There were about 35 people there. We met in a building on campus. Two women appeared to be in their early twenties, one was African American. One man that co-led the event appeared to be around thirty. Everyone else seemed to be fifty- to sixty-year-old white people. I felt like I was at a tea party for Socialists.
I am a 54-year-old conservative trying not to look too conspicuous. Keeping my mouth shut was really tough.
It started off as most of these things do, with introductions around the room. Four of the people were professors from colleges in other towns. One said he also wrote for a Socialist paper, and had been active in the Wisconsin protests. One of the most outspoken and zealous participants was a man who said he was the head of the social justice committee in his church.
Hand outs were distributed and you can find the PDF copies online at this link: http://the99spring.com/materials/
We started out by writing on these posters about who we were as people, what was our personal struggle, what did we want to change, how did we want our future to be. At the end, the leaders took some information from the posters and started to compile “A Story of Us.”
It began by saying we are Americans that are concerned about..then it was interrupted by several of the professors who objected to use of the term”Americans.” They preferred to just be “people”. The leader continued and was stopped again at a passage that said “freedom and rights.” The Socialist math professor said freedom was an overused word and it didn’t have much truth in its meaning. They decided “rights” would be okay to leave in, but insisted we added (the talking point) “people not profits.”
I might have focused more on what the math professor was saying had he not taken his shoes off the entire time so that he could share his bare feet freely with the room.
In watching the video, a couple of things came to mind. First, this is a very well-funded group, the video was slick and it’s dialogue was like Van Jones channeling Saul Alinsky. Complete propaganda film, perfect to suck in those who just don’t know the true facts.
At one point, when we were broken into smaller groups of four, I had the opportunity to speak to two sisters who worked for a family-owned business. Both were talking about how up to now they had never been politically involved, but of late had found that their business was suffering; they had to lay off six people, none of the owners were able to pay themselves, and they were losing their retirement funds. They decided they needed to do something, “to get involved.”
I found it interesting that they turned to Occupy. I kept thinking that everything they were saying you could hear at a tea party–concerns about gas prices, food prices, jobs, the economy. The difference was that I have never been to a tea party where the people there played the victim role. At a tea party you hear,”What can we do to change this to make it better,” and at Occupy it seems to be everyone has taken a victim stance–it’s not so much about how to make things better, but how to get me what I deserve or what I feel I have been cheated out of.
One of the most disturbing pieces of video came at the beginning. The camera flashed from person to person, they would briefly say they were a teacher, nurse, whatever, and then say “I AM the 99%!” The last person it flashed on was a young African American male in a hoodie. He immediately started talking about how George Zimmerman had murdered Trayvon Martin in cold blood, and ended with the boy looking at the camera and saying,” Trayvon Martin IS the 99%!”
It just struck me that everyone from Jesse Jackson, to Al Sharpton, to Van Jones to President Barack Obama has grabbed onto this tragedy for personal gain and is completely exploiting the death of this young man. It was disgusting.
The training ended with plans for the group leaders (who are also members of the Coffee Party ) to schedule another meeting for two weeks from now to plan the first group action locally. I wanted a look into the workings of these Van Jones-inspired trainings, and I got what I went for. These people aren’t Zucotti, they aren’t defecating on cop cars. But the fact that you can find them even meeting in a small Midwest town on a Saturday afternoon says something about the scope of this plan.
As the man who worked in social justice at his church said, “This thing (Occupy) is going to make the 60s look tame. You wait and see.”