saw a link to the news article. It began with accounts of a confrontation between police and protesters at Occupy Wall Street in New York City. Nearly 200 occupiers surrounded 30 police, and, according to the article, one protester shouted, “Why don’t you stop being cops for Thanksgiving?”
Out of context, I might have thought this was a joke. Stop being a cop for Thanksgiving? Is that an option? Because if it is, I’d like to volunteer my husband to stop being a Navy pilot on Thanksgiving, too. And what about Christmas? No one needs protection or security on Christmas anyway, right?
Of course, this can’t happen. Terrorists and other threats to our country don’t take a break for the holidays anymore than criminals do. Besides, I’m pretty certain police officers are part of the 99%. Many of them don’t have the luxury of taking a day off.
I shook this off and continued reading, pausing only to visit the various Occupy websites, trying to find FAQs, or at least a discernible mission statement. The movement appears to be quite disorganized, which increased my annoyance. Here in Bangor, the local occupiers have made extra work for the city’s council members, police officers and other emergency personnel. Again, all of whom likely are not part of the 1%.
As the wife of someone who has made a life dedicated to the service of others, I know the desire — the frustration — of wanting to believe that it is not all in vain. This, by the way, is why I’m not in the service myself. It takes a special person to protect and serve anyone and everyone, even those who are against you, and even when, after all your sacrifice, you are still in the 99%.
However, fellow 99-percenters who are working hard to make ends meet — on regular days and holidays — are not the only people annoying occupiers. Apparently the Occupy camps are also frustrated with homeless citizens taking up space and resources.
Whoa! Wait a minute. Aren’t they, more than anyone else, definitely not part of the 1%?
Perhaps the breakdown of percentages should be different: there are the haves and have-nots, the homeless, and the ones with the tough and thankless job of enforcing laws and protecting others.
As I read these things on a lonely Thanksgiving night, while missing my deployed husband, I became more sad than angry. All this wasted time, resources and energy, and with no clear goals, is really quite a shame. People donated turkeys and food for the occupiers, who, I would guess, are less than 1% of the 99%. Indeed, the occupiers are entirely supported through donations.
Until the Occupy movement has a solid goal and mission statement, imagine the good that could be done if all their time and energy was distributed elsewhere. Like thanking the firemen who stood watch on Thanksgiving. The policemen who will be on patrol Christmas night. And the military men and women who protect the occupiers’ freedom to protest.
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.