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Crossing the Divide


Among the emails I’ve received in response to my Occupy Wall Street (OWS) columns, is one from a man who says he’s the 1 percent.  Told me he prints my articles to use as toilet tissue.  I wanted to answer:  Hope you have multiple printers, cause you’re so full of shit.  I refrained.  High road, you know.  I haven’t resisted this impulse consistently.  Once, after several interchanges and a couple of glasses of red, I told a reader he must have a small penis.  I regretted this as soon as I pushed “Send” and apologized the next day.

Another reader told me and continues to tell me, as I compose this and await his reaction to my latest email, that my support for OWS is divisive.  He’s infinitely reflective and believes that the answer to the world’s problems resides within each heart.  That removing the darkness from our hearts will, also, remove what alienates us as humans.  And he knows that this will not be accomplished quickly.

I’ve told him we don’t have generations to revolutionize a corrupt system by, first, ridding our hearts of darkness through self-examination.  That the1percenters are Fukushima-ing our very existence, right now.

This just in from him:

The only way to influence the behavior of others in a lasting way is to set the example.  I have encouraged many people to boycott Starbucks…. Every now and then a friend will suggest we stop at Starbucks, and I will apologize and say that I can’t because I refuse to patronize them…. And I explain about the union busting, the exploitation of workers, the devastation of small coffee farmers, the homogenization of cultures, and about how Howard Shultz is a big supporter of Zionist Israel.

Another person wrote in the subject line after reading “It’s All We’ve Got”:  “All we’ve got is not enough.”  And in the body:

A clear goal would be a good thing about now, lest this movement be dismissed as an exercise in anarchy that can only protest the status quo with no viable alternatives.  It’s like the proverbial anarchist convention where the participants start out angrily removing their name tags and quickly advance to an ineffectual mob. How about focusing on Move Your Money or reinstatement of Plus Tick Regulation?  How about an insistence on Green Technologies or an end to armed intervention across the globe?  Something.  Anything. Otherwise we have an unharnessed energy source that amounts to little more than an annoyance to the 1%.

I replied that an increasing number have no money to move and that many of us have worked tirelessly for years, to no avail, for peace, justice, and green energy, concluding with:  “There’s nothing wrong with an unharnessed energy source.  It beats apathy.”

And from someone who responds often with breathtaking dexterity:  “OWSt. millions v. Obamanable minions*.  The world is their*!”

I once wrote a piece after watching a movie about the dissolution of a marriage and betrayal of friendships.  Two men, colleagues, and their families, who socialized, regularly, were involved, secretly, sexually, with each other’s wife. I pondered how we can understand people who are separated from us by borders and oceans when we can’t maintain our vows to those we promise “to love as long as we both shall live.”

And, now, I’m in the midst of my own trauma/drama with my best friend of more than 30 years.  Someone I love who sat with me daily during the months after my husband’s death three and a half years ago.  Someone who has a completely different perspective from mine on the last two years.  We, like my readers and me, have had email exchanges, although she lives across the street.  And there has been no reconciliation through this. She left a gift in front of my door—no name, no card—and, later, told my sister she’d bought it for me.  I assume before the severing.

I ran by her as she walked her dogs and passed my own baton—“Here,” I said, as I handed her packaging from makeup I bought and knew she’d want in her shade.  And, then, I sped up, while I self-examined.  The darkness in the heart. At what point on the path to cleavage could I have intercepted and diverted whatever it was that brought us to the distillate of so many relationships?

And that question emerges again and again:  How can we cross a divide between the uber-wealthy and the rest of us—how can we do anything to make peace when we cannot sift with clarity through our own personal lives?  Self-examination versus self-indulgence.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland.  She can be reached at:




Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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