Hi again! Shea here. *Waving.*
United Campus Ministries has been incredibly supportive of the Occupy Ohio University movement. After all, when a group of students works with administration to hold a non-violent, substance free, radically inclusive, social justice demonstration for the purpose of educating college students about civil disobedience, what’s there to say besides “Awe-some!”?
On that note, I thought it would be pertinent to share why I am occupying. I have a lovely post written by a frequent volunteer at UCM’s Free Meals Program, but I thought perhaps talking about Occupy this week would be timely. But keep in mind, this is personal. I’m not speaking for anyone else, for the occupy movement here or anywhere else, or for UCM. I’m Shea and I’m speaking for me, as someone who values humans and religion and things like mountains and love. And it’s a bit long, for exactly the same reason it’s a bit personal.
So, I am occupying because basic human rights are being violated. Even here, even now, even though we’ve seen human rights violated before and been sickened by what we’ve seen. And these human rights are beyond basic, or at least the way I think about them is. They include the right to be safe. The right to have a place to live that is conducive to healthy human life. These human rights, in my view, include the right to be not hungry. The right to love and be loved. The right to be educated. To live without fear of oppression based on power binaries and differences. The right to religious diversity and freedom of expression. And because the UN says it’s so, and because I respect the UN, the right to internet access.
I don’t think these rights comprise an especially large request. I am not occupying, after all, in demand of diamonds or high-quality cowboy boots (the prices on these things are outrageous, for the non-Appalachians in my midst). I am not occupying in demand that everybody love everybody or because I demand personal beliefs be sacrificed in order to create a more human-friendly world. I am occupying because now, in this place, people don’t always have access to very basic human needs. When we’re discussing Psychology, and maybe it’s a good idea to visit Psychology-World right about now, people need their basic needs met in order to advance to higher levels of being. When folks don’t feel safe, when they don’t have a place to live that is conducive to healthy human life or enough food to eat, they most generally lack the ability to advance into higher, more actualized states of being. And because everyone secretly wants to be actualized, I occupy.
I occupy because I am an Appalachian woman and these hills, this loam under your muddy rain boots, have been disrespected more ways than an 18th century sailor knew how to semantically disvalue a woman. Coal mining is dangerous work, for people and for mountains. Now entire mountain tops are being removed and, frankly, every time one of these mountains loses its top my heart breaks. It’s not ok to take a mountain’s top. Mountains are bigger than we are, they’re important, and I think we’re being just a bit greedy by taking the tops of very old mountains with no intention of returning them. Didn’t our mother’s teach us manners? Or, for those folks not lucky enough to have good mothers, don’t you know they were supposed to? And living around these mountains are PEOPLE. Bad stuff cycles unless we choose to actively break cycles of bad stuff. Because Appalachian children, and everyone else who lives in this region, have faced what I would view to be basic human rights violations, I occupy.
I occupy because I think people deserve to have rule over their lives. To love and be loved. This includes the right to marry whomever one loves, so long as the relationship is healthy (I’m not occupying in the name of non-healthiness, after all). This also includes the right to raise children in a functional household, the right to be a child who feels safe at home, and the right to speak whatever language in that home one feels comfortable speaking without fear of being devalued for speaking that language. I think both women and men should have the right to decide when they want children and access to birth control and I strongly feel that women should have access to medically safe abortions. I think people deserve healthcare—mental and physical—that is accessible and which comes without stigma. To copy and paste this paragraph’s thesis sentence, because I think it works well here as well, I occupy because I think people deserve to have rule over their lives.
I’m occupying because these things are not happening. Because there’s been a power binary created that’s a bit like a see-saw: a few folks are up in the air while the rest of us, and we’re a very worthwhile rest of us, are in the economic mud. I like mud as much as the next gal but this version of living—whether we blame corporations, taxes, or whatever political party we are not—isn’t ok with me. I think people deserve these basic rights, and I don’t think we live in a society that provides individuals with the ability to access these rights. And no matter whose fault that is, it’s not acceptable.
I’m not naive. I don’t think the world is a perfect place and I don’t think that any turn of events or handful of decades could dramatically re-fashion human life in America to be hunky-dory for every single person in this nation. I don’t believe in utopia. Like Ursula K. Le Guin, I believe we all have our dark sides, and since society was fashioned by humans with dark sides it has a dark side as well. But I believe that the way we treat the least among us—the poor, the disempowered and those with unequal rights—is a gauge of our society, and I think that perhaps our society isn’t acing reality right now. I think our society is capable of doing better.
This is why I occupy.