Maybe I should begin by explaining why I am the 99%. After all, my husband and I are both viably employed. We can afford extras. We live a comfortable, happy, middle-class existence. We are aware of our good fortune, which is why I spend a great many hours every week volunteering. Helping others is important to us — I don’t judge the man on the street for his decisions because I don’t know his circumstances. The man on the street might just as well be me.
This reality is never far from our thoughts, as we have worked hard to dig ourselves out of debt. Not from too much shopping, or too expensive of a home. We racked up debt because of medical bills. Medical bills that we had no way to gauge before they arrived in the mail. The problem with America’s healthcare industry is that it is an industry. In the doctor’s office, the patient has nearly no power. They take your blood and run away with it before you can ask what they are testing for. Before you even get the test results, you receive a $7000 bill because the insurance company won’t pay for whatever the test was. Phone calls to the insurance company only make matters worse, as you are told that whatever is wrong with you might be grounds for them to drop your coverage. You are powerless against the money-hungry industry that feeds on a fundamental need that we all have for healthcare.
That experience is why I am the 99%. I have experienced what happens to hard working families at the hands of big business. The big business that I was taught to trust the government to regulate on my behalf. A lack of regulation and oversight has created an economy in which even the best among us are nothing more than financial fodder for industry. That’s not the America I was promised in high school civics.
Instead of taking a much-needed day off, I spent last Sunday at Occupy Louisville/ Occupy Wall Street. I might be disenchanted with our country on the whole, but the experience was a reminder of why I love this city. The congregation was small, only about 30 people on a brilliant Sunday afternoon, though we were told that the weekday crowds have been much larger. We held signs (my own read “I am small business and I am the 99%” and “By the people, not Buy the people”). We made friends with other Occupiers. We convinced some of our friends to join us. We applauded the children, and simultaneously worried that we are forcing our politics on their young minds– minds that we want to grow as freely as possible, in the hopes that when they grow and make decisions for the country, they will make better decisions than we have as a community.
The atmosphere at Occupy Louisville is friendly, perhaps even a bit jovial at times. The park is being kept clean, the food bank and medical area are maintained in a reasonably orderly fashion. They hold two general assemblies each day, and several educational workshops. The workshops range in topic from bicycle safety and maintenance to empowering women in the third world. People are working together in every aspect, and there is a lot of sharing going on– sharing ideas, sharing experiences, sharing food, sharing art supplies, sharing signs to hold up to traffic. Occupy Louisville has permits for two locations now, and it is suspected that Mayor Fischer may have something to do with the second permit coming through. He visited while we were there, with one of his daughters in tow. He was casual and curious, and did not come with paparazzi, but instead wanted a quiet minute to see for himself what it was all about.
And really, that is what it’s all about. It’s about those in power coming down to see what the people on whose backs this country is built are dealing with. To talk politely and listen intently to our needs. To respect us, and remember that we are who put you where you are now. To give us a little help out here, whether by making a phone call about a permit, or by regulating industry, or providing affordable healthcare to all people. It’s about this country being “by the people, for the people”, and not handing us over to be abused by corporations. It’s about those kids, and who we hope they grow up to become. It’s about the freedom to earn rewards for hard work, and to go to sleep with a sense of wellbeing. It’s not about them versus us. It’s about all of us, together.