Between August 2010 and this moment, (October 4, 2011) I have boarded a plane eight separate times, not including layovers. Most of those flights have been within the past four months alone – Los Angeles to New York, New Jersey to Dublin – and if had been keeping track of my frequent flyer miles, I would have miles with eight different airlines and probably enough cumulative points to buy myself a free round-trip to Japan. I am not describing my flying prowess to show you my fearlessness, but to segway into how I have never been more proud of my American peers of my generation, of those who started the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and those who are keeping it going. I don’t feel as disillusioned with the intellect of those who are around my age. I don’t question their apathy. I am here to lend my hand to a movement I have supported all along; to a movement that cannot die.
As I sit here in the Shannon airport in Ireland, I watch a mother and her young daughter out of the corner of my eye. The little girl is dressed in usual pink, head to toe, with a beaded blue and yellow necklace around her neck, and her mother braids her hair. The mother’s voice, filled with subtle excitement, asks her daughter if she is excited to see her father once they get back to the states. “You think daddy will knock us over because he’s so excited?” she asks. He daughter nods, with wide eyes and an open mouth smile that all children do when they readily agree with an adult. This girl cannot be more than five years old. What will her future be like when she is my age? Will she be as educated? Will she have the same opportunities as I have? Will America be there for her when the time comes to leave the comforts mom and dad have provided and make a life of her own?
Then a TSA agent walks by with a small bloodhound, sticking its nose into my backpack, sniffing hard for drugs and explosive materials, and a stark image of her future seeps its way into my imagination.
I have two degrees, a bachelor’s and a master’s, and certified by Trinity College London to teach English as a second language. I have five years of work experience, including unpaid internships with production companies in Los Angeles. I am an asset to any company that would take me on for my ingenuity and creativity. I am $50,000 in debt from student loans. I am unemployed. I have been traveling, living off of student loans in order to challenge myself and to learn more about myself. Like my peers occupying Wall Street and other civil buildings around the United States, I am pissed-off. We must stop enabling the gluttonous addicts who shoot up money like its heroin.
Living in another country for a year did a strange thing to me; at first, it made me starry eyed for a permanent move to Europe. Now, after visiting the east cost of the US the first time this past summer, traveling in and out of the states has changed me yet again. It has awakened a passion for my motherland that was not there before, but my view of it is somewhat old-fashioned. I see America for what it was decades before I was born; new endeavors of industry and technology from all corners of the globe built the US to what it is today. My great-grandparents were German and Italian immigrants, respectively, and they were part of that movement. To become this iconic image of hope and prosperity, it took millions upon millions of immigrants to realize that original vision our founding fathers had.
Lately, America is having an identity crisis. It is built. Technology has advanced so far that it is affecting white-collar workers, and the second, third, forth, etc generations of immigrants who had the same starry-eyed vision of America that I still have for Europe. You can easily define American culture by its movements through its infancy and up until the seventies, but what is it now? How do we define our own culture when its original meaning has been lost through the decades? How do we, as young twenty-somethings define it? The nineties saw an immense, dark cloud of apathy whose veil is only just starting to be lifted again with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. But we are not just fighting for the green, money hording machines to pump some life into their black hearts; we are not only fighting to redefine our culture, the culture of The American Dream, we are fighting to preserve it.
We point fingers, shaking with hatred and blame, to dictators in other countries for oppressing their citizens. We, with our right hand on the bible, swear our lives upon democracy. We, value the right to be individuals. So, what’s wrong? Why is there so much chaos in Washington? Why don’t we, as Americans, live up to the ideals that we with straight faces preach and shame anything that is different? Has it become a case of ‘do as I say, no as I do?’
What can we do, as the up-and-coming bedrock of America, to make our voices heard? What can we do to be taken seriously by those whose intent is to bring oppression back into our judicial system, and spread it like cancer throughout and feed it back into the corporations from which is originated? But more importantly, how can we spread our message, share our frustrations, and open our hearts without anger and hatred? Let us not divide ourselves like Washington. Let us be an example.