On September 17, the Occupy movement will celebrate its one year anniversary. Occupy Wall Street is hosting a number of events, many of which I will be attending. I am bringing my cousin who has never been to a protest before. When I asked him to join me, he jumped at the chance. When I asked him why he’s coming he said he remembered what I said to him when he declined my invitation to Chicago in May “You don’t regret the things you’ve done, you regret the things you skipped out on.”
This is something I’ve learned over the years. Certainly I regret a few things I’ve done over the four decades of my life but I have more regrets over the things I haven’t done, or skipped out on. The WTO in 1999 is a prime example. Why didn’t I go? I was working. Or I had school. Or the stars weren’t lined up right. The reality is, I don’t remember why I didn’t go but I’ve yet to forgive myself for missing what I think is one of the most important moments in US social history.
Last year when OWS came to fruition I never made it to Zuccotti Park — now renamed Liberty Park — because I didn’t have the money to get to NYC. And I regretted never getting to see the place where the shot heard round the world (the second shot that is) was “fired”. I wasn’t going to allow myself the same level of regret I felt when I missed the WTO so I booked my Megabus tickets early.
I asked my cousin to join me because he’s as angry with the state of the world as I am. Like many I know, he’s pissed but hasn’t done anything about his anger or about the economic climate we find ourselves in. Unlike me he has a job so he has to take time off which he did willingly because this time I gave him more than a two week notice of my intent to travel to another state to get my protest on. He accepted my invitation because he didn’t feel he was being a good steward for the future generations, that he has something to say, and because he says I inspire him.
There were a few things I had to explain like what to bring: a day pack with water, a hat, raincoat and sweatshirt, extra socks, cellphone charger, a couple small snacks, license, health insurance card, money, and an ATM card.* Then I told him what to leave at home: everything else he’d normally carry in his wallet. “You want to bring things that will suck to lose but you’re life won’t end if you do.” (I tend to over pack so feel free to disregard my advice here. Remember, whatever you bring you have to carry and as the day wears on, that pack gets heavier and heavier.)
We have to choose a place to meet if we get split up. Thousands of people will be pouring into NYC for the weekend though we’ll be getting there the day of #S17 (it’s written like that for Twitter purposes) and have a plan if one of us gets arrested though neither of us is planning on civil disobedience at an arrestable level. We also need to find a third person who will “worry” about us while in NYC if they don’t hear from us so I’m going to ask him to ask his cousin (not my cousin) who lives in Harlem. (I tend to over plan so feel free to disregard my advice here. I’m the kind of person who wants to be noticed if I go missing so I try to make connections beforehand otherwise I may end up at Guantanamo and no one knows it.)
Will we change the world? We already have! By bringing to the attention the economic disparages we’ve been living in we’ve started a conversation about inequality, climate change, foreclosure fraud, bank bailouts, GMOs, and the inequitable access to healthcare amongst so many other issues. If OWS had been a failure than Occupies would not have popped up across the globe. While we have been successful in bringing the issues to the forefront, now the real work starts: how to change the world. We can take a page out of Occupy Buffalo’s book who worked diligently with city officials to move city money out of JP Morgan and to a local bank or to continue to pressure corporations to remove themselves from ALEC.
So on #S17 I’ll be in NYC on the blockade at Wall Street, fighting against GMOs, and attending the Woman’s GA. Will I hold your hand in solidarity?
*Many of my fellow protesters will not have such things to bring because they lack insurance, money, and an ATM card. I recognize my privilege here.