Monday, October 31, 2011

What would you do if you won the lottery?

It's a rhetorical question for me, because I never play the lottery. But if I did, I'd live simply. I'd pay off my student debt. I'd buy some land and either build a little house or fix one up. I'd definitely build a treehouse. I'd travel frugally.

That's about it. If I won the lottery, I'd still work as a writer. This is what my ideal week would look like.

Monday – write for nine hours + one hour bikram yoga + 20 min. bills/paperwork
Tuesday – write for four hours + four hours of wood turning or throwing clay (or other creative pursuit) + two hours of cleaning/repairing/laundry/house work
Wednesday – write for four hours + six hours in the garden (including bees) + movie night
Thursday – write for nine hours + music practice/playing in the evening. Also: correspondence (email, letters, phone chats)
Friday – volunteer in the a.m. + outdoor exercise (biking, hiking, skiing, paddling)
Saturday – lazy breakfast with eggs, coffee and crossword + 1 hour errands + socialize, play games, whatever
Sunday – write for four hours + bake or preserve + cook big meal for big group dinner or potluck

I do not mean to suggest that I'd set any kind of a rigid schedule for myself, or that I'd be happy following one. (Although I do like the idea of Sunday being bread-baking day or Tuesday being laundry-day). And there are seasonal variations: a productive garden would require more than six hours a week in the early summer, and living in a rural home would require extra time in the fall to split and stack wood. A million unforeseen things would come up. This scenario doesn't really leave any room for a toddler. It doesn't account for a lot of things.

But it's a good exercise anyway. Not only because it offers an escape into a daydream, but because it helps me realize what I really want to be doing and what I value. Seeing my ideal life on paper can help me shape my real life to be a little more like it. And it makes me realize too that it's possible to get everything done that needs to get done in a single week (without letting things pile up and become unmanageable) as well as a lot of the things I'd like to do.

Also notice that my hours of writing come to exactly 30. Some countries embrace a 30-hour work week. “Working less so all are working,” the French call it. There are economists who say that fewer hours forces people to work more efficiently with the time they have. In the Netherlands, employers are required to allow their employees to cut their own hours without reducing their hourly wage or losing benefits. In 1937, a 30-hour work week was even proposed by a U.S. Senator – from Alabama no less! (The only one I can think of who'd suggest such a thing today is Bernie Sanders. And admittedly, the senator-turned-Supreme Court Justice who once proposed the idea was also briefly a KKK member.)

But it's been done in the U.S. In 1930, the Kellogg company (the cereal makers) offered employees the option of a six-hour day. Those who chose it reported – like workers in Scandinavian countries –that they felt more satisfied and happy even though they had slightly less money. Even better, they often used the extra time off pursuits that built community or deepened their family connections.

Google “30-hour work week” and you'll find plenty to read. Or just check out Less Work, More Life by John de Graaf (and make sure to follow the link through to Wendell Berry's response) or The Gospel of Consumption by Jeffrey Kaplan.

It's a little bit disheartening to realize that some semblance of my dream world would be possible if the society I lived in had different values. It's slightly disconcerting to wonder if my values are really that much different from the majority of my countrymen. (Are they?). I don't think I'm going to end up moving to France or Denmark. But it's good to have something to work toward. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

As my restless twenties roll by, I find that the place I live is ever-evolving, the outward reflection of something deeply internal. I want to be still, and yet I’m compelled to move. For the past five years, I’ve traded the luxuries of home for tents and cockroaches, numb fingers and lonely nights, wildflowers and starry skies. I’ve lived out of a canoe, a rusty truck and 14 different rentals. The ones that glow brightest in my memory are snapshot images of an old schoolhouse on a Vermont mountaintop, a plywood cabin sinking into the Hawaiian jungle, an apartment smelling of seafood above a laundromat on the Alaskan coast. I have loved them all, and I have left them all, always searching for something else, the next glimmer on the horizon.

Tracing my finger on the map, shuttling my life from one temporary home to the next, I sometimes feel defined by the stuff I carry with me. In the continuous cycle of packing and unpacking, it can seem like the only constant. There are times when I can do nothing but sit in the middle of it all, suddenly exhausted, trying to construct a story from the tattered field guides and crusty socks, the half-empty beer bottle, the harmonica I can’t play. It’s a story that’s been told before, and yet the worn path I’m traveling still feels sharp underfoot, like touching the knife edge of something I can’t quite grasp. I wonder when a part of me will say, enough. You can stop now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vermonters on the Ground at Occupy Wall Street

 Monday, October 10, Early Morning

Manhattan -- It's 1:00 in the morning in New York City, and 20-year-old Sophie Theriault is crouching barefoot in the dirt under a canopy of squash plants, whispering to her sister Hannah Morgan, 23.
Both women hail from Hartland, but tonight they're trying to find a place to sleep in Manhattan's financial district. Several blocks away, the Occupy Wall Street protest at Zuccotti Park is overflowing, and protesters are trying to carve out more space for the movement as their numbers swell.
For the past 12 nights, the sisters and their friend, 23-year-old Emma McCumber of Reading, have slept in the open at Zuccotti Park, wedging their sleeping bags sardine-style into a crowd of hundreds of people from all walks of life. The widely publicized stereotypes are there -- anarchists and hippies, students and drop-outs -- but there are others, too: groups of Orthodox Jews, Arab-Americans and Christians; grandparents and toddlers; homeowners and the homeless; nurses and teachers.
As people from across the country continue to pour into the park, they bring both problems and opportunities for those who have been encamped there since September. Increased popularity means more support and more media exposure, but the snowballing energy keeps the park buzzing late into the night, and a good night's sleep is becoming harder to find.
The crowd at Zuccotti Park floods and ebbs, peaking on weekends and evenings and dwindling on weekday mornings. People who haven't protested anything in their lives, or who haven't done so since the Vietnam War, are drawn into the mix. Many come down for a brief spell between workdays, either out of curiosity or the desire to be part of something they can identify with.
But the three women from Vermont are part of a core group of protesters who plan on staying indefinitely. Sophie Theriault came to New York alone on Sept. 28. She'd been riding her bike to her job on an organic vegetable farm in Georgia from Vermont when she caught wind of the protests. She made it as far as Pittsburgh. before stashing her bike at a friend's house and taking a bus to the city. Hannah Morgan and Emma McCumber, friends since childhood, joined her from Vermont not long after.
The women are taking each day as it comes, not necessarily committed to staying until the bitter end but in no rush to leave either. But they know that if they're going to stick it out, they need a better place to sleep. Earlier, they'd stumbled across a community garden in Battery Park, roughly five blocks south of Wall Street. It might as well be another world.
Morgan came to the spot around midnight: a hidden, leafy nook hemmed in by tall squash and tomato plants, where the song of crickets competes with the noise of the city. She spread out her sleeping bag in the dirt and crawled into it, exhausted, but lay awake for over an hour slapping at the mosquitoes drawn out by the unseasonably warm air. Then Theriault appeared, ducking sprite-like through the squash vines. Whispering in the dark, the two discuss the protest's evolution.
“I have mixed feelings,” Morgan says, leaning on one elbow. Outdoorsy, with straight brown hair and a nose ring, she's a 2010 Sterling College graduate who majored in polar studies and now leads outdoor trips and studies climate change with a company called Climate Interactive.
Theriault, three years younger, bright-eyed and idealistic, makes suggestions on how to avoid burn-out. Thrice-weekly emotional check-ins can allow frazzled protesters to vent their frustrations. Games of capture-the-flag could lighten the mood. “I think this has the potential to be something really amazing and powerful,” she says.
“I don't know,” Morgan whispers back. “Sometimes I'm just sick of talking to people.”
In the not-quite-dark of a New York night, Theriault kneels over her sister's sleeping bag and hugs her tightly. Then she stands up and skips away, back to the protest, which, like a music festival, never really stops.

For a while, the night is relatively quiet. Horns honk and trucks clank, metal against cement. A rat scurries beneath the squash plants. Morgan tosses in her sleeping bag; scratches at a mosquito bite.
At 2 a.m., she sits upright.
“I can't sleep,” she says. “The mosquitoes are awful.”
Reluctantly, she stuffs her sleeping bag into her backpack, rolls up her sleeping mat and begins the trek back to Zuccotti Square -- or Liberty Square, as the protesters have renamed it. The size of a city block, all stone pathways and beds of mums, it is utterly packed with bodies on this Columbus Day weekend.
“I think we need a new place to go,” Morgan mutters, stepping over huddled mounds wrapped in blankets, searching for an available spot. There is literally nowhere to lie down.
Though the park is privately owned -- thus the reason the protesters have been allowed to stay -- the New York Police Department has banned the erection of temporary structures, including tents and tarps. Hundreds of people sleep side-by-side, spilling out at both ends of the park like a giant slumber party.
Even at this hour, one group is constructing a giant paper-mache statue at the edge of the park. Smaller groups sit huddled, smoking cigarettes and talking in low voices. A young man strums a guitar. Police officers bide their time on the periphery.
“I just want to sleep,” Morgan moans, scanning the park.
She picks her way over the sleeping bodies until she runs straight into her friend, Zack Solomon-Miller of Berkeley, Ca.
“Zack!” Morgan cries, hugging him. He says he knows of a spot where she can crash. She follows him to it gratefully, then curls up next to a polished granite bench and falls soundly asleep, her head tucked into her blue sleeping bag. The air is redolent of spray paint. One more day down. How many more to go?

Emma McCumber, 23, sits with her knees tucked under her on a blue tarp splattered with paint, carefully lettering an announcement for an open forum where protesters can learn about the Zapatistas, a rebel group in Mexico with whom McCumber studied while a student at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
Around her, roving photographers snap pictures, the “granny peace brigade” marches up and down a sidewalk and a young woman sleeps curled atop a pile of blankets with a Chihuahua in her arms.
Though McCumber, Theriault and Morgan have known each other since childhood, they move independently through the chaos of the protest, crossing paths mostly by chance. At this moment, McCumber hasn't the slightest clue where her friends are. But she's not worried. She’ll run into them again.
It's hard to estimate just how many people are part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Protesters come and go, mingling with members of the media, tourists and passer-by. As the afternoon wears on, the park swells with thousands of people, and the energy reaches a crescendo. A drum circle pounds relentlessly, surrounded by a crowd so thick it's hard to see the men with painted faces wailing on djembes in the middle.
“The biggest thing the medics do here is treat the blisters on the drummers' hands,” McCumber commented wryly.
McCumber has put her life on hold for this protest. Asked if she still lives in Reading, she shrugs and looks around her.
“I live in this park right now,” she said. “Right now my life is in a backpack.”
Putting the final touches on her sign, she replaces the paintbrushes in a bucket of donated art supplies, stands and stretches the sign above her head. Weaving through the crowd, she speaks in Spanish with a short man wearing a purple beret and holding a trumpet. She pauses to participate in the protesters' answer to a ban on megaphones: one person calls out a message, and those in earshot echo it until it resonates through the park.
“If you are looking for the student working group,” a voice calls out.
“If you are looking for the student working group,” McCumber repeats loudly.
“It starts soon on the steps!”
“It starts soon on the steps!”
Slowly making her way up and down the square with her sign, McCumber describes the makeshift society that's formed in the park. “This is the medical station,” she says, pointing to a group surrounded by first aid supplies. “That's the library” -- she points to a collection of several hundred books. “Here’s the media station. People donate money for gas for the generator. … This is the kitchen. They make massive amounts of food.”
As McCumber speaks, a double-decker tour bus rolls by, and the protesters on the fringes of the square hold their signs higher and cheer louder. Lacking cohesive goals, the power of Occupy Wall Street depends on being seen. As New York resident and unemployed maintenance supervisor Andre Robinson put it, “A lot of people are just here for the cameras. That's what they came for. To be seen and to be heard.”
Mainstream media, though, wants to know what the occupiers hope to accomplish, and they're not getting an answer. At any given moment, one can find rallies against nuclear power, the cost of higher education, the power of the Federal Reserve and the Wall Street bailout. Unlike the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, the Occupy Wall Street crowd didn't come together under a shared objective. And while that’s frustrating for anyone looking for a neat story with a beginning and an end -- a measure by which the “success” of the movement can be judged -- those in the fray hope to keep it that way.
“The longer we can avoid being pigeon-holed, the more power we have,” McCumber said. “There's been talk of writing down a list of demands, but it's such a diverse crowd here, I think it would difficult to come to a consensus. I’m not pushing for any concrete demands.”
What McCumber is pushing for, personally, is that “corporate greed be reined in.” Tall and slender, with short strawberry blonde hair and a wide-eyed face full of freckles, McCumber is instantly engaging, instantly spotted in a crowd. But she doesn't have any specific strategies for reining in corporate greed. “I'm not here for policy change,” she said. “I’m here because I’d like to create a new type of society.”

Occupy Wall Street represents, in part, the kind of society McCumber wants to live in. Decision making is by consensus, and social services like free food and warm clothing are all available to anyone who wants them, regardless of whether they contribute to the numerous “work groups” or not.
“This is the place to be,” McCumber says. “This is a community not relying on police force to keep order, using consensus, making spaces for the voices of traditionally marginalized groups. All those things are aspects of a world I want to live in. That's what's exciting about being here.”
The protesters are impressively organized, and most of the long-term occupiers are involved in the logistics of making it work. The finance group has opened a bank account to manage the $40,000 in donations they've received (as of October 10). Protestors can charge their cell phones and post photos on Facebook courtesy of the media group. At any corner, they can pick up a free copy of the “Occupied Wall Street Journal,” featuring words of encouragement by such luminaries as economics author Naomi Klein and rapper Lupe Fiasco.
The kitchen group composts food scraps and prepares meals from thousands of boxes of donated foods. The sanitation group sweeps the sidewalks. The only issue not worked out is what to do about restrooms, so protestors have been rushing to the local Burger King and McDonald's to use the facilities. On one hand, they're depending on a free service provided by just the kind of multinational corporation they love to hate. On the other, they point out, all they’re doing is defecating there.
Yet homeless people and drug users are moving in to take advantage of the free services. And while organizers stalwartly promote the space as a substance-free zone, they also stand by their vow to not deny services to anyone who needs them.
“You've got to watch your back now,” said Robinson, the unemployed maintenance worker who slept near the Vermont women in the park. He's been at the protest since Day 1, back on September 17. “It's becoming a circus. You’ve got women running around here naked and people banging on drums. I don’t understand that. I don’t understand how it helps the movement.”
“Sometimes it just feels like we're one big stupid f***ing tourist attraction,” said one of the women's friends, who would only identify himself as Jesse from New Jersey.

As she continues to promote the Zapatista forum, McCumber grows weary.
“I'm so overwhelmed,” she says at 4 p.m., taking her feet out of her clogs and stretching her arches. She lowers the sign. “I just want to take a nap.”
It's a feeling that most of the long-term protesters can relate to. At times, it seems like they do little but meet new people, walk in circles and attend meetings more related to the logistics of the occupation than to finding solutions to their grievances. Simply being in the midst of so much impassioned energy can be exhilarating, but the crash, when it comes, comes hard.
McCumber, Theriault and Morgan occasionally rest at nearby friends' houses, showering or napping on the couch. But while the fatigue is sometimes visible on Morgan and McCumber's faces, Theriault seems to have an endless supply of energy and idealism.
When McCumber finds her in the crowd at 4:30 on Sunday evening, Theriault, petite with short curly hair, is sitting cross-legged with Jesse from Jersey, tearing rags into strips for a game of capture the flag she plans to organize. Though she came alone, she's had no trouble getting involved.
“I was super intimidated when I first got here,” Theriault says. “I came mostly out of curiosity. I'd read a lot about it and wanted to see for myself. But the reason I stayed was … it's fascinating. It feels like this lifelong fantasy I’ve had; living in a small society that cares a lot about this world and wants to talk about it.”
Since arriving, Theriault has joined the sanitation committee, the expansion committee and helped man the comfort station, which supplies warm clothes to protesters. “It's a pretty unique experience to feel like I can do work and not be in the position of employee,” she comments. “I just see what needs to be done and do it.”
At 5:00 p.m., Theriault and Jesse from Jersey walk several blocks from the concrete craziness of Zuccotti Park to a small, grassy park known as Bowling Green. Theriault thinks people are meeting there for capture the flag, but no one shows up. She and Jesse sit on the sidewalk and talk. They don't mention their personal lives or where they came from or their dreams for the future. They talk only of the protest.
“We've got to figure out how to deal with the transitory nature of the community,” Jesse says. He's got a curly black afro and square glasses. He says he's getting frustrated with all the meetings, with trying to accommodate so many interests. “This place is like a one-stop shop for activism. I saw someone with a button that said ‘serial activist.' It’s easy to know just a little bit about so many things then act right away.”
Theriault listens sympathetically, then gets up to see if anyone else has come down to the park. They haven't. Tourists stroll by, snapping photos of the imposing stone edifices, squatting down to tie their children's sneakers. New Yorkers stride past on their cell phones or out on an evening jog. The sun is warm and soothing.
Stepping away from the protest, even just several blocks away to Bowling Green, it's striking to realize that for all the people who have put their lives on hold for this movement, it takes up just one city block; one among tens of thousands in Manhattan alone. As easy as it is to get wrapped up in the protest scene, it's just as easy to escape it. Many people see the protest as a short-lived, misplaced burst of rebellion by degenerates who would otherwise be occupying their parents' basements.
Stretching their legs out on the sidewalk, talking unhurriedly as the hustle of the city passes them by, Theriault and Jesse eventually decide that the game isn't going to happen, at least not this evening. They walk back to Zuccotti Park. Approaching it, the calm gives way to a cacophony of drums, chants, air horns, whistles, bursts of cheering, faint sirens. This is home, for now.
As the sun sets, glinting off the tall mirrored buildings, the three women from Vermont come together for the first time all day -- McCumber from the Zapatista forum, Morgan from a street medic training, Theriault from Bowling Green. They're all meeting with the expansion group, a somewhat secretive working group plotting to expand the movement beyond Zuccotti Park. Their plan is to spend the night sleeping on the Wall Street sidewalk.
But Solomon-Miller, the first to try, is led away in handcuffs after he lays out his sleeping bag on the sidewalk in front of several mounted police officers. Someone has hung a banner from a lofty window of the J.P. Morgan Chase building, reading “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.” Protesters argue with police that sleeping on a sidewalk during a political protest is fully legal. The police, in response, barricade the entire area. In the midst of the ensuing turmoil, Sophie Theriault, Hannah Morgan and Emma McCumber each go their separate ways into the pale New York night.

Curled next to the granite bench, Morgan continues to sleep while Solomon-Miller, released after a four-hour detainment, sits on the bench above her smoking a cigarette. Unlike many of his peers, his trip here was fully funded: he received a private grant last year to write a dissertation on regional political dissent. And this, he says, “is the epicenter of political dissent.”
“I have been out of touch with everything but this,” he says. “It's so enthralling.”
He describes his encounter with the police, likening the clarity and presence it afforded him to a drug-like high. “That's what I strive for,” he says. “That intense energy. It's why I used to do drugs. … There are so many moments of ugliness and chaos and discord, participating in things like this. But then there are breakthrough moments that sustain you and give you hope. I believe in people.”
At 9:30 a.m., Morgan's head of disheveled brown hair emerges from the sleeping bag. She sits up, groggy.
Across the park, Theriault is searching for a lost journal. McCumber is nowhere to be seen. Robinson is rolling a cigarette, talking to woman next to him about racial inequalities. Jesse from Jersey is hastily jotting down information from a young Latina woman who says her friend was just arrested. A group does yoga on the sidewalk.
Morgan stretches, rubs her eyes and scrunches her sleeping bag down around her feet. Then she goes to get a bowl of cereal and a banana. She sits on the steps above the park, looking out at the day as it begins to unfold, not saying a word.

Some images from the protest -

Her sign says: "I want everyone to not be greedy"

Emma McCumber:

Zuccotti Park in the daytime:

 Three images of the 99 percent:

The 1 percent?

Sophie Theriault and Jesse from Jersey several blocks away from the protest, at Bowling Green:

Jesse's water bottle:

Zack Solomon-Miller getting ready to hunker down on the sidewalk of Wall Street, prior to being handcuffed and detained:

Books from the OWS free library and some much needed rest:

Tireless drumming:

9:00 am:

What a long week. I worked all last weekend, and then went straight to New York City to write about some young women from Vermont who have been part of the Occupy Wall Street movement since September. New York was everything it should be -- exhilarating and exhausting, inconceivable in its size, injected with equal measures of inspiration and disillusionment. On Monday I walked halfway up the island of Manhattan, from Battery Park at the southern tip to the Port Authority bus station in Times Square, and saw more of the city in one day than I had in all of my previous trips combined. I found myself drawn into the vibrancy, diversity and energy of each of the interlocking neighborhoods and parks. Though the city as a whole is rife with chain stores and multinational corporations, the individual neighborhoods still hold onto their local character: independently owned markets and hardware stores and hole-in-the-wall eateries abound. I recently read a story in Orion magazine about the exodus of counterculture and artistic expression in a city that was once a magnet for bohemian artists and struggling writers. The writer argues that political apathy and a kind of Urban Outfitters-esque commercialization of art -- along with the reign of the 1 percenters and the rising cost of living in the city -- has caused New York to lose its place at the forefront of cultural and artistic expression. It has become a city built on finance and capitalism.

To an extent, I believe this take is spot-on. But the city still draws creative people, and creativity still thrives there to a certain degree. Though the Occupy Wall Street movement takes up just one city block out of tens of thousands of blocks in Manhattan alone -- and though the protesters make up but a fraction of New York residents -- it is nonetheless inspiring to see people who simply care enough to make a statement. Spending time at the protest and sleeping in Zuccotti Park was completely draining, but being in New York made me want to escape the pretentious, largely-white Upper Valley and live in a place as rich and culturally diverse as the city. I have always sought to escape urban sprawl; to seek out remote places, feel the soft dirt under my feet and wake up to crisp, fresh air. My dream has long been a cabin, a garden, a desk to write at and woods to ramble in. But before I get there, I also need the antithesis of the solitude and natural landscape I so crave. I want to spend some time in the city. 

When I returned from New York, my editor called and asked me to attend a protest in Tunbridge, Vermont. I was dead beat. It was the last thing I wanted to do -- all I wanted was a hot meal and a warm bed. But I went, and was glad I did. In many ways, Occupy Tunbridge was more inspiring than Occupy Wall Street. In New York, I felt a lack of cohesion, a frustration with the lack of action, a distrust of the people who had come for the wrong reasons. There were people moving in who undermined the protest -- 'serial activists,' people who had come only for the free services or the media circus. I value what's happening in New York, because it's the wake-up call the rest of the country needs, but I fear it's growing too big for its own good.

In Tunbridge, though, the group seemed honest, sincere, hardworking, authentic. The scene was beautiful, and reminded me that the Vermont I love still exists beyond the dislike I feel for the core towns of the Upper Valley. I love the hills, the villages, the farms, the hollows, the winding roads. The people. Driving along Route 110 to Tunbridge, following a leaping stream and passing open fields and sagging, working farms, my spirits lifted. At the Tunbridge Town Hall, I stood back to see a group of more than 50 people in a half-circle against a darkening, cloudy sky, standing up for a town and a state they believe in, working to find real solutions to the things they don't like. Wind tugged at the bare branches and bright yellow leaves, a tractor chugged down the road, and the sky slowly faded into the dark of an autumn night. Later, at home, I stood outside with a mug of apple cider and plate of roasted root vegetables and breathed in the fall air, as tangy as a fresh apple, as sharp as a handful of rotting dirt.

Here's my Valley News story about the protest in Tunbridge. 

Tunbridge – As a cloudy day faded into a cool autumn night, more than 50 people gathered outside the Tunbridge Town Hall yesterday, many dressed in work clothes: jeans and Carhartts, muck boots and clogs, flannel shirts.
At first, the group seemed a far cry from the young hipster-and-hippie protesters who have taken over Zuccotti Park in Manhattan's financial district for the past several weeks under the Occupy Wall Street banner. But the working class people of Tunbridge and the surrounding rural towns are every bit as impassioned as those encamped near Wall Street. Echoing the rallying cry heard across across America, Upper Valley residents last night announced that they, too, “are the 99 percent!”
In a display of solidarity, the group voiced their support for the Occupy Wall Street movement but also called attention to the importance of local activism and local solutions. Not that they find much fault with either Tunbridge or the state of Vermont.
“Why Tunbridge? Why does it matter that Tunbridge or Vermont is protesting Wall Street?” asked democratic State Rep. Sarah Buxton, addressing the crowd. “The answer is that we've done a lot right in this state.”
“When people need help, we're here to help each other,” said organizer Theo Fetter, a Vermont Law School student who grew up in New York City and built a cabin in Tunbridge several years ago. “We have balance, sanity and fairness. … But that's gone by the wayside lately (on Wall Street).”
Fetter said there was “no doubt about it” that if he still lived in New York, he'd be at the protest there. But, he added, “it's important to keep it local. I want to see what my neighbors have to say.”
His neighbors had a lot to say. Dozens took their turn standing on the Town Hall steps to speak of their disgust with the greed and corruption of the financial sector and its influence on American politics.
“I've been de-vesting money from Wall Street,” said Barre resident Dottye Ricks. “I don't have a lot, but … I'm not allowing them to take my money and gamble with it.”
Though many at the protest took the evening as an opportunity to rant, there were also concrete suggestions about what Vermonters can do to support the anti-Wall Street movement, including paying with cash instead of credit at local stores and asking legislators to support job-creation bills. Several in the group said they planned to go to an occupation in Montpelier over the weekend.
“We can stand here and push air for hours, or we can go to Montpelier and camp out!” called Tunbridge resident Scott Guth.
“We came here because there are fighters here, and we want to join the fight!” added Bethel resident Jim Minnich, who moved to Vermont from Montana earlier this year because of the environmental and political apathy he'd encountered in his home state.
While the crowd in front of Town Hall, from toddlers to the elderly, cheered and clapped, Tunbridge resident Chris Farina stood alone across the street, holding a large cardboard sign with “OWS” (Occupy Wall Street) in a circle with a slash through it.
“We're all Americans,” Farina said. “That's why I'm against this. It's ridiculous. What do they want? Nobody knows. We have a lot of common bonds as Americans and we should focus on those. We should be helping each other, not pointing fingers or looking to the government.”
Farina, who identified himself as a “staunch independent” opposed to any sort of collective action, said he didn't mind being the lone voice of opposition on the other side of the street. “They're my neighbors,” he said of the protesters. “I hope they don't kill me.”
“I don't think they will,” he added with a smile. 

Photos from Andover, Vermont.
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