You already know I love my town. But I hella heart Oakland even harder this week.
It's not a movement for "hippies," although hippies are proudly involved. It's not a movement by slackers or the homeless (although the Occupy Wall Street camps are becoming known for medically treating and feeding those who need it).
This is important. It is about YOU.
I'm going to tell you what I'm planning on doing, right after I share what Thomas Friedman said in the New York Times yesterday.
Citigroup had to pay a $285 million fine to settle a case in which, with one hand, Citibank sold a package of toxic mortgage-backed securities to unsuspecting customers — securities that it knew were likely to go bust — and, with the other hand, shorted the same securities — that is, bet millions of dollars that they would go bust. [emphasis mine]
This is just one news story in a long list of wrongdoings that need to be addressed, solved, and changed. This is immoral. And wrong. And worth thinking about.
If you need a quick one-minute explanation of what this is all about, watch this. (Also, it's funny.)
I've been a union member for more years than I haven't been in my professional life, and I believe in the way they work. (Sometimes they don't work, but that's for another day and a different discussion.) So far, the SEIU, ILWU, Carpenters, Longshore, and AFSCME unions are supporting the General Strike. The Teamsters are providing food for the day. The Oakland Education association is endorsing the strike. The Oakland Teacher's Union has unanimously endorsed it.
So this Wednesday, for the General Strike, this is how I'm protesting: I'm going to Patelco, a local credit union, and I'm opening a joint household account with Lala, and a business account for myself. Then we'll go to Bank of America and have them wire all our funds to our new accounts. Then we'll go to Wells Fargo and do the same.
I'd been loath to do this for a long time. Why? Because I was the slacker. I've been with Bank of America for more than fifteen years. All my bills are paid with a few clicks. It was too much hassle, I always said. I'd have to spend time setting up the bill pay at a new bank. We'd have to change our direct deposits. We'd have to change every auto-payment we have online. Moan, groan, grumble, moan.
Then I realized this: credit unions are locally owned, non-profit co-ops.
It was as if the light bulb blinked on. Who do I want to support with my really hard-earned dollars? Wall Street? Or my local non-profit? It'll be a couple of hours of hassle. Big deal. And it will actually affect the outcome of all of this. (There's a good article here on a credit-union convert.)
(I have to admit, there's a small part of me that's concerned that I'll lose readers because I'm posting this. Not YOU, darling. Of course not you. But what about the people who have just read one of my books? The ones who pop by to see what I'm all about? And they find this? Clicking the Publish button is something that is difficult for me. It's a fear I have trouble letting go of. And I suppose it just comes down to this: I'm letting go of it. Right now. It's okay if the 1% don't like me. This is more important.)
The Best Article I've Read So Far
If you read one thing, read this. This is why the author Lili Loofbourow didn't buy into all of this uproar at first but eventually she "Got Off My Computer and Onto The Street At Occupy Oakland." She says (God, I could have written every one of these bullet points):
• I do not believe the police are evil.
• I do not believe in utopian societies.
• I distrust extremists of whatever stripe.
• I believe inflammatory rhetoric shuts down rational thought.
• I was (and remain) afraid of nighttime Oakland—the desperate Oakland that Occupy Oakland insisted on caring for and actually living with.
• I am lazy, prone to migraines, and unwilling to be cold, wet, uncomfortable and in constant danger of arrest.
In short, I'm a moderate: small, fearful, skeptical, selfish, with privilege aplenty…I have an iPhone, for heaven's sake. I am, moreover, a liberal with a lifelong habit of opting out of the political conversation—and out of most kinds of activism—because I find its language dishonest, combative and unjust.
But she changed her mind. The rest of her article, and what she found, is here. It's beautiful.
Follow the Occupy movement on Twitter by using the hashtag #ows for Occupy Wall Street or #occupyoakland for OccupyOakland. It moves fast; it's the best place to keep up.
Do not confuse the complexity of the issue with chaos.
(PS – Any kneejerk or rude comments will be deleted (and I'll make an extra donation to Occupy Wall Street in your honor). My blog, my rules. All kind, polite opinions of any variety, however, are welcomed and appreciated!)