“The deeds of occupier and occupied alike suggest that there come cruel times when to save a nation’s deepest values one must disobey the state.” ~ Robert O. Paxton, Vichy France
I devoted ten years to a novel about the Armenian community of Paris during the Nazi Occupation, which I only recently completed. I have spent eight years working against U.S.-funded wars and occupations as a part of the staff of CODEPINK Women for Peace. So in July 2011 when Adbusters put out the call to “Occupy Wall Street,” I was skeptical for two reasons. In the first place, it didn’t make sense that a magazine based in Western Canada should be setting the agenda for organizers in New York City. In the second place, the word “occupy”—associated with France during World War II, with Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade, and with the West Bank and Gaza for over forty years—didn’t seem like the right “meme,” to use Adbusters’ own rhetoric, for the movement we needed.
But by early October, I realized that I was wrong. I went down to Zuccotti to help staff the CODEPINK table, and joined the two mass marches from Foley Square. I donated my novels and other books to the People’s Library. The encampment at Liberty Plaza and the hundreds and eventually thousands of people who flocked there brought new meaning to the word “Occupy.” All over the country, all over the world, people are going to their public squares to take possession of what has been stolen from them. As the writer and activist Grace Paley said, “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.” And the Occupy Movement is a beehive of activity, ideas, and hope. It’s about prioritizing human needs over corporate greed. It’s about creating new communities based on shared values. Occupy Wall Street, not Iraq. Occupy our public spaces, not Afghanistan. Occupy AIPAC, not Palestine.