I moved to Michigan two years ago from the San Francisco Bay Area, where I’d worked in local government for nine years. My experience as a county department head gave me insight into how political decisions are made and modified. I can best sum up my opinions by sharing this quote:
“Democracy is the worst form of government there is, except for all the others.” — Winston Churchill
A lot of good political intentions get bound up and crippled by red tape that was created for checks and balances. Ultimately, that’s why I quit my career in political administration: I felt powerless and frustrated. We’d already moved to Michigan when the Occupy movement began. As I learned about it, I felt that here was a new chance to act, be heard, and try to make a better life and a better world.
But the Occupy movement faces its own challenges and frustrations. While it’s incredibly heartening to see people taking to the streets and the city halls, I’m terrified that our government seems to want to limit our right to do so. But I know, especially when we’re talking about the government, that change happens in baby steps, slower than molasses.
Patience has never been easy for me. It’s especially hard to have hope when, as I hit the ‘net each morning looking for news and inspiration, I read things like, ” Brace yourself. The American Empire is over. And the descent is going to be horrifying.”
It was while I was reading some news online that my seven-year-old came up and said, “Mommy, what are you doing?”
I said “Occupy stuff,” which is my pat answer to her when I’m reading news articles, writing, or catching up in forums and workgroups.
With a sigh she said, “When is the occupy stuff going to be done?”
I’m sighing too, kiddo.
It’s hard to spend time reading and watching more interviews, more news articles, when your kid wants to play with you, you need a shower, and your house is a mess. It’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed.
So, I remind myself to think smaller.
I remind myself that people are unhappy and want to have hope, want to make things better, not just for themselves but for their neighbors and their communities. Occasional burnout is inevitable. But people are still interested and still curious, and that curiosity is what will keep the occupy movement moving.
Just yesterday, a neighbor asked me if I was still working with Occupy Detroit. When I said yes, she said, “I’m still not sure what it’s all about; I’m going to have to get down there and check it out.”
So what I have is a small and attainable goal. I’d like to ensure that when people want to see what’s going on with the Occupy movement, that we’re still here to show them.
Jane Pennington is a regular columnist for The Occupied Detroit Free Press.