From the Church of Earthalujah, Reverend Billy Talen and The Stop Shopping Choir.
Everybody knows I love Rev Billy. I love most everything about Occupy Wall Street, too. I became troubled, though, after I recently joined a Facebook group called Parents for Occupy Wall Street.
First, let me say that the people in the group seem well-intentioned, earnest, dedicated and willing to work hard. They organized a sleep over in the park for their kids, who were mostly between the ages of two and ten years-old or so. By all accounts, the event was well attended and well received. The Sanitation and Town Planning groups at OWS worked overtime to prepare a kid zone, and those efforts left the park more organized for everyone. There was face painting and a local "celebrity" children's musician gave a little concert. All good - if you have young children.
Reading about the final preparation for this event in the Facebook group, in addition to discussion threads on other topics, it sounded as if these parents, like many parents of young children, were so involved in their own experience of parenting very young children that they had apparently forgotten that those of us with older kids still count as parents. Like they hadn't realized that a ton of parents are supporting Occupy Wall Street when they're paying the cell phone bills for all the Twenty-somethings occupying cities across the nation. Let's not forget the "Parent Plus" student loans many folks are paying back while their kids are unemployed. Seems to me that the parents of those young women who got maced by Officer Bologna are surely supporting Occupy Wall Street.
I wrote a private message expressing my concern to the woman who has been managing the Facebook group because I thought she should know why I felt excluded from Parents for Occupy Wall Street even though I've spent 25 years in Early Childhood Education. I was compelled to use all the letters behind my name, as well as my blogging creds with Roundtree7 and Worldwide Hippies. But my feelings were hurt.
I did not mention that there are plenty of reasons to work for peace, economic justice and sustainability whether a person has kids or not.
This thing with the Parents illustrates a larger issue regarding Special Interest groups within the movement. Certainly parents of young children are a subset with specialized concerns - just like people who are African American, or LGBT, or who have Aspergers or Dyslexia, or who are faced with immigration issues. Whatever - we all have our individual voices, and those voices all surely belong in the choir of the 99%.
Sometimes, the tenor may sing a solo, for example, but then the voices blend again. It's the same with an orchestra when the violins are featured for a few measures, for example. Even though our voices sound different, it's the spirit inside us that moves us to sing.
We all share that same spirit. When we isolate ourselves into special, separate interest groups, we run the risk of becoming disconnected from the common, human spirit that unites us all. Especially when people are so attached to their individual identities that a divisive element is introduced - as is often the case with Religious Extremists of all varieties.
Nobel Laureate Tawakkul Karman, an activist from Yemen, spoke eloquently and passionately with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! about the drive toward Democracy in her country (http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2011/10/21/exclusive_nobel_laureate_tawakkul_karman_on). She was in town talking talking to the UN and specifically asked for the people of the Untied States to back up her people in this struggle.
From where I sit, she looks like one of the 99% too. Yes, her voice is strong and she represents a whole lot of people working to assert their human rights. Maybe that looks different in their neighborhood than it does in mine. But when Tawakkul speaks, you can feel the human spirit soaring from her. We all deserve peace, economic justice and sustainability, and no group is more deserving than another.
One of the Parents for Occupy Wall Street suggested that they become a working group as part of the General Assembly. I suppose that's the appropriate protocol for any special interest group who wants a voice in the GA. I'm still learning about the evolving, horizontal decision-making process at OWS, but I have faith that the community will find the right path.
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