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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Occupy Blue Rapids



       Much has been written about the Occupy Wall Street movement—oceans of ink, in fact, though it’s questionable how many people actually read those millions of words to their bitter end, much less grasped the meanings behind it. My own experience was surprisingly detached. On the one hand I applaud any grassroots attempt to highlight corporate greed and malfeasance; on the other hand, I never quite understood what the protesters hoped to bring about through their actions. CEOs handcuffed and hauled to jail? A total collapse of the financial underpinnings of the United States? Equitable student loans? Free donuts? 

Concurrent with the protests was a series of requests we received from a liberal organization intent on expanding the movement into small town Kansas. While I normally find their messages timely and pertinent to my own set of beliefs, these were wildly comical. For instance, they suggested I photograph the bridge over the Big Blue River to illustrate our decaying and neglected infrastructure. Considering that a new bridge is being built as a replacement, the idea had zero merit. Their suggestion to stage a localized Occupy Wall Street protest outside our bank was just plain silly. Our bank is locally-owned and never engaged in the wild excesses of the major financial institutions. It illustrated a point, however: one must choose one’s battles wisely. 

I had other, more important, issues to contend with. Mice, for one. The first few frosts drove any sensible beast indoors, including a foot-long black snake that had the misfortune to become entangled in a sticky trap. It took my wife and I a good thirty minutes to painstakingly extract it. Mousetraps baited with peanut butter were spread throughout the house, and as the days went by their telltale snaps echoed down the halls with lethal crispness. Weatherizing our drafty century-old farmhouse also occupied our time, an annual occurrence made necessary by an absence of funds. If I had Bill Gates’ financial assets I’d raze the place and start all over with a kitchen the size of Delaware and a bomb-proof tornado shelter replete with library, generator, built-in wine racks and beer tap.

Nevertheless, nestled as I was in my rural complacency, I wondered if I was missing out on a major event, one I could someday brag to my grandchildren that I had been part of. I was too busy creating a life to get involved in the peace movement or the hippie culture in the 1960s and missed entirely protests over the war in Vietnam, possessing both a high draft number and a complete detachment from anything not associated with my own narrow orb. The conflicts that defined my generation were sadly absent in my personal history. And at my ever-advancing age I knew time was running out. The detestable Tea Party was completely out of the question, so here was a semi-liberal movement that seemed to be gaining traction and notoriety while simultaneously remaining so vague that anyone with any objection or bone to pick could join.

I decided to stage my own movement: Occupy Blue Rapids.

In honesty it had more to do with overworking than any actual complaint or dissent. I was tired from never having a real day off and saw no end in sight—until realizing that I could tap into a large network and become part of a revolutionary movement, all without leaving the comfort of my house. As a protest it was minimal to the point of nonexistent, but as a movement it was monumental. “I was on the front lines in Blue Rapids,” I could someday tell my adoring granddaughters. “Mine was the rallying cry of freedom from oppression!” 

Rather than making a public spectacle of myself and risking arrest, I broadcast the announcement over the largest social networking site in the world: Facebook. I explained that I was holding a one-day protest against deadlines, work of any kind, telemarketers, bills, news, crooked politicians, barking dogs, large corporations (except for Amazon.com, of course) and anything not associated with family, rabbits, books, naps, food and drink. “Nobody is invited but my wife,” I wrote. “I’m not getting dressed. I will perform no work. I won’t answer the phone or the door. The public is not invited. Stay the hell away.”

It was, admittedly, more of a sit-in than a protest. On the morning of the fabled day I got up as usual, made a pot of coffee, checked my e-mail and cruised the Web, read a book, dozed on the couch, enjoyed the company of my wife, read some more, drank some more, napped some more, and in general did everything more that brought me joy, enlightenment, relaxation, fulfillment or peace. By sundown I was ready to tackle the world, though a few cold beers slowly returned me to my senses.

As movements go, I’m not sure Occupy Wall Street managed to change anything. Politicians are still corporate whores, my neighbor’s dog continues to yap, deadlines are creeping in and I’m back to feeling stressed and out of sorts. In many larger cities police have moved in to forcibly remove protesters, in many instances using force equal to any third world country. 

My own occupation, however insignificant, brought about its own subtle, if not life-altering, transformations. I might not have changed the world but I feel refreshed and energetic, clearer-headed and more enthusiastic about the approaching holiday season. In other words, it was a smashing success. 

Perhaps most important was a side benefit of bragging rights. Someday, when the time is right, I’ll regale my granddaughters with my adventures on the front lines and the dangers we Occupiers faced. “Yep,” I’ll say, “it was tough, but it was the best nap I ever had!”

2 comments:

varnishgal@gmail.com said...

I came, I read, and I was completely won over. I'm joining your movement.

photographybyjoylene said...

Love it!