While it’s easy to be smug in our comfortable lives that the protesters don’t have clarity in their goals, I still appreciate their efforts. I remember the thankless task of protesting in the 70’s (the war) & the 80’s (ERA) & how important we believed our efforts to be. A variety of voices making themselves heard matters to me.
A new therapist friend, Patricia Boswell wrote the following post on her blog & I admired it enough to post it here (with her permission):
IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE
I recently read an article by Marybeth Hicks, a Washington Times columnist, commenting on OWS. The gist of her piece is how very upset she is with these protesters. Ms. Hicks believes their mothers have not taught them important life lessons, mainly that: “Life isn’t fair.” She sets out to correct this oversight of other mothers by teaching this lesson in her Oct. 18 article: Some belated parental advice to protesters.
Quite frankly I believe any mother worth her chocolate chip cookies tells her kids, “Life isn’t fair.” It is as common a parenting tactic as “if Randy jumped off the bridge would you?” Nonetheless, when one of our kids is treated unfairly, by a classmate, teacher, or friend, most moms (and dads) rush to their child’s defense to correct the injustice. Ask any teacher. We do this to assure our kids we have their backs and to model how they should stand up for themselves later in life.
Yes, it is true, life is often not fair. Loved ones die; hearts are broken; bad things happen to good people. That is life and it is not fair. However, the young protesters are not railing against life; they are angry about how man-made constructs impose unfairness. Life can be unfair and cannot be challenged, it will always have its way. Man-made constructs can and should be challenged. If they weren’t, we would still be sitting in the dark, and women and African Americans would not have the right to vote. It is our birth right as Americans to work toward social equality.
Ms. Hicks sounds angry and judgmental while making a mad dash from her cab to the door of her hotel to avoid the protesters. She is undone by the tattoos, piercings, dreadlocks and gauged ears of the protesters. I imagine her mother is very proud of her. I don’t think, however, her mother taught her not to judge others on their appearance.
When I drive by the Occupy Pittsburgh protesters, I share Ms. Hicks wonderment, “Who raised these kids?” Some are not working, they are sleeping on the ground, getting wet, traipsing through muddy camps, eating Thanksgiving dinner at a local church. Through their persistence, they are obviously creating discomfort for some people and institutions. I ask myself, “Who raised such a dedicated, ambitious generation?”
My generation has been very quiet. The generation before us fought the important battles of the day and we coasted on their achievements. I have often felt quietly ashamed of our passivity born out of “what difference can I make?” I am excited to witness this generation finding their place by making one.
I am not commenting whether I support what they are attempting to accomplish. That is a separate issue. I am speaking to the relatively new phenomenon of young people organizing, joining forces, and speaking out against what they experience as unfair. Is this not what our forefathers did? I am sure Great Britain was not happy with our founding fathers (and mothers). I am sure the king wished to shame them back into submission. How entitled we were. How ungrateful. How misguided.
On Thanksgiving night, I went to meet the protesters in Pittsburgh. My husband and daughter came with me. We brought pies and blankets. Isn’t this what the Native Americans did for the pilgrims? We met “these people.” I found them to be articulate, intelligent, respectful young Americans, and they didn’t smell. They were not half as angry at Ms. Hicks as she is at them. They are concerned about the America they are headed into, the decay of the cities’ infrastructure, the lack of jobs, the high interest rates of their student loans. I did not hear anyone asking for anything free–only for change. Many of them had jobs and came to the Occupied Pittsburgh encampment on their days off.
I suggest, Marybeth, before you run from these kids, spend some time with them. Spend a day in their shoes. Get to know what worries them. These kids are challenging the status quo. How is that wrong? Perhaps, Marybeth, you do not agree with the parenting styles of other mothers or the actions of their grown children. But your ad hominem attack of other women’s children is wrong. You may disagree but don’t call them names or insult their character. Who is the adult here?
These “foolish, gross smelling” people offered the sleeping bag and blanket we brought them to a sick homeless man who was wet and in need. They didn’t run to avoid him or call him “smelly.” In fact, they were eating Thanksgiving dinner with him. They helped and they cared for him.
Ms. Hicks admonishes these “irrelevant” people for being peaceful, playful and perhaps high (although it doesn’t sound like she actually got close enough to them to make that accusation). Would she prefer they throw temper tantrums? Maybe bring guns, destroy property, be angry, threatening? Perhaps their moms didn’t do such a bad job after all.
Chief Dan George, author, poet, and Academy Award-nominated actor says, “If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them, and what you do not know you will fear. What one fears one destroys.
I think, Marybeth, that you are really afraid of these protesters and want to destroy their character without talking to them. For that I am…mother to mother…sad.