I remember my first protest. I stood around in a parking lot with hundreds of other like-minded souls, looking to shut down the military recruitment centers located in a strip mall in my home town. Except the longer I stood there, the less-like-minded I began to feel with those around me. I listened to as much of the rhetoric as I could understand through the garbled sound system, and I looked around at the various signs and placards that were being held up around me. I was there to slow or stop the flow of soldiers to Iraq during the first Gulf War: Operation Desert Storm.
I remember being conflicted because I appreciated the sacrifice that our volunteer military was making, but I was concerned that it was far too easy to get whipped up into a patriotic frenzy and suddenly find oneself on the firing line. That's what I thought these other people were there to protest.
Well, as it turns out, some people just like a good protest, and they don't care what the issue is. They'll bring their own: Gays in the military, oil company divestment, animal rights. Wait a second. How did that last guy get in? Okay, I could probably make the connection if given time, we're all sentient beings and no one wants to be forced to live, work or play in conditions that they feel are untenable. But aren't we losing focus?
I stayed long enough to hear a few more speakers describe how their causes were inexorably attached to the one for which we had all come together, whatever that was, and then someone announced that we were going to march. Out into the city to disrupt or redirect the general commerce and traffic of the city, including a stop at the local Hooters. I didn't stick around to hear if this was because of the objectification of women or the need for a few hundred orders of four alarm wings. The recruiting stations had been closed for more than two hours, and so the mob's job was done. There was plenty of wrongs left to right, and the night was young.
The Occupy Wall Street protests have certainly had their high profile moments, but I am as mystified by their intent as I was on that February evening so long ago. I can get behind many of the splinters in their platform, but some of them leave me confounded. Meanwhile, Wall Street remains open for business. At least we closed the recruiting station for a couple of hours. I'm probably too old to understand. Or too young.