I’m Sure We’ll Meet Again

The Occupy the Highway marchers we saw nearly two weeks ago here in town arrived in Washington D.C.

In other news, Miss and Mr. Sasha and the two sticky little grandchildren are driving from frigid Minot to cool, damp New Jersey just in time for additional coolness and dampness. This morning, they report from a location near Chicago. I’m exhausted, just thinking about it.

While the Stars Shine Above Me

Wednesday night on Facebook, a friend remarked casually that Occupy the Highway would be passing through New Brunswick. Because I am a person of poise and elegance, I said, “Wait, what?” After a mess o’ research, I found the march route that didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that wasn’t important. I contacted everyone I knew would certainly be interested and only one person knew what the hell I was babbling about. That’s a record, even for me.

I called my sisters Thursday morning to tell them the marchers would walk right past the family store. Everyone was all aflutter. Next thing you know, half the tiny town was talking because a whole lot of people are in contact with OWS about food prep and where the marchers would sleep because about every fifteen minutes the marchers changed their minds about where they would sleep and how they would eat. This plan that shifted under our feet all afternoon drove us crazy. Should we cook dinner? Should we make breakfast? Should we scour the neighborhood for spare pillows and cozy comforters? Conjuring up the ordinary miracle of food and shelter takes time.

Looking north, the group arrives.

Eventually, the marchers stopped tweeting where they were and what they’d decided. For about three hours, we couldn’t figure out what to do and reluctantly went about the business of being us waiting for something nobody knew what to do for. About. To. It doesn’t make any difference. We waited, waited, waited, went to dinner, picked up dinner for my sisters, waited, waited, made plans, waited, waited. Suddenly, a little guy on bike skidded to a halt in front of my sisters Anya and Corinne, Pete, Brian and me and said, “They’re a block back.” We believed him because the blocks are very short in town and we could see a bunch of kids we knew jumping up and down on the corner. Pete took pictures as the first marcher declared, “Ninety-nine percent coming through!” We cheered and slapped hands with them. They implored us to march with them, even a little way. Friends of ours who are dogs and their people brought up the rear of the group and when we turned to look back, Anya, Corinne and Brian were gone in a flash. No, literally, a flash: Pete took the picture below and then I noticed the people standing next to me were gone.

A moment later looking south - my sisters and a local rock star have disappeared.

On Facebook last night, Anya posted pictures of a rally on that bridge I bicycle across all the time. It looked fantastic and I recognized dozens of familiar faces. Later, the marchers posted their own photos of a general assembly on the College Avenue steps. Since I didn’t have to get up two hours early to feed them, I could simply love everything I saw with a quiet heart. Tomorrow, a van filled with supplies goes to Zuccotti Park. I am sure there won’t be a spare inch in it.

The Mountain Should Crumble To the Sea

I’m worried.

This afternoon, weather forced the closing of the family stores 35 miles from Zuccotti Park. Yesterday, the protest’s generators were seized by the fire department. Today, wet snows cracked branches of the tall trees we live under. Pete went outside to look up at the spot where a large branch had fallen from, heard another crack and beat a hasty retreat. Where he had been standing, a tiny avalanche fell and a cascade of branches followed. Fortunately, I was on the phone with the police at the time so no one was surprised when I babbled about what was dangling from the electrical lines and blocking the street.

Not enough power to warm; too much for the FDNY.

I saw that generator on Thursday. It looked so small and inoffensive. I guess anything that smells like hope or biodiesel is a threat to someone.

If the protesters can hang on for one more day, better weather will come. One more day.

My Eyes Make Me Wise

It’s raining tonight. It rained all day. At 10 this morning, Marion walked up the train station steps, hugged me and rummaged through her giant purse. She bought a ticket and we went out to the platform to wait for the train to Newark Penn Station, where we walked picked up the PATH train to the World Trade Center. Even with directions in my pocket, I turned the wrong way every time. Marion, a native New Yorker, steered us around the Trade Center construction and the tourists taking pictures of buildings now disappearing into rain clouds. Almost by accident, our destination appeared right in front of us: Zuccotti Park. We’d come to see Occupy Wall Street.

A friend who wanted to meet me there never did, but that turned out not to be important. The camp, just before noon, was slow to rouse. The park was much smaller than I had imagined and filled with tents large and small, manufactured and improvised, many with blue tarps draped over them to keep out as much rain as possible, but everything looked wet. Everyone we met looked damp and rough around the edges. Marion mentioned she’d come three weeks ago, so I took off and walked the camp, to see what I could see.

Over, under, in between, around, behind, outside: the park sits on a very small, rectangular block on a noticeable incline. Walking the perimeter takes a few minutes at most. Along Broadway, which forms the narrow, high end of the park, a line of police officers stood with backs to the street and faces to the camp. The protesters there had flags, printed brochures, tables and chairs; they were interested in communicating a handsome and dizzying variety of political perspectives. At one end, a man stumped for an independent Puerto Rico and at the other, two motionless people held a banner describing Chinese-made products as slave labor. At the opposite corner of the block, messaging was much more casual as very young campers appeared more interested sorting out scattered belongings than in the tourists photographing them like shivering statues. At this end of the park, the police were both more sparse and more active.

Along Trinity Street, the best view of the camp may have been from the other side of the street, since the tents, including the first aid stations were packed close together and to an impressive height. All the action, though, was along the length of Liberty Street, where the cops looked nervous and would not make eye contact. I kept coming around to this side of the camp. On one of these laps, our path was blocked by a group of well-rehearsed singers, sheet music in hand, performing a complex, original vocal piece for whoever happened by with a video camera. It was at that point I decided the whole thing was positively fucking awesome.

It is possible to walk through the camp half a dozen times and see new things every time and they’re things you should see. Incredibly healthy-looking people walk around with deeply damaged friends, young and old, well-nourished and gaunt. The determination it took to stay in the camp through raw rainy days and nights must have been tremendous. I was dressed warmly and in a cyclist’s rain gear and I was more or less comfortable. The protesters looked like they were engaged in a fateful struggle with time and the elements. At the comfort station, I left three pair of socks and two scarves. At the food tent, I left a bag of gingery oatmeal cookies. It was all I could carry and still the least I could do.

Nothing – not the election of Obama, not massive anti-war protests, not the passage of a health insurance bill – has stopped the Overton Window’s sailing rightward with increasing speed until now and this. This messy campsite and these people, for all their failures and mistakes, are it. I owe these people for doing what no one else has. If you’re honest with yourself, we all owe them.

You can get on a train and offer support in person or you can contribute money or materials.

The cold, raw weather forced me out of the park and into a coffee shop. Marion, the president of my union, made last minute arrangements to travel to the swearing-in of a judge in Newark. I struggled with the idea of traveling homeward, but staying in the coffee shop was just silly, so we went back to the park and did more laps in and around and through the camp. Everyone had a camera. Everyone seemed to be taking pictures and video all the time. I’d brought a camera but didn’t take a single picture. Once I was there, it seemed invasive. We were aware that the camp had a livestream and we would certainly turn up on it and that hundreds of other visitors must also be tromping around the camp. This idea gave me great pause.

So please go see it for yourself. Please bring things the protesters need. Please don’t do anything stupid.

My back is kind of killing me. Everything I learned today was totally worth it.

Alive And Well And They’re Living

This morning, I woke up knowing what one significant word had fallen out of the public discourse.

PROGRESS.

Progress meant charging into the future, with technology and science that would benefit us all, from greatest to least, young and old, rich and poor alike. Sure, a few of us might trampled underfoot, but we would all benefit. The interstate highways. Household appliances. The space race. New materials. New ways to fight disease. New ways to spread messages and tell stories. New frontiers in education and health. Progress meant we would live longer, happier, more productive and prosperous lives. And now we have crazy coots standing up at townhall meetings across the country refusing to contribute another dime to our mutual prosperity because people who are not old, straight, white and Republican can’t be shipped back to Gay Brownislavia. No one is asking these crazy people important questions like:

1. Hey crazy, if you have a plan, what does the goal look like? Like where you live, circa 1950 or like Santiago, Chile in 1970? Because neither was good for a whooooole lot of people and both very bad for a lot of people.

2. Hey crazy, there is every possibility your plan will ruin the country, destroy your life and take the world economy with it. Did you take that into account? Because when peace, happiness and prosperity are the other option, it would be a giant sign of CRAZY not to take that second thing.

Note to users of the word ruin the way teens spit it at strict parents: ruin is a permanent state. Ruin means the Colosseum in the center of Rome won’t be hosting track races because it’s a ruin, a thing broken literally forever. Cannot be fixed or restored to hunky-doryosity. That is what the Tea Party is poised to do to our economy and as a result our country, and we wouldn’t just pop up from economic ruin in 2013 after – say – fifteen years and say, “Shit, those selfish fuckers can party. It was a joke for hundreds of years, but we actually ate some babies.”

If our public discourse is not about Progress it is necessarily about Ruin.

I want someone to stand up and talk about our better future and the Progress that will get us there.

Bring Some Understanding Here Today

A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness.

-Nelson Mandela, activist, South African president, Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1918)

NAACP:

Troy Davis is running out of time. On September 21st, the state of Georgia is set to execute Davis for murdering a white police officer, despite the fact that seven out of nine witnesses have recanted and the judge called his own ruling “not ironclad.”

Other witnesses have since come forward with conflicting accounts of the crime, and even pointed towards another man as the killer. And perhaps most shocking, there was never any DNA evidence linking Troy to the crime.

There is too much doubt to execute Troy Davis, and it is up to us to make Troy’s voice heard.

Start now by sending a message to the Georgia Paroles Board, which has a final hearing for Troy on Monday, September 19. Tell them there is too much doubt to execute Troy Davis.

Change.org:

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT

My brother, Troy Davis, has been on Georgia’s death row for 20 years despite strong evidence of his innocence. His execution date is now scheduled for Wed, Sept 21. He has a hearing in front of the GA Board of Pardons & Parole two days beforehand.We need to tell the Board strongly and clearly: There’s too much doubt to execute Troy Davis!

The case against my brother Troy consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, seven out of nine witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony.

Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis. Here is what one had to say:

“I got tired of them harassing me, and they made it clear that the only way they would leave me alone is if I told them what they wanted to hear. I told them that Troy told me he did it, but it wasn’t true.”

We need to tell the Board strongly and clearly: There’s too much doubt to execute Troy Davis!

Regardless of how one feels about the death penalty, we must all agree that the guilty party is the person who should be punished for crimes committed. Punishing innocent people certainly happens, but the death penalty should never, never be applied when doubts about guilt exist.

Please sign one or both of these petitions. What you say, what you do, matter.

Crossposted at Brilliant@Breakfast.

Ice Is Slowly Melting

Though I promised Reverend Billy of the Church of Earthalujah I’d only buy free-range thongs and locally grown bras, I admit to backsliding so my ample rack wouldn’t, by which I mean bras were on sale at Stein Mart and I bought three. They were probably made in China but I can’t read the tag pressed up against my yoga-toned back muscles. Is it hot in here or is Climate Change happy to see me?

This chart is full of untasty surprises.

Tomatoes? How can yogurt and cheese be so different?

The report is worth reading, mostly for the purposes of review. You know how it is: you read something, your brain knits into socks you recognize in your mental sock drawer, then a year later, your brother-in-law tells you everyone has always worn striped tights. You know it’s not true, but how do you prove he’s a raving nutburger? So read the report.

Say Goodnight And Stay Together

Sometimes, the body misunderstands where it is in space. There’s a little thing you see gymnasts do all the time on the balance beam called a balance check. In a standing position, an off-balance gymnast will right herself quickly and with luck imperceptibly by bending her knees ever so slightly, contracting her glutes, squaring her shoulders and making solid contact between her feet and the beam. That sounds like a lot to do in a few milliseconds, but when you’ve done balance checks hundreds or thousands of times it becomes natural as blinking an eye. Often, it works and the athlete goes on with her routine. Sometimes a balance check fails and the athlete falls. I thought of it when I read Aravosis’s lament:

Since Democrats didn’t adequately defend the stimulus, and didn’t sufficiently paint the deficit as the Republicans’ doing, we now are not “politically” permitted to have a larger stimulus because the fiscal constraint has become more important than economic recovery.

And whose fault is that?

Apparently ours.

Bernstein said that the progressive blogs (perhaps he said progressive media in general) haven’t done enough over the past year to tell the positive side of the stimulus.

Emphasis: Aravosis. That was February 2010. Yesterday, he added:

I remember Bernstein specifically asking the Nation’s Chris Hayes whether he and his paper had done enough to help promote the benefits of the stimulus over the proceeding year. Chris said that they had just done a podcast about it that day, but yes he probably could have done more. I recall jumping in and noting that Chris was the last person Berstein should criticize, as he’s on Rachel Maddow every night defending the administration quite diligently.

The occasion of this recollection was an incident that happened at the White House the other day where Crooks & Liars blogger Mike Lux was present. As reported by Ben Smith at Politico:

Yesterday, [White House National Economic Council Director Gene] Sperling faced a series of questions about the White House’s concessions on the debt ceiling fight, and its inability to move in the directions of new taxes or revenues. Progressive consultant Mike Lux, the sources said, summed up the liberal concern, producing what a participant described as an “extremely defensive” response from Sperling.

Sperling, a person involved said, pointed his finger backed at liberal groups, which he said hadn’t done enough to highlight what he saw as the positive side of the debt package – a message that didn’t go over well with participants.

Perhaps I was the only person in all the all the world who, upon reading that, bent my knees slightly, tightened up my glutes, squared my shoulders and made solid contact between my feet and the surface I was standing on. In short: I suddenly understood where I was in space and righted myself.

The Obama Administration considers bloggers employees and not independent entities. Some bloggers consider themselves subservient to the administration. I am completely clear on who is supposed to work for whom and there’s something else. Someone should say these magic words the next time Sperling spews:

We don’t work for you. If you were doing good work for the American People, you wouldn’t need anyone to highlight anything. You could simply tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may, but you are not doing good work. You are for the most part failing the American People. You are upset because you know it, we know it, the People know it and you want our cover to sell your weak legislation. The answer is no. We have our own opinions, we expect better from you and we will continue to tell you so.

That is how you deliver pressure from the Left. The blogger who says this may get shut out, but he or she will win the admiration of principled people everywhere.

My Eyes Can Dimly See

Donations arrived today. Drusy approves.

Years ago, when we were other people, we did things in public, where we could be seen. We were blind. We were not afraid. We should have stopped and thought, but we didn’t. Years ago, when we were other people, we did things in public, where we could be seen. We were blind together. We were not afraid. We should have stopped and thought, but we didn’t. Years ago, when we were other people, we did things in public, where we could be seen. We were blind together in our rage. We were not afraid. We should have stopped and thought, but we didn’t. Years ago, when we were other people, we did things in public, where we could be seen. We were blind together in our pointless rage. We were not afraid. We should have stopped and thought, but we didn’t. Years ago, when we were other people, we did things in public, where we could be seen. We were blind together in our pointless, disgusting rage. We were not afraid. We should have stopped and thought, but we didn’t.

And oh what harm we did.