I hear the droning voices on the nightly newscast speak about the Occupy movement growing all over the world. Sometimes I am fired up about ‘the occupation’ and then other days it wanes on me. I wonder if anyone is listening to the voices of the people or will it end up hitting deaf ears like the marches we had for the Iraq war.
How about the rural towns? Do they care or do some of them just view the 99% as a bunch of “radicals”? With no official leader can we expect a tsunami sized movement in the near future and when will people finally wake up and realize they can do something!
This is an organic movement now and I hear complaints that people are tired of reading about it because one article is almost a duplication of the other. I remember the faces I saw in the crowds of some Occupy marches and try to figure out if anyone stood out in my mind. What we need now are faces that belong to this movement to inspire everyone to lift their protest sign in unison.
On a wet day in Oakland last week I found such a face that intrigued me to find out why she was there. I had snapped a lot of pictures of this regal looking white haired woman only to have them not turn out. This made me think maybe it was intentional so I could write about what made this woman tick and why she was there. I instantly felt like she was real people - like my neighbour or maybe even yours.
I was hooked the minute she began to speak and found out that she knew my friend Kevin. As he began to film her she told us that she remembered when things were good and that this corporate greed needed to stop. According to Houston she was born in 1936 in North Platte Nebraska. She also says she was a good girl and never coloured outside the lines for most of her youth.
Houston however has been a lifelong advocate for equality and justice due to her enormous roots in her Christian faith. She admits that most of her advocacy is done on-line these days but felt a need to connect with an "Occupy Wall Street" movement near where she lived.
Not stopping there, she also fights for other issues such as: environmental, racial, LGBT, financial and economic issues. She was also member of the Oakland/Berkeley Rainbow Coalition in its last days in the 80’s and did a lot of work on the Jesse Jackson for President campaign.
Her frustration and anger grew while watching a minority of people controlling the country’s out-of-control greed. When President Bush asked us all to “go shopping” that was the icing on the cake for her.
We both agree that we are a democracy - not a communist or capitalist state and something has gone very wrong when you see the middle class disappear.
“Don’t they know there can’t be an economic recovery without a strong middle class?”
Houston grew up in a time that I heard about daily from the elders in my family. They saved their cooking grease and tooth paste tubes and turned them in for the war effort. The kids bought savings bond stamps at school, pasted them in their books, and when the book was full, they went to the post office and bought bonds.
“When I was in kindergarten, the whole class was knittin’ for Britain.”
“We didn’t put WWII on a credit card.”
We both ask ourselves why money is being wasted on a war that no one is winning when it could help the population of America. She is also disappointed how the “yes, we can” momentum of Obama’s campaign got bogged down in political and bureaucratic realities once he was in office.
“I was hoping for a voice of leadership articulating a progressive agenda to us the people. We didn’t get the cheerleader, and because he was such a newcomer on the national scene, I don’t think we were prepared for his quiet, deliberate functional style. And flipside, he was probably not prepared for the reality that his consensus building skills (which I think he has) would not be useful in the growing dysfunctional context of the legislative system.”
I too watched Obama sit on Oprah Winfrey’s couch one day and watched him say he was not ready to run for president. Did someone push him into the race and does he regret the choices he has made? He advocated for change, but that eventually played out into being a compromiser that baffled his supporters.
She like me has her doubts about health care for everyone. She thinks that a single payer plan comes closest to being the most equitable and cost effective, but the chances are probably slim in the current political climate. States are allowed to pass reasonable alternative plans under the implementation of the Obama plan and she thinks her state needs to focus on getting a single payer plan passed in California.
My continual question is if free health care has existed since the 60’s in Canada why can't it be put in place in this great country? I hear complaints about people not wishing to “pay for someone else” or they fear unemployment in the insurance company sector if this should ever happen. Just the fact that they state they do not want to work together for free health care just digs up the old problem of greed in this country.
Like me Houston is also worried more about the working poor than seniors.
“We older adults have some strong voices to protect our interests. The working poor don’t. Social Security and Medicare are hot button issues. I don’t think they are in mortal jeopardy and I think adjustments to SS have to be made. After all, we can have longer working lives now that we are living much longer, healthier lives."
“I’m the new 75. You know, we can expect to live 26% of our lifetimes as older adults now and only 5% of us are considered the frail elderly. We older adults not only retain our passions, we acquire the freedom of age to act from the motives of our hearts."
I asked her if she knew about the Canadian based internet magazine Adwares that initially started this movement with a cover piece. Befuddled with the media I also queried if she thought they were taking this movement seriously.
“I’ve been handed a reprint today from an Adbusters article and I look forward to reading it. I’ve not been very tuned-in to the media coverage but I have heard a report about Eric Cantor. He calls us “mobs” and Peter King says (in paraphrase) they can’t allow the Occupy movement to get any legitimacy because he remembers when the leftwing took to the streets in the 60s and it ended up changing policy.”
Unless you live in New York City the Occupy media coverage is not number one on the docket on most TV news. The media is owned by corporations and this morning the only TV coverage granted the local movement was an altercation between protestors and the police. Tonight the fourth headline was: "The Tremendous Toll that the Occupy Protest is costing the Taxpayers." Let's face it - corporations don't want the little guy to win.
Houston is one of the people who is not going to allow this to die as she has faith in this movement. If you think about it, it all goes back to the saying, “If you don’t have faith in something you have nothing.”
Surely we want more than 'leftovers' and if not for yourself, then protest for your family and the generations to come. Houston does.
“Life is a process, not a destination. Don't focus so much on what you do or fail to do. Honor who you really are deep in your bones and look forward to your years as an older adult when you have the opportunity to midwife the rebirth of the real you. Although I was born too soon, I know I'm a rocker at heart and the "Grandma Rocks" tee shirt I got from my grandson proves it." - B. H Robertson
Linda Seccaspina 2011
Photos by Linda Seccaspina
Thank you Houston doing this made my week!