Greenhorn protesters are adorable. They view every guy with a good haircut as a spy. Their protest signs must contain at least one exclamation point. The greenhorn is the first kid at the organizational meeting to ask questions about tear gas. How cute is that?
As a seasoned protester, I choose to attend as few meetings as humanly possible and then pick one committee that will utilize my skill set. After that, I establish a regular schedule and stick to it. At Occupy Eugene, I am in the medical tent passing out cough drops and band-aids. I have 3 – 3 hour shifts during the week. If there is a conflict at home, I call ahead to let my med tent buddies that I won’t be coming in. I am very boring.
Greenhorn enthusiasm is contagious. The torrent of ideas from just one little greenhorn is astonishing. The Occupy movement in the hands of these excited young people takes on a caffeinated heart beat. Democracy seems just within reach for our struggling country after just a few minutes of listening to these kids.
I need that enthusiasm. I work a full time job. I have kids to raise. I, like many of my neighbors, are struggling to survive. The rat race is beating me down. Adding another time suck to already over committed schedule by working at Occupy seems ridiculous but it actually makes things easier. I need the energy and high minded ideals that these greenhorns vibrate with to keep me going.
Boring, old protesters like me help out too. We show up regularly and do the jobs that go unreported by the news. We run the kitchen, sort recycling and pay the bills. We also bite.
When the movement was new, we had a staggering variety of protesters and squatters. Some participants were helpful. Some were not. The experienced protesters watched the crowd and figured out who they could work with and who they should avoid.
When our movement had trouble with a protester who had considerable anger control problems, a group of us proposed that the protester be 86ed. The greenhorns were alarmed. We were considered heartless and shortsighted. Occupy is for all of us. This a democracy. Point taken, greenhorns.
Here is the big secret about protests that experience teaches you: hands-on protesting is not for everyone. It takes a certain amount of calm to face confrontation with success. If you do not have the ability to think your way through stressful situations without aggravating it, you don’t belong there. Some one can and will get hurt.
Occupy has a camp. It is not for every one either. If you can’t interact in a group setting without turning to violence and anger, you also don’t belong there. This movement is too important to the future of our country to spare energy babysitting foul-tempered abusers.
The community must be protected. This is why the elder protesters “bite”. We may not have the boundless energy of the young people around us but we know how to keep that energy flowing. It is all a matter of focus. Don’t waste time on unnecessary problems. This is the lesson of experience. This is why we 86 people.
There are many avenues for protest. Some people get arrested. Some people post information on the internet. Some people wave signs. Some people camp. Some people wash dishes. Some people just fold their arms, sigh and remind people to breath. That is what keeps our protest alive.
*** Thank you, David Sierralupe for the photograph.