I couldn’t believe what I was reading when I found the notice in my doorway in July of 2010. The landlord of the complex I lived in was filing for bankruptcy, and as tenants there were certain things we needed to know, the information arriving on lavender purple paper, Times Roman bullets in bold to emphasize the importance.
The name of the management company was NAI Vaugh, its owner was Douglas Vaughn, Albuquerque’s most recent addition to the robber barons’ hall of infamy and shame. I watched on the news as they discussed how much money he swindled from his “investors,” and read in the newspaper about the lavish Las Vegas vacations and the exact size of his palatial home next to pictures of the elder citizens whose money he
invested stole. As a result of the inevitably short-sighted, unsustainable nature of the Ponzi scheme, Vaughn was arrested and indicted, his property seized. Everything he owned was being liquidated in the bankruptcy, to return as recompense to their rightful owners. Because someone got swindled by my greedy landlord, I stood to be kicked out of my home with 60 days of notice (not that I would have any recourse if they failed to give me that much notice), and I was left without the option of renewing my 1-yr. lease on my unit, or any lease for that matter. They would honor the current contract (to the best of their ability), and after that, it was every tenant for him or herself. Fortunately, their sales strategy was ill-timed in such a depressed market, that even though I saw my neighbors’ and former neighbors’ units go up for sale, not one sold before the end of the year.
As a matter of principle, I am not a fan of month-to-month renting. If I had only myself to consider, the idea is only slightly more palatable. However, since my son lives with me, I refuse to worry about my housing situation if I can instead sign a lease with a reasonable landlord and adhere to the terms. Pretty basic, happens all the time. Except that after moving three times in four years, I was ready to settle down and get comfortable. I found a good spot in the part of town I liked, and it was near my son’s school. The price was perfect and it was ideally sized. I planned on staying there long-term and settled in quite nicely. Ultimately, my decision regarding my housing was not my own. It was defined by banks and the criminal and civil justice systems.
I think about this particular time in my life because I feel that the Occupy movement is older than this year, than this month. It’s been coming for the last four years, building up as I watched Doug Vaughn’s hall of infamy counterparts dismantle and destroy the systems of government. that was serving too many, not rewarding the few enough. I remember driving to my $25k/yr job in ’08, listening to morning talk radio, and gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles as I listened to the Bush administration and their international friends make their final run on the taxpayers’ funds, knowing that the money-grab might soon get choked off in a wave of actual governance and ethical actions by public servants.
It’s been building since people first realized that their home loan was extended to them as a direct commentary on their disenfranchisement. The movement has been building up since the college-graduated classes of ’04, ’05, ’06 and forward found themselves skimming by on jobs that don’t nearly reflect their abilities, and with wages that don’t nearly reflect the scale of responsibility these new professionals have. It’s been building since people have been forced into living arrangements based on financial convenience rather than long-term goals. It’s been coming, with me, my friends and even those I disagree with, all watching the rendering of the American Dream, the goals of our friends and neighbors derailed by debt, unemployment, and a social mission to disenfranchise and alienate even further. All the while I encourage people my age and younger to go to college, to get their education.
As a communications professional, I’m fascinated by the critique of the Occupy movements as lacking focus, or not being clear enough. As a left-wing cynic, what I hear is the faces melting off the public relations and marketing departments for organizations such as FreedomWorks and Americans For Prosperity, as well as others who salivate at the idea of co-opting populist movements to achieve right-wing political goals. Calling them unfocused minimizes their importance and brings their ultimate goals under question. It forces the movement to answer for itself, which will then give the opposition a bead on how to “handle” them. The Tea Party needed comfortable buses and name-brand snacks to make it through the protesting day. What do the disenfranchised youth need?
They need jobs. We need them to be employed. I say we as a society. We need jobs, we need financial security, and we need to be able to trust institutions that up until now have engineered their products and services specifically to make us dependent on a system of credit that subjugates the individual to a life of financial slavery. No credit no money, no money no credit, more money no problems.
And maybe the thing that gives this movement more heft, less bullshit is that I’m offended. I think we are all offended. We’ve been treated, coming up as children of this system, believing that what it took was hard work, and if the time was right, some courage to fight for your country, and that with those two things, regardless of any other circumstances in one’s life, would be enough to make it. Not just for some, but for most.
I’m offended that jobs and money have crossed our borders and disappeared with no accountability, and with the blessing of the public servants that used to speak for us. Most recently, we (*snort*) approved the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Colombia has one of the worst records regarding violence against organized labor. The only cold comfort I have is that our domestic policy is now also lining up with our foreign policy.
I’m offended that the good-for-nothing Republican minority in Congress has fought directly against the interest of the American public, and I am offended that their xenophobia is so transparent in their actions and on their faces. I’m offended that while the past few generations have worked to make the U.S. a strong first-world superpower, they would rather die clutching their advances in their cold dead fingers instead of expanding the rights and privileges for which they have set a standard to the rest of society, to expand equality and the chance to be successful, as the generic American script always told us we would be. Is that nuanced enough?
We got bait and switched, the ride was over before we got on, they lied to us and took our money, and I am offended. You should be too. Regardless of what I do for a living, where I work or what I do when I get off work, it does not matter, because the people who baked the pie (even against our will as voters and citizens) took the biggest slices first, leaving a decimated, imbalanced system. And they honestly think I or you wouldn’t notice, or remember. That’s offensive. I am the 99%, and I am offended.
UPDATE: (un)Occupy Albuquerque’s UNM permit will not be renewed, they must leave Yale Park by 10PM on Tuesday, Oct. 25th.
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