When I was a teenager I got my first taste of political protesting outside of my high school. In a post 9/11 world, tensions ran high in my school in regards to social justice and political ideologies. I will admit fully that I got wrapped up in the nationalistic-craze that hit many of us after the attacks on 9/11. Being from NY, the attacks affected us all deeply, and we sang our nation’s anthem and songs every day, as if believing in the idealism of America would sweep away the pain that settled into our stomachs, after watching 3000 people die on live television. So there I was, walking up the sidewalk to the front of my high school on a fall day, only to see a few of my friends protesting loudly in the early morning air. They were dressed in black, and many in handcuffs, shouting out facts about China’s crusade against Tibet. Some of the protestors stood in silence underneath the flagpole, their heads bowed as they represented some of the torture techniques inflicted upon Tibetan political prisoners. I stood there, watching my friend scream at our fellow students, begging them to listen and be aware. I watched as some students rushed passed her, ignoring her words. I watched some make fun of her; as some stayed outside to have an excuse to be late for class, and as some stopped to process the information she was screaming.
That is what I do, I watch. I’ve watch my world shift, and change, for 24 years. I watched the advent of new technologies sweep away an entire generation. I watched new icons of media and music blare out as us through a television that seemed to shift its shape, as my own body did with age. So there I was a teenager who watched war break out in front of her; who had seen what true hatred and evil could do, watching my friend fight almost helplessly for a cause that she was never subjected to, having grown up safely in an American suburb. At that moment I was intrigued by this, by someone who fought passionately for something that was so far away; for something that our own government refused to acknowledge.
I’ll admit my naivety and ignorance. I grew up proud of my government, of my country, and vowed at an early age to do everything in my power to protect my people. I was part of a civil service family, rich with a history of firefighters, police officers, soldiers and sailors. I dreamed of joining the Navy, working in the JAG corps, wishing I would have a chance to see the front line if the military ever decided to allow women to fight alongside men. I dreamed of it, and never doubted I would achieve that dream. My life was planned out; after the Navy I would be a police officer, or a fire fighter, and would spend the rest of my life dedicated to saving others. I would be the proud American, fighting for freedoms I enjoyed every day, because that is what America was; a chance, an allowance to pursue life, freedom and happiness. It was every citizen’s right and responsibility to protect that freedom, and I was prepared by the age of 10, to do just that. Never once, did it ever occur to me, that I would find myself on the other side of that line, facing down the barrel of the proverbial American gun.
It started off with Students for a Free Tibet. My protesting friends asked me to come to just one meeting, just to get a sense for what they were about, and I did. I sat there, as my friend told us of the travesties that Tibetan monks and nuns faced; the torture of standing on blocks of ice for days, of being raped and beaten, and of not being able to practice their beliefs peacefully. Ask anyone who knows me, I will not pass judgment on a cause until I have heard both sides, and after leaving that meeting I went home and did my own research, corroborating what my friend told us as well as learning more about the injustices to these people thousands of miles away from me. What impacted me the most, was that my understanding of Buddhism grew to that of a religion/culture that focused on enlightenment of self, of active skepticism and questioning, but most importantly a liberalism within a person to achieve both self and world awareness and love. I became angry that there were people out there being persecuted for trying help others achieve a greater sense of self and love. It was the first time I truly opened my eyes to this world.
I wish I could say that moment of world awakening led me down a path of full activism, denouncing anything that would dare overpower a minority group, but somehow I found myself straddling a thin line between my former self, and my new “enlightened” self. I found myself agreeing on two sides of matters; understanding each side’s point of views without being able to formulate my own perspective. I became that indecisive grey area, and found myself pulling back from any major political or social issue that would shed light on that indecisiveness. My own poetry reflected my concerns and pains of being torn between what I knew, and a constant theme throughout all of my work reflected the same outcome if I was ever told to choose a side: I would choose neither.
It’s a cowards way, despite others saying it is a self-preservation technique instilled deep within me after spending my entire life struggling. But despite all of the excuses, I know deep in my heart that it is the cowards’ perspective that I held. Choosing neither side, but abandoning both to fight it out between them. What makes it a coward’s way of living is not the actual walking away, but the silence that would be reflected against my back; for the one piece of power a person who is indecisive contains, is that they can represent what opposing sides continually ignore. What they ignore, is the fact that there is always a solution to the disagreement. The person who is indecisive represents the ability to combine both perspectives into one thought that allows for actual change and growth to occur, because there is always a reason for indecision. However, it is up for the person who is indecisive to voice that reason, or at least voice their perspective in order to create a dialogue that allows that reason to be made clear to the greater audience.
I never spoke. As I said earlier, I watched, and waited, and moved along with time as the world changed around me. The changes to me occurred, not as a result of confliction, but simple adaptations that allowed the world to recognize that I was still present. My own person conflictions have taken precedent over my voice as a US citizen, and I have found myself reading less and less about the struggle of others thousands of miles away. The bitter taste of skepticism and jadedness have taken up residence in my throat, constantly belting out the “nothing will change so why bother” tunes that lull me to sleep every night. There are days, when that once youthful anger springs out, but years of conditioning and distrust in my own position, leave me more of a bumbling mess than someone with a distinct voice. It was always easier to have someone else relay my messages of displeasure, and as I left the safe-haven of college, I found myself further away from my ability to speak.
For a year and a half, I lived comfortably inside my little indecisive bubble. Due to physical limitations (mostly a borderline-suicidal recklessness I have on my body in regards to sports and other stupid youthful endeavors fueled by my ‘I’m invincible’ teenage melodrama), the Navy dreams and police academy dreams fell as hard as the nations’ economy. I chose not to pursue being a Fire fighter out of the same reasoning as one would in regards to whether or not they should jump from a plane without a parachute; it would be stupid to risk my health and safety without a proper back-up plan in place. In this regards, without full function of my right leg and lower back, the choice of running into burning buildings was out of my hands. So, fully comfortable with my disillusionment of my own dreams, and the world around me, I settled into what my 8th grade guidance counselor predicted my life would be: a dead-end job and a numbing of my mind that would allow me to slip peacefully into the stereotypical white-trash American lifestyle, complete with living in a trailer park and a dirty face.
That was until I started to actually speak to my co-workers of the factory I worked in. An older woman, who had worked there for ten years, was my partner for the day. (On a side note, this woman had me working so hard that by first break my clothes were soaked with sweat and I willingly took my boss’ offer to head home early since the entire department was now a day ahead of schedule. ) During one of the rare moments we had waiting for freight to come our way (and as I tried to quietly control my heavy breathing) she asked me about myself. So I told her how I graduated from college with a degree, how I loved writing and sports, and how I didn’t know what I wanted from life, so I just decided to work until something inspired me. She listened to me, nodding in a way that an older person does when they are about to bestow wisdom upon a young person that will either go over their head or punch them in the gut. “Get out now.” This woman, whom I had never spoken with before, looked me right in the eyes as she willed the words to seep into my head. She elaborated, most likely as a result from the shocked look on my face. “You are young, and you are smart. This is no place for kids like you, so get out as soon as you can.”
I’m sure that every single person on this planet can name someone they look up to, or have influenced them greatly. I have always been fortunate enough to find mentors in each new stage of my life to guide my decisions and actions. In college, it was my department advisor, my bosses through the various jobs I did, 2 amazing friends who stuck by my side through thick and thin, a coach, and 2 professors that kicked me into gear when I would slack off. I never realized how lucky I was during that time, to have so many people in my corner fighting for me, pushing me to greater heights that they knew I could achieve. I feel ashamed for letting them down after graduating, slipping hard without their constant voices in my ear. But never has anyone ever said anything to me more profound than that woman that day. I can’t even remember her name, it being 6 months since I have last seen her. She hugged me on my last day at the factory, wishing me luck and that she was thankful that I heeded her warning.
Her warning could be interpreted in various ways. Factory work is an aging life. By the time you are 30, you are broken. Turnover is constant because people just burn-out. She didn’t know me from a hole in the wall, but she saw something in me, and broke her normally silent disposition to voice that opinion. She was one of those ladies that bitched behind the supervisors back, but did her work so management always left her alone. She was the proverbial badass, and reinforced my opinion that older people are definitely the coolest group of people on this earth, even if we rarely agreed on a point of view. Her words woke me up from my self-instated hibernation, the clichéd smack to the back of the head moment that we all have, and need in our lives. (I would be remiss to say that her advice to me didn’t spark something within me early, and before I found a way out of the factory, I decided to become an EMT in my spare time. Becoming an EMT woke up that desire to help, and is what led me to a solution that freed me from spending more than a year inside of a factory). So I left, and joined AmeriCorps. I had no clue what I was waking up too, but I knew that I was suddenly seeing the world through the eyes of that teenager that I had long thought had died off.
I wish I could say that my life since that point has been easy. Where the factory worker woke me up, AmeriCorps’ kick to my stomach reminded me why I had become disillusioned with “change” to begin with. I moved to my new job, travelling the 1200 miles from all that I knew, to middle (corn-bred) America, and was kicked along the entire trip. I fought every flight instinct within my body, fueled with the desire to do something, anything, to keep waking up. A quick stop in Chicago reacquainted me with one of my first mentors in college, and reinforced my newly-reinstated idealism that I could do this, I could be the change needed in this country; that the smallest cog in the wheel was still as important. I took a beating when I arrived at my new life, and for a month and a half, I fought tooth and nail to get my feet on solid ground. I wish I could say I handled the windfall of my AmeriCorps position with grace and dignity, but with my first foray into this broken world having burned down in glorious flames, I am just lucky that I survived. I raged against all that happened to me, said stupid comments that reflected poorly against me, and pretty much self-destructed in my first attempts to call out an organization’s bureaucratic nonsense. At least I failed in glorious style.
For a month and a half I retreated back into my shell, stuck between self-pity and rage. I’m pretty sure I owe my roommate a lot for that month, having to deal with me as I tried to navigate myself out of my head. I’m also positive that all those I left behind, and the few I had met along the way, found themselves with a few more grey hairs as I struggled, out of reach, to find steady ground. The economic crisis that the country had felt for a few years, one that was out of my range of understanding thanks to the comfortable umbrella of college and employment, was suddenly on my doorstep. For the first time in my life, I truly understood my mom’s fears as she raised my brother and me alone. Over 150 applications over a month and a half period were sent across the country, and I begged my computer everyday to bring me good news. I do get to say that the universe finally got over teaching me a lesson in reality, but not before it finished slapping me silly.
Which leads me here, to the reason I have presented a cliff-notes version of my life since high school; since the personal melodramas that once dictated my life seem so idiotic in the face of the world’s current climate, writing on my new job’s computer while hyped up on energy drinks and diner food. Why discussing the return of my long-lost teenage self and the emergence of an unsure young adult, has lead me back to that indecisive role in a world that seems to enjoy fighting more than resolving. There is a revolution in the air. Its smell brings me back to that teenager looking curiously at the kids in front of her high school; back to those moments in college when she was empowered, for brief moments, to face the world without fear. Back to the line that she is always on as she watches the follies between the opposing forces in the world.
This is the time for those who watched. Those who spent the last few decades observing the world as it bent towards revolution, only to be snapped back into place after the tenuous grip of change slipped through the fingers of revolutionaries that were either cut down by infighting, or fear. My favorite saying, clichéd as it is, is to beware the silent ones. No one in my life would ever say I was silent. I have, in the past, voiced my opinions as I took the more obligatory stand points on controversial topics and played the titular roles in minor movements, but I never truly was involved in anything, because I have yet to find a movement that I supported completely.
Then the Occupy movement hit the country.
I want to be completely clear on this topic, before any assumptions and misconceptions can be made upon my perspective. I do not fully endorse the Occupy movement, although I do support them. Nor do I fully endorse the counter-Occupy Rhetorics, although I do support their perspectives as well. I almost get exhilaration from being in the middle, because in these times, those in the middle have the chance to speak. Or at least, I finally have a handle on my perspective to voice my opinion.
I do not care about anyone’s lot in life. Since the Civil Rights’ Movement, the discussion of change has been wrought with who has had it harder. This is why the Civil Rights’ Movement, for all intents and purposes, failed so spectacularly. (This is where I pause for all those about to scream about how the Civil Rights’ Movement has led to so many great changes and advancements in our society and so forth). Labeling small changes as success is a slap in the face for those who have died in the name of true freedom in this country, and something that I will acknowledge existence too, but won’t accept as true change due to mitigating examples that still exist. Spending so many years jaded has taught me a few tips in regards to facing historical examples of how revolutions have worked in the favor of those who fought them. The fact is, there is always going to be something to fight for; some injustice that a majority is too afraid to acknowledge because it is human nature not to admit being wrong and willingly swallow crow.
With that said, it is unacceptable for the majority to hide behind its rose-colored glasses. Life is hard. If it was easy then we still wouldn’t be fighting for equal rights in a country that based its creation on the idealism that freedom is deserved by all within its’ borders. Let’s face an even more glaring reality, that from this country’s inception the people were never equal. The government was a small body of people, representing a large body of people, but in all realistic terms, was simply just that. A small body of people making decisions based upon their own beliefs, and not those they represented. Sure, there are a few exceptions, there always will be; but in the end, the power of this country was always imbalanced and problematic. Never should a large body rule over a small body, and vice versa. But no one has figured out a way to deal with that complex dichotomy of ruling over a large body of people with no clear leader.
That is until the Occupy Movement. I’m not saying they are not without problem. There are glaring issues that the movement is struggling to address, but it the perfect modern experimentation of human nature that we have seen in hundreds of years. The movement itself reminds of the ancient revolutions that begged for the creation of a society that was ruled as a community, instead of being ruled by a body that is completely separate from those it rules. I’m not saying that it is successful. What I am inferring, is that this movement calls out the issues this country has previously swept up in soap-boxing and political propagandist rhetoric, all meant to leave those with basic education reeling in confusion and compliant. It’s a logophiles’ dream, today’s revolution, because at this point, it is based in words. And as a person who has watched this world for so long, I understand words with a frightening clarity. Word’s are the most dangerous weapon a person has. Words can sweep a nation to battle, or can defeat an entire groups fighting spirit. Word’s are the reason I am here now.
I never will claim to know or understand everything. But I hear what the Occupy movement is truly screaming about. It’s screaming against the rose-tinted world. It is screaming about the death of the American Dream, and is mourning the loss of a national community. I hear the opposition, screaming that hard work will always prevail. That instead of complaining, solutions should be sought and made. It’s an amusing cacophony of voices that have never changed their tone, just the topic. Both sides are right. Both sides don’t want to do anything to meet on the line, my line. That in-between that represents what true democracy means. That line that says it is okay to have open, public discourses that may never find true happy mediums, but allows for constant growth and retrial.
Fact is, life is too short to simply shout at each other, and is way too short to live it in a stalemate. Human nature rears its’ head in every revolution. Fear, hatred, ignorance, power, these are the themes and the chess pieces are replaced with actual human bodies. It has taken so long between the Civil Rights Movement, and the Occupy movement, for discourse to shout loudly because we know history better than we ever have before. Sit –ins end in tear gas and pepper spray. The media is molded to reflect the position of those who hold power. Leadership forces a person to decide if they are willing to die, knowing that their death could mean nothing to future generations. People follow orders because that is what they are told to do. With a strong understanding of history, it is hard to watch its constant repetitions without throwing one’s hands up in the air.
See why those who watch get jaded?
So what’s the point? If I am as indecisive as I claim, why the hell am I sitting her rambling on about sitting on a proverbial middle line?
The fact is, is that I represent the result of the vague rhetoric of both sides. We as a people are responsible for our government’s actions. We are responsible for our military. We are responsible for the laws and injustices made in the name of our community. Yes, that means we are responsible for our neighbor. I’m not talking about a redressing of the Leave It to Beaver ideologies of a utopian society that finds wholesome and logical solutions to complicated issues. What I am stating is more of the Spartan; we are as weak as our smallest member. If one person falters, we all falter, and let’s face reality here, this country is faltering. We are faltering within our own borders, as within the global communities. We are faltering thanks to complex ruling bodies that govern over not-so complex issues. Disparities between groups are the natural progression of the battles between greed and feelings of slight and belittlement as humans. As a result of it all, you get me. I’m far from a voice of reason; I have concluded one does not exist. Instead, I am the bastard child of generations longing for an actual change to occur.
I know that it all it will take is one spark to incite a civil war (which is an oxymoron in itself). I know blind hatred. I am not a part of the 1%, nor am I the 99%. I am what is left over after the fighting calms for a few years. I am that generation that will slip into oblivion because evolution hasn’t occurred yet. Or maybe I am part of that silent generation that will finally kick both sides right in the head. I haven’t figured it out yet. I just know that someone needs to start mediating. This world is quickly slipping out of everyone’s grasp, and while people will sit there pointing fingers; nothing will be done to help the dust settle. Neither side will know which direction to turn to, because their pride will never allow them to think they can meet in the middle, where the rest of the world is currently waiting. Those who just want to live life with pure freedom.
It’s almost anarchistic isn’t it, knowing that there isn’t a true resolution. Yes, we should hold corruption accountable. Is it a fine line in regards to immorality? Yes it is, because it is perspective. Should people work hard for what they want in life? Yes. Does it always work out for those people? No. Should we live in a society that allows celebrities and rich people to walk free from serious crimes, while jails are overcrowded with people who have committed crimes like marijuana possession? (I know this is an entirely different debate. I’m clear on my position here in regards to punishments for crimes. I think it is deplorable for someone to get 15 years for drug possession when a rapist gets out in 5). We have serious problems in our country, and the solutions are clouded by personal beliefs of right and wrong. With that ever change? No. What needs to be changed is the discourse. What needs to change is the stubbornness and hatred for anything that does not fall in line with our own personal beliefs.
Both sides are right. Both sides are wrong. The people that are being hurt are those in the middle. It’s time our voice get’s heard.
So why hasn’t the middle stepped up? Is it knowledge? It is the most likely perspective of the argument. The middle knows, but as a minority it is stuck in between; the middle doesn’t hold enough power because it has remained silent for so long. It’s voice isn’t discernible over the crowds.
I believe the middle is the byproduct of apathy and the knowledge that change is superficial because the arguing powers never acknowledge a true change. The fight is the same, the only differences are the new faces that take up the discourses mantle. So why fight? What is at the end that is truly worth fighting for? Freedom? Of what, for what? What freedom truly exists? Is it the freedom to complain, because that is all that seems to have been done for the last 50 years.
Perspective is the hardest argument to prove and disprove. What it boils down to is the unwillingness for people to accept a difference in perspective (I am not saying we should pardon a murderer because their perspective said it was okay to kill) but to allow a dialogue of differences to exist without allowing one perspective to rule over another. That is what compromise truly means in this revolutions’ arena. It means that the middle needs to fight back against both sides. To acknowledge both sides, while bringing them together to find solutions that allow for an actual peaceful existence.
It means calling out human nature, the most animalistic instinct, into the modern arena as the main driving force behind our desires. Greed, hatred, survival, all exist at the guttural levels within ourselves. (Two of those three are actual learned traits, but form at the basic want or desire). They drive our thoughts and fuel our excuses. We live in a world of want and take with giving being relegated to perspectives of pity and charity. How many times do you hear people say, “I’ve done my good deed for the day so I’m done”?
We allow political correctness to assuage guilts that as a society we refuse to air out, so we hide behind a social decorum that subverts overt problems so we don’t have to face them in the daylight. Well, how about we shed the light on both sides?
We are all to blame for this community (and by that yes I mean our country in the small arena, and the larger world community.) We are all responsible for the worlds we live within. It is our responsibility to teach ourselves, and future generations, what it means to work for a world with living in. To know how dangerous greed is, how wrong it is for people to be left dying in the streets, but also how wrong it is to expect that anyone will hand you the life you want.
It is give and take, and for those who just take (as well as those who just give), the balance is thrown off by you, not a natural progression of evolution.
People will fail. People will succeed. We will feel desire, and envy, and jealously and loneliness. But only we, as a people, can learn what it also means to coexist without trampling each other. Fact is, in the end we all end up in the ground, or in a fire. The fact remains, all we have is now. Shame on all of us, for wasting our breath in a world that has even begun to reach a true potential. Shame on the girl standing on the side walk, watching her friends scream for a cause that has changed little except to give someone a sore throat? Change will occur when the screaming stops, and the whisper of those standing in the middle are finally heard. Change will occur when those on the polar sides realize, they are truly screaming for the same thing. Until then, this world is not worth fighting for, and the new-age revolutions are not worth dying for.
“Give me a god! Give me a rallying cry! Give me one good reason to die!”-Marty McConnell