As you are reading this, our country is in the midst of an occupation. What started off as simply Occupy Wall Street, a protest against corporate greed and unfair economic policies, is now a national movement. But it hasn't stopped with America. Ireland, New Zealand, France, Spain, and China (among others) all boast Occupy protests of their own. We hear constantly of the police brutality against protesters, or of the vandalism and general shenanigans they get up to. What is often ignored in media coverage of these occupations is the age group that a majority of the protesters fall into: 17-30 years old.
I live in Portland, Oregon, which is currently playing host to one of the largest Occupy protests outside of New York City. I fit into the age group of most of the protesters, if only just barely. Most adults I talk to seem to see these protests as the obnoxious whines of middle class suburbanite teenagers like me, without any real idea of what the intended purpose of the protests are. I'm not exactly your stereotypical unwashed-miscreant protester, but I have spent time among the tents on Schrunk Plaza, and I have formulated an opinion of my own.
To paraphrase Dr. J, a retired physician in charge of Occupy Portland's "Hospital" tent, the Occupy movement is about fairness. It's about knowing that, despite whether or not your family is above the federal poverty line, you will most likely emerge from college with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt and no job prospects to help you pay them back. It's about living in fear of having your house taken away because your family can't afford their mortgage payments, or about not having a home at all because your family couldn't afford one in the first place.
No one wants to live in a country where all of the opportunities they were promised by the government can be taken away at any time because of corporations. Growing up in that country, and knowing that unless your voice is made loud above the dull roar of politicians and their pocketbooks you will never be heard, is terrifying. We are told all our lives that if we work hard in school, go to a good college, stay on the right track, and don't screw it up, we'll be just fine. We'll find a job that we love, one with a good starting salary, and we'll get our paychecks every month, paychecks that we'll use for the rent on our nice apartment, and we'll sit on our couches at the end of every day, and we'll be happy. But that story, the one we start learning in preschool, is a lie.
If there is one thing that our Constitution promises us, it's freedom. How can any group of people be free if they are made slaves by their economy? The reason we protest is not because we are all unpatriotic anarchists who hate the American way of life, it's because we were taught that we are worth more than our wallets, but we are no longer treated as such. We want our country to be the way it's meant be, a place where one can live and grow without fear that everything we love can be taken away from us at any given time. To people of an older generation, we might seem ungrateful. Believe me, we are anything but.
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