Carson Crossfire: The city’s Occupy movement
Several years ago, I was part of a group of activists challenging an arbitrary decision made by a state agency. We were attending a lot of meetings, writing a lot of letters, and we even presented a petition to the governor. I’ll never forget a letter written to the Nevada Appeal about our efforts. The letter writer told us we should stay home and mind our own business. Stop wasting everyone’s time, he said.
I was reminded of that letter by the subject I was asked to write about: “Occupy Carson City: Worthwhile or a waste of time?”
Is political and civic involvement ever a waste of time? Carson City now has one of the state’s highest employment rates. Fifty-eight percent of homes with mortgages in Nevada are underwater. Nevada is ground zero of the lingering recession triggered by the unregulated greed of the Wall Street investment industry. People in Nevada are suffering. In a meeting I attended last week, Jim Peckham of Friends in Service Helping (FISH) said the number of meals served in their dining room doubled in the past year. What are the citizens of Carson City supposed to do in such circumstances – stay home and watch TV? Sit around and kick themselves for being foolish enough to buy a house?
I would be ashamed of my town if there were not an Occupy movement here. It is what people in Carson City do, from those who staff the Advocates hotline, to those who take their weekly donation to FISH, to those peace activists who have been standing outside the state Capitol for nine years. The Carson City Occupiers are part of that. Maybe they’re even the best of us. They’re willing to risk belittlement and ridicule by appearing not only outside in the cold, but outside the mainstream, because something is wrong with our country and they are not too timid or distracted to say it.
When you see increased inequity of power and wealth; see a financial system driven close to destruction and those responsible for the destruction not held accountable; see your neighbors and friends become casualties of that destruction – that’s a good time to ask questions. Questions about who holds the power in this country and what they are doing with it. Questions about how good ideas for regulating the financial industry are rendered toothless by amendments and rulemaking favoring the industry they are supposed to regulate. Questions about how climate change legislation was defeated before it even reached a vote, and how much that defeat had to do with the enormous political influence of the oil industry. Those are some of the conversations in the Occupy Carson City General Assemblies I have attended.
Any time average people get together and talk seriously about such issues, rather than sitting around listening to Rush Limbaugh insult young women, is not time wasted.
But to give my opinion on whether Occupy Carson City is “worthwhile” is a bit condescending, since the Occupiers are more than capable of speaking for themselves. Accordingly, I emailed some Occupiers and asked them their thoughts.
One wrote back that he thought the question was hugely demeaning: “To frame discussion of the Occupy as a discussion of whether it manages to rise above being a waste of time. What a thought. Let’s try to defend it. But first, let’s reduce it to nothing and question its existence.”
He suggested the question should have been: “America’s political parties: worthwhile or a waste of time?” and went on, “The Democratic Party is now the conservative party. The Republican Party is now the fundamentalist party. What happened to progress and to shared effort? Occupy contains many ideas from political conservatism and political progressivism. However, the core of the Occupy effort … reflects direct ideas of individual and collective responsibility. Acting and spending locally. Balancing social and environmental income and expense. Abiding by rules at the individual and collective levels. … These ideas are a threat to those who would rule through capricious force, exploiting others and imposing their singular will.”
They sound like powerful ideas to me. As my Occupier friend said: “Occupy isn’t going away. It has changed and continues to change our social conversation.”
• Anne Macquarie of Carson City is a regular contributor to the Nevada Appeal, writing as part of the Fresh Ideas series. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.