From 2:53 p.m. to 3:55 p.m. on Oct. 10, 2012, I set aside all humility and did what all good American citizens do: argue.
I stood in front of Town and Country (along with Jonathan Ziegler for a little bit — thanks Ziggy) holding up signs protesting the closings of Korean Barbecue and Hobee’s. Both Obama and Romney can agree small businesses like these and the middle class are what will make the economy as prosperous as it was when I was in 4th grade and didn’t know basic algebra.
After getting kicked out by security, I made my way across the street and plopped my tuchus down at the crosswalk on Embarcadero. That’s when I began to think. I thought about how 16 other people on my Facebook event said they were going to come. I realized that if I were them, I probably wouldn’t have come either. I can’t blame them because I’ll admit I felt embarrassed sitting out there looking like a hobo.
Some told me that it was a stupid idea and nothing would change, and they’re probably right. But let a guy have some fun and let loose by exercising his First Amendment rights. Some people took my cause as seriously as my parents took me when I told them I wanted to be the first minor to be elected president of the United States when I was in 5th grade. So basically not at all. Town and Country executives most likely weren’t going to say to me, “Thank you for pointing out our flaws in closing local, family-owned businesses.” Some people decided to fact-check my every word and pointed out flaws in my argument, but I don’t mind.
I have come to learn during my seven years living in “Shallow Alto” (pun credit to Ms. Filppu) that although we may be diverse, there are some things that make many of us similar. For one, we live in a community, for the most part, filled with wealth. For the nice couple that owned Korean BBQ, that was their only source of income. To my disbelief, some people are still unmoved.
I’m proud to be a part of the middle class in this area. I think it keeps me grounded when many living here are gazillionaires. Just think about the impact that closing a small family-owned business has. Many students see it as “I can’t get my favorite food anymore,” but for the owners, it changes their whole life. Some are spending $15+ on lunch at T&C every day. The sad thing is that they don’t even know they’re supporting a mall that forces innocent businesses to close down by saying, “Pay up. You need to add four times the square footage or you’re outta here.”
We should cherish being able to take political action at this age, no matter how small the issue. Two years from now, I’ll get a lot more crazy looks when I protest the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi because you and I both know it should be in Pyongyang, North Korea. If there’s something that bothers you, make it known and don’t let people tell you otherwise. Wow that sounded cheesier than the ending of a Disney movie. But seriously, F da haterz. YOLO. However you want to say it.
Long live the First Amendment. Long live the middle class. And long live Korean BBQ and Hobee’s.