Listen: it’s not like anybody’s storming the gates (or gated communities) and yanking CEO’s out of their beds, impaling their skulls on stakes and lighting them on fire while marching through ghost-neighborhoods of foreclosed homes. No! We’re occupying Wall Street. (Or whatever the Wall Street equivalent is in towns from Temecula to Brussels.)….
Admittedly, of course, Occupy is a loaded term. Native Americans, for example, whose ancestors were booted – or conned – out of Manhattan, may feel like the current residents – rich, poor or rapidly extincting middle class – are all occupying the place. But that’s a different story for a different day. (Though absolutely valid, and a generally unspoken of source of national shame, any day of the week.) As I heard, not two days ago, discussed by a small claque of earnest and stand-up souls at Occupy LA, outside City Hall. I had not thought of this before; but ideas, and food, were free for the taking. And everyone availed themselves.
Seriously. When Americans of the 99% Tribe say they are occupying a place, what they are really claiming is not the real estate (though real estate, often of the soaking, underwater variety, may be at the heart of their collective cri de coeur.) What’s being occupied is not an external place – or not just – but an internal one. The spot inside us where molten anger bubbles up to I-Played-By-The-Rules-And-I-Got Screwed righteous fury that the Goldman Sachs-y guys (or equivalent thereof) made their own rules and made out and blew the banks up in the process, then got paid again when they got bailed out, then got back on their feet and bonus-ed themselves all over again. With our money. After our team lost pensions and future and health care and all the rest. And until now, we have acted like there was no recourse but to take it.
The generic Fox News-esque objection to Occupy? There is no coherency. Too many assorted beefs. Talk to fifteen full-timers, you’ll get fifteen reasons. Pissed off more money is going to prisons than education? Come on down. Angry that America spends more on health care than anywhere in the world and all that money lands us a prestigious 37th place in mortality? See you there! Furious that you worked your ass off to get through college and can’t find a job filling burger orders because your pension-free grand-parents have filled all the slots? Choose your poison and bring a tent.
It is of course, the peculiar beauty – and the genius – of this non-unified Movement Movement that alliances which otherwise might never engage are now engaging. Call it Cause Cross Pollination.
The other night, for example, outside LA City Hall, a representative from nearby Skid Row took his turn speaking during the general assembly. (Because the Homeless, after all, were living on the Street before it was cool.) The rule was two minutes or less. And after filling in the assembled patriots – a word I don’t use lightly; one, in fact, I don’t think I have ever used before, without irony, which I am not using now – the Skid Row speaker invited everybody to breakfast the next day at 6:30 at one of LA’s best-known shelters, the Midnight Mission.
And yes, to me this is the wet, palpitating heart of Occupy Wall Street. Of Occupy The World. The impromptu, part desperation/part rage/part idealism fueled Rising Up – or in this case, Showing up of Americans for the beautiful and long-forgotten cause of… America itself. Mister Rogers meets Thomas Payne. Which is great. And the ultimate, redemptive silver lining in the hell cloud created by the derivative-driven, un-regulated (with apologies to Ginsberg) Fiscal Moloch itself.
Okay then. This is what I believe: Citizens United may have transformed Corporations into People… And Occupy Wall Street – Occupy the World – has transformed people into Citizens. Into activists. And in the end – I would bet my personal 99 percenter savings on it – real citizenship will trump fake person-hood. And we will not just take back Wall Street. We will take back ourselves.