"Your father heard about what you are doing on the news today. He says you are trying to overthrow capitalism and make America socialist."
This is what my mom said to me when I called her tonight to tell her I was on the way home from the OccupyLA general assembly meeting.
My father as you can guess, is a man of privilege and a Fox News watcher. He played basketball at UC Santa Barbara in the early sixties. He held a white collar job and bought a membership into the most prestigious country club in the area when he retired. We don't see eye to eye on politics.
"Well, Mom, I guess what he is saying has some truth in it, but I'm not sure Americans can hear the word socialist and understand what it means. To us it means anti-American or it brings up fear or confusion. So I don't think that is a useful way to talk about what we are doing."
I went to the meeting tonight to see with my own eyes what was going on. For years now I have been wondering why we working class Americans aren't out in the streets demanding change. I wanted to see if the Occupy movement felt good to me. I was scared to go to tell you the truth. I can be blabby on the internet, and I can be comfortable around my friends. In new situations though, I'm really shy. But I couldn't stop smiling as I wandered around the group of people. Everyone was passionate about non-violence and about ensuring that all perspectives and especially the marginalized ones were considered. Being a part of making decisions about the route we are taking on the march tomorrow or about what we will do collectively in the face of violence or about how we generate a list of demands felt like liberty.
You know… the word liberty gets thrown around a lot. I've seen tea partiers go purple-faced screaming it. But inside my body, it felt like a dam bursting free. It felt like maybe we can stop all the depressing stuff that we so passionately understand is moving us in the wrong direction.
The hand symbols, you guys. The hand written posters detailing the consensus process. The hope. The minutia and length it takes to get consensus on one point in the agenda even. It's all so beautiful and leaderless and the opposite of allegiance to hierarchy and specialization that got us into this mess.
I went to Pershing Square tonight to see what I can do to help bring this change about. And as I left I found myself talking to my mom in a calm and gentle voice about what I think has gone wrong in our country. I took all the things I have learned in the last 10 years about our economy and the political system and I tried to say them in a way my mom could understand. I didn't feel like fighting her, or even my dad. I felt like welcoming them. I felt like laying down a crumb trail for all those working class Americans who thought they were upwardly mobile and who now find themselves barely hanging on and embarrassed to tell anyone about it.
There are a lot of those people and they are part of the 99 Percent too. We need them with us.