Young People Returning Home from Occupy Wall Street Find Struggles, Challenges

By Rivka Solomon Gonzales-Aoki

(AP) – Ryan Sulzman walks alone through the woods behind his parents’ home in Binghamton, New York. It’s one of the few things that gives his troubled soul peace these days. “I like hearing the birds sing…and the crickets” he confides. “It takes my mind off the horrors I witnessed. These are…these are things I still find it hard to talk about.”

Like many young people who volunteered to join the nationwide Occupy movement, Ryan has been having a hard time being back in “the world.” “When we were ‘in country,’ we became used to a certain routine. The free meals served in the camp soup kitchen, the free wi-fi, the rhythmic sounds of the drum circles, and the crackheads who’d let you buy food with their EBT cards in exchange for cash for drugs. I’d give them, like, $10 and they’d let me buy $40 in food. It was a sweet deal.”

But it wasn’t long before Ryan, and so many young people of his generation who had volunteered to do their duty, saw the ugly side of human nature. “The day they cleared out our camp, this one cop…he…he yelled at me. ‘Move! Move! Move!’ He had a bullhorn…the sounds still haunt my nightmares. And then…” Ryan’s voice trails off, as tears well up in his eyes, “then he grabbed my Tumi duffle bag and literally, like, pushed it into my arms. I totally could have been knocked over it I wasn’t wearing my Urban Outfitters boots.”

A hero comes home.

Still, Ryan considers himself fortunate. “I had a friend, Eddie…’Lucky Eddie’ the guys in the camp used to call him, because he’d always get lucky with the drunk girls who’d passed out. The day the camp was disbanded, he got…pushed by a cop. I saw him at the triage we set up in the Starbucks across the street. There was a vacancy in his eyes. ‘Lucky Eddie’ was gone – he was an empty shell of a man.”

Ryan, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and is currently receiving disability, says that all he wanted when he returned home were a few words of thanks from the people he left behind. “I didn’t ask for a parade; none of us did,” Ryan says, as he attempts to restrain the anger building inside him. “But when I came home, when I walked through the door, and there were my parents who hadn’t seen me for two months, and they gave each other a look, like, ‘oh crap, he’s back.’ They hadn’t even known if I’d been alive or dead the past two months…except, of course, for the text messages I’d send, and the Skype videos. Oh, and they both subscribe to my Youtube channel. And, of course, there were the money transfers I had them make so I could upgrade my iPhone. But other than that, I could have been dead for all they knew.”

Ryan isn’t alone in his restrained bitterness. Across the nation, returning OWS vets are finding readjustment difficult – owing in large part to what they see as an indifference on the part of their loved ones to their ordeal. One such disillusioned OWS vet, a 25-year-old who would only give his name as Nick when the we interviewed him in front of the Krazy Kures medicinal pot clinic in Culver City, related his difficult tale. “My mom erased every single program I had Tivo’d. EVERY SINGLE PROGRAM. Sure, I can catch up with “Dexter” on Video on Demand, but those episodes of “Conan” are GONE. I’ll NEVER be able to see them again.” 

For 31-year old OWS vet Jacob Berman, the wounds run especially deep. “My parents didn’t dust my Star Wars collectibles, not even once. Do you know what two months of dust build-up can do to a Limited-Edition Deluxe 30th-Anniversary 12” Boba Fett in the Great Pit of Carkoon Collectible Action Figure? I don’t even know if I can list it as mint on Ebay anymore.”

“Ebay…I don’t think I can ever go to that site again without getting flashbacks,” says 23-year-old Occupy Portland vet Caleb Henner. “It brings back all of the feelings of being alone, afraid, isolated out there at the front.” At first, Caleb was reluctant to tell his story. But at the urging of his psychologist, he agreed to give us a first-hand account of his harrowing ordeal.

“It was a cold night…I thought it might rain, so I was inside my REI tent bundled up in my Cole Haan waxed cotton parka. We were all on edge…there were reports that there might be an overnight ambush by city workers coming in to clean the public fountain we were using as a communal toilet, so we were all pretty tense. I was trying to keep my mind off things by browsing Ebay on my iPad, and I found this SWEET Game of Thrones one-sheet signed by Peter Dinklage! It was only $450, but I knew that would change if I didn’t use the “buy it now” option. So I tried…I tried to buy it…and…my mother’s credit card was declined. It had been pushed beyond its credit limit. It was like being in a nightmare. I kept screaming, NO! NO! I called my folks…it was 2am, and I got their answering machine…I was like, ‘COME IN, COME IN, THIS IS CALEB, DO YOU HEAR ME? OVER! COME IN! PLEASE GOD, I NEED HELP! PICK UP, PICK UP!’ But they didn’t. They were probably fast asleep. I never felt more alone in my life. And the Game of Thrones one-sheet…it…it sold to someone else within the hour…”

Caleb’s words trail off, as he’s comforted by his lawyer, who has initiated a lawsuit against Caleb’s parents for the Peter Dinklage atrocity. “This isn’t how these boys should be treated,” says Sheldon Gerbinsky, whose law firm is representing several OWS vets. “We’ve gotten reports of parents cynically using their children’s time at Occupy encampments to clean their rooms and basements – making beds, folding linens, ironing and hanging up shirts so that they lose all of their hipster cred. We even have one report of parents in Atlanta who removed their son’s three-year-old collection of smashed beer bottles while he was away at Occupy Atlanta.”

The Obama Administration has promised swift and immediate action to help OWS vets readjust to society, pledging everything from free psychological counseling to DVD box-sets of missed TV shows. At a press conference held on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had this to say: “The president is committed to doing all he can to help those brave Americans. No expense will be spared. The president told me the other day that he was especially moved to action by the story of one young person from Occupy Denver whose parents actually threw out a mint-condition Gundam Force trading card. They thought it was ‘trash.’ What kind of country do we live in where so-called ‘parents’ don’t know the difference between a piece of trash and a valuable anime collectible? I agree with the First Lady when she told a gathering of OWS vets yesterday that she’s gone back to not being proud of her country. Until we begin taking seriously the sacrifices of the OWS heroes, we don’t deserve pride.”  

(This story is part of a series of AP reports called “OWS: The War at Home”)

Comments
13 Responses to “Young People Returning Home from Occupy Wall Street Find Struggles, Challenges”
  1. pendejo says:

    Frank J would be proud.

  2. This is GREAT!!!!!
    Definitely passing this one along -

  3. JR says:

    This is better than anything on The Onion. Excellent satire! Funny as hell.

  4. GMLand says:

    this made me laugh… like, out loud.

  5. lauraw says:

    Don’t forget how when they come home they spread scabies and lice to their ungrateful families.

  6. Danny Liu says:

    The real reason they don’t want to abandon Afghanistan is, because of the Exxon Mobile’s pipeline pumping oil from Afghanistan. George Bush Jr. brags he went to Iraq for the oil, to show off to his affluent friends. So instead of half the national deficit, we have it double, they want to build permanent bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, so big oil, and the Republican’s can get rich. So why do they want to make Afghanistan a permanent duty station so they can protect the interest’s of big oil and the pipeline, before they started drilling and pumping oil out of Afghanistan, the country was considered the largest untapped oil resource in the world. They don’t talk much about the pipeline now because the Billionaire’s and corporations have silence everyone. I don’t vote and support neither party, nor will I be a registered voter, ever, because I never register to vote. George Bush Jr and the Republican party wanted to control the oil infrastructure of Iraq, and Afghanistan to enrich themselves, Billions traded for the corporations, while America accumulated Trillions in national debt, not such a good trade off, but it was for 1% of the population. The people of Afghanistan live simple lives as farmers and ranchers, living off of mountain goats, and sheep’s, and simple crops, too stupid to realize what they have an abundant source of natural resources that they do not benefit from, while Hamid Karzai hordes over 100 Billion in secret accounts for himself. The people of Afghanistan use horses and donkeys, and pick up trucks, as their main weapons, while military contractor’s keep building new weapon system’s for themselves and get richer, America goes down hill in debt. China owns 11% of the national debt, and Japan owns 10% and they are over 200% over GDP in national debt. So who owns most of the national debt Private Security Firms profiting off the national debt of the U.S. They want to go to war with Iran that will cost the U.S. 90 Billion a year, instead of executing precision strikes. Like Iraq, they always have known, since they have too much oil, no economic sanction will work, and only by declaring a full scale war can they actually bring about change.The real reason they don’t want to abandon Afghanistan is, because of the Exxon Mobile’s pipeline pumping oil from Afghanistan. George Bush Jr. brags he went to Iraq for the oil, to show off to his affluent friends. So instead of half the national deficit, we have it double, they want to build permanent bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, so big oil, and the Republican’s can get rich. So why do they want to make Afghanistan a permanent duty station so they can protect the interest’s of big oil and the pipeline, before they started drilling and pumping oil out of Afghanistan, the country was considered the largest untapped oil resource in the world. They don’t talk much about the pipeline now because the Billionaire’s and corporations have silence everyone. I don’t vote and support neither party. George Bush Jr and the Republican party wanted to control the oil infrastructure of Iraq, and Afghanistan to enrich themselves, Billions traded for the corporations, while America accumulated Trillions in national debt, not such a good trade off, but it was for 1% of the population. The people of Afghanistan live simple lives as farmers and ranchers, living off of mountain goats, and sheep’s, and simple crops, too stupid to realize what they have an abundant source of natural resources that they do not benefit from, while Hamid Karzai hordes over 100 Billion in secret accounts for himself. The people of Afghanistan use horses and donkeys, and pick up trucks, as their main weapons, while military contractor’s keep building new weapon system’s for themselves and get richer, America goes down hill in debt. China owns 11% of the national debt, and Japan owns 10% and they are over 200% over GDP in national debt. So who owns most of the national debt Private Security Firms profiting off the national debt of the U.S. They want to go to war with Iran that will cost the U.S. 90 Billion a year, instead of executing precision strikes. Like Iraq, they always have known, since they have too much oil, no economic sanction will work, and only by declaring a full scale war can they actually bring about change.

    • rightwingwac says:

      Oh my gosh! Leave it to some uninformed, brainwashed sheep to throw some ridiculous regurgitated verbal diarrhea into a pretty light-hearted article. Danny Liu there are so many inaccuracies and outright lies in your statements that I could spend all day annihilating your comments with facts rather than your Michael Mooreish lies. But…I don’t find trying to educate someone as over the top as you a productive use of my time. So enjoy your little fantasy world. Oh by the way; Barack, Pelosi, Soros, Reid, Dodd, Frank, all of Hollywood, every well known rapper, and most liberal congressmen and women are among the 1%. But they’re cool right? It’s amazing how the rich liberal elites who are in control have you morons so convinced that it’s only the Republicans that make any money in this world. Meanwhile they’re breaking this country into pieces (us and them is Baracks favorite game) while they’re behind the scenes political dealings bring them millions. But it’s the private sectors fault right? Stop pretending you know what’s going on.

      • Some Animals R More Equal Than Others says:

        That’s because tools Like Danny aren’t really against millionaires. They’re just against certain people being millionaires. And they demand that money be taken away from THOSE millionaires and be given to THEM and just THEM. What they don’t understand is that the money taken will, in fact, be given to the millionaires who are the correct millionaires. The tools like Danny won’t get sh*t.

  7. Mammybee says:

    Danny Liu, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Furthermore, if you don’t vote, STFU! You are part of the problem you are whining about!

  8. Bill Evers says:

    Wow, Danny Liu…just, wow! You’ve so eloquently demonstrated the lunacy of the left, by showing that you can’t even enjoy a wonderful piece of satire without leaving an insanely-long off-topic comment. Literally, you have graffitied this page with your craziness. Did you even READ the essay above? Well, even if you did, you wouldn’t have gotten it. But still, dude, get a LIFE!

  9. Michael says:

    @rightwingwac
    From what i’ve heard, Obama has about 1-2m $, Romney is >200m $ (correct me if I’m wrong).
    So yeah, there is a “small” difference :)

    I think it’s ironic that republicans ‘criticize’ liberals or leftists for being “rich”, as if it’s unthinkable that a rich can think anything bad about wanton capitalism or right-wing politics. Most rich people in America actually think that they SHOULD pay more taxes. Because it’s only fair and they can afford it pretty well.

    As for Bush and the wars, they pretty much drove up up the American debt, but hey ;)

    The satire is funny, but still a bit surprising in its veiled derision of popular movements. It was popular opposition movements that ended the Vietnam war, that brought Civil rights, etc. The workers’ rights in the 1850-1890s. Just to name american examples. Also i doubt that Occupy was solely or majorly made up of kids, but it’s natural that they form a high percentage.

    How about a similar piece about the religious nuts Teabaggers, with their contradictory complaints? x)

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