MODERN MATURITY Occupy Cape Cod's seasoned crew might be a little older than their counterparts
in Boston or on Wall Street, but their practice and dedication is timeless.
I've seen the future of Occupy. It was wearing sensible beige walking shoes, boots of the non-combat variety, and, in some cases, sweater vests and pressed button-downs. It bakes cakes with "99 Percent" etched in icing, and doesn't camp outside in tents. Most markedly, its average-aged member qualifies for Social Security.
My vision of Occupy's next big step came last weekend at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth. An Occupy organizer from Cape Cod, Paul Rifkin, invited me to speak to his group, a unified mass of activists hailing from Sandwich to the outer Cape. He also insisted that I interview some members of his dedicated legion — the lot of whom, he promised, was quite different from the gadfly demographic I'm accustomed to.
I've met more than a few seniors and Baby Boomers at Occupy camps countrywide. Many of the seasoned social-justice advocates, I've even noticed, have been integral and galvanizing forces, bringing age and experience to the scrum, but also supplying a maturity that's sometimes lacking within Occupy. So the thought of an entire fleet of respectable older folks fighting in the movement personified for me what so many Occupiers have been saying — that in order to succeed, they need to attract more of the 99 percent.
Occupy Cape Cod comprises a wide spectrum, from retired teachers, to musicians and filmmakers, to a sprinkling of grandchildren and local thirtysomethings. Their median age is older than that of their urban counterparts, but in practice and dedication they're not so different from Boston or New York protesters. Decked in slickers and winter hats, Cape Occupiers picket for hours at intersections in foul weather. On more than one occasion, their presence has caused banks to shut down early.
"We may look much older, but most of us have been there before," says Peter Waasdorp, a carpenter, Occupier, and founding member of Green-Rainbow Party in Falmouth. "We know what we're doing. In fact, we've been waiting for this."
SWEET RELIEF Whether holding a bake sale or saving a foreclosed home, Occupy activists have
established themselves up and down the Cape.
'I'M NO HIPPIE'
Elaine Dickinson is an unlikely Occupier. A petite and serious foreign-language teacher, she always voted Democrat and sat out previous social upheavals. Dickinson's brother is a missionary, and she's joined him several times on his annual trip to serve soldiers at Fort Benning in Georgia. But that was the extent of her activism; Dickinson says that she was too busy raising her own children and teaching her students to keep a critical eye on current events.
"I'm new to all of this," says Dickinson, who penned a recent pro-Occupy op-ed in the Cape Cod Times. "I'm no hippie. But when I saw what happened in the Arab countries, I said to my husband, 'Why don't we do that here?' Then one day I heard on NPR how these kids were down on Wall Street, and how nobody was paying attention to them. My husband and I have both been behind this ever since, and he used to be a Republican until George W. Bush."