I’m supposed to be writing a lecture on Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, and I’m struggling. I logged on to my Twitter account, and I see some tweets about Occupy Wall Street. I start poking around and getting confused, as I’ve been for two months. Confused because I feel like I should be completely behind this movement, yet I feel completely disconnected from it. I’m trying to listen to voices coming out of the movement and also to colleagues and friends who I know are supporting the movement, but I’m still struggling to find the connection. I’m not willing to give up trying, but I’m still not quite ready to drink the juice either.
So I check out The New York Times to see if there’s anything that will help me understand. That’s after watching a video online that someone posted of a series of clips of police doing violence to occupiers as they cleared Zuccotti Park. Pushing, shoving, milk in the eyes to deal with the Mace or something. I don’t know. Again, I felt disconnected.
On the Times site, I happen upon this video story that I’ve embedded below. It’s about a guy from Connecticut, 35 years old, out of work for two years, gets a job, and then after six months he quits the job to join the Occupy Wall Street movement. Then the park gets cleared, and he has nowhere to live. Lots of education, working towards a PhD at some point.
As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but wonder why this guy quit his job. After being out of work for two years, why would he quit a job after finally finding one?
I can imagine that maybe his job isn’t fulfilling. He so much as said so in the video. But given the moment that we’re living in, is it wise to quit a job? I’m sitting here feeling confused. Scratching my head. Wanting to feel sympathy for this guy, but finding it very hard to understand the choices he’s made.
I think that some people might try to tell me that the Times (a loathed “mainstream media outlet”) somehow manipulated his story. Made it into what they wanted it to be. Fair enough argument. I would just respond by saying that this guy chose to allow the cameras to follow him around for the past month. If he’s 35 and has advanced education, he should have some understanding of media representation and its ramifications.
It’s moments like these, when I question a choice like the one that this guy has made, that I know that I’m my father’s son.
My dad and I don’t always agree politically or socially. I know he’s scratched his head about some of the choices that I’ve made in my life, but my father has worked for about 40 years for 50-60 hours a week selling auto parts. He has worked in the same store for all of those years. I worked with him as a part time parts boy and delivery boy off and on from the summer before 8th grade until I was 22 years old. I watched how hard he worked, and I experienced firsthand his expectations for his co-workers and employees. I don’t know many other people who have the work ethic that my dad has. Except maybe my Uncle Bill, who my dad worked for many years.
My dad used to tell me that I better learn some common sense. I had a lot of academic gifts, but the common sense took awhile to kick in. The first time he said it to me, I got really mad. But it’s some of the best advice he ever gave me.
My dad never had time to quit his job and occupy a park. He had the huge responsibility, along with my mom, of raising five kids. My dad never sat down at work, unless it was to work with an adding machine or a computer terminal at a desk. If I leaned against a shelf or sat on a ledge, he told me to stand up. Replenish the Valvoline Oil. Stock the air filters on the shelves. Dust the products that haven’t moved in awhile. Sweep the floors. Don’t stand around.
My dad did not model quitting for me. Nor did he model standing around. And he also didn’t model idle chatter.
Maybe that’s why I’m having trouble connecting to Occupy Wall Street. I know stuff is happening there. People are marching, people are teaching, people are voicing their concerns, people are occupying things. People are quitting their jobs. People are getting arrested. People are planning next steps now that they can’t sleep in the park.
But what’s really happening? What’s actually changing? What’s getting done?
This son of a hard working Baby Boomer would like to know.