I can’t wait to tell my children and grandchildren about what I did during the Occupations and the subsequent years. Hopefully, the only complaints they’ll have about their country is that they have nothing to protest like we did. Our list of complaints runs a mile long and more and who is there to listen? It’s not like the Government doesn’t know what’s wrong. The data has been sitting there simmering. The numbers and statistics piling up over the years telling them something profoundly wrong was happening, some terrible injustice being done to the people of this nation.
At this point in time, I am still split on whether or not it’s that the movers and shakers of this country really just don’t give a fuck about the rest of us, or that they’re just that ignorant and believe the talking points some PR and Political flunkies shit out to impress their boss. Does it even matter? Probably not. I don’t know why we’re under such withering assault by people who don’t understand. I guess this is what the Tea Party people must have felt like before they got co-opted by the crazies and the corporations. I regret my initial condemnation of those groups, because it was probably a bunch of well meaning, regular people like us. I guess that’s for a different blog I’ll probably never get around to writing.
All I know is that something beautiful is happening here. Stamp it out and it’ll move and grow in new ways. The things that we are accomplishing are like nothing you can imagine if you’re not involved. Tonight (October 21) for example: during General Assembly, we found out about the Police Raids against Occupy Cleveland. We had a moment of silence to let that sink in and marinate. We were sad and we well and truly meant it from the bottom of our hearts. I don’t even know anyone from Cleveland, and hadn’t even thought about the existence of that city in years. Yet, it suddenly collapsed from that non-state of uncertainty to a point of pain in my head and heart. They were just like us. Tents and tarps; signs and songs; young and old; all of them there to try to make the society we live in better. There’s joy when a new occupation is announced. Cheers for Tucson and Santa Fe and Honolulu. Cheers for us all that we’re not going quietly into that night. We’re here and we’re not giving up.
I had never seen a single soul in this Occupation until I first stepped into the Occupation at 101 Market three weeks ago. Now, these people have the same footprint in my heart that I reserve for lovers and family and close friends. And yet I barely know them! Most of them I only know their faces and the way they make my heart feel when we talk or hug or hold hands.
After the raid last sunday (10/16) something changed within me and I stopped joking to myself that I was ‘playing revolutionary’, because I hadn’t been for days. I had been spending hours a day at Camp, I was serious and I was living it. It really is about making a better world. One I can be proud to pass on to my children and grandchildren. I cared about people, I just wanted to cry out to the police: “Please! Let me show you what’s in my mind! These are lovely people! Feel my heartspace for a second!” I just wish I could go into the Mayor Lee’s office and share with him the memory and feeling of the smile on a man’s face as we gave him a hot meal that he didn’t have to dig out of the trash. Clean water so he’s not dipping his cup in a puddle or trying to sneak a drink from the Subway fountain when they’re busy and can’t yell at him. It’s not just seeing a broken, grown man smile, it’s that it’s a real smile; that he’s truly grateful and for a short while, he’s found somewhere he can sleep in safety and call home.
What is it that scares the “Powers that Be” about our movement? Is it that threatening that we feed, clothe, clean and house people without asking anything in return? We haven’t even made demands yet, and might not ever! We’re creating micro-autonomous zones, alternative living situations, and alternative political situations. We give of ourselves and are having the time of our lives doing so. I’ve never been so happy or fulfilled, joyous even!
I fail to see what city governments have against the Occupations. You didn’t make this mess, the Federal Government did. Talk to us! Work with us! We’re natural allies. You are imploding because the corporations aren’t paying taxes. We are fighting for a lot of reasons, but we are fighting to make them pay their fair share. In that alone, we should at least be on friendly terms. What side of history are you going to be on? Main street has turned against Wall Street. Don’t bury us in permits, come to us and tell us how you are going to help us be better. We’ll do all the dirty work, just get off our backs while we do it. And if you’ve got it in you, give us the tools we need to work and live and deliver services that you no longer can, better than you ever could!
I could spend entire days telling the stories of the people I’ve met. Or where I’ve done amazing things as part of this movement, and my failures. It’s a learning process. I’ve got no experience with half of the things I find myself volunteering or rising to the occasion to do. Public Relations? Liason between Occupations? Fact finding? Public Speaking? Drafting a document to deliver to a legislative body (the General Assembly)? Hell no! I am the Customer Service Supervisor for a Porn Company. I spend most of my days talking with people about how to get their computer to play adult movies. I should be spending my time lazing about bed or making mischief in Castro, not on the front lines of whatever this is. But I can’t even go back to that life anymore. That was then and this is now. Life before the Occupation.
Heh. And here, people accept me for who I am and what I do. I’m not accepted because I’m someone’s fetish, I’m not accepted because I’m the “funny fat guy”. I’m accepted because I’m there and I’m family and tribe and friend and comrade and ally and brother! All in one! The things I do have a demonstrable and quantifiable impact in the lives of people. I’m talking to people from all over the world and from all walks of life.
I’ll never look at a homelessness the same way again. I have nothing but infinite compassion for the people who are caught in this awful cycle. I’ve camped at the Occupation in Justin Herman Plaza when people barely knew me. All the ‘good’ spots were taken, and that’s saying something. I ended up settling in a spot that smelled like really old piss, half hidden behind a trash can and a recycling can. I slept on top of everything I brought out with me and fell asleep to the sound of trucks and buses wheezing past, and a group of people quietly playing guitar and singing. I kept waking up thinking I was covered in ants. Then spiders. Finally, I woke up as everyone else was getting up and making breakfast and felt exhausted. You can’t really get a good night’s sleep laying on the concrete, no matter how expensive your sleeping bag. I guess at a certain point, you’d deaden yourself to it all and just shuffle around and sleep wherever and whenever you could and stop caring.
Do we have an image problem? Yes. Do we have a communications problem? Yes. Do we have a lot of work to do? Yes. But you know what? We’re 8 weeks into a new social movement. It’s ad hoc piled on top of ad hoc on top of ad hoc and somewhere way down underneath all the popsicle sticks and duct tape compromises, there’s a bunch of stuff that looks really nice on paper. But we’re making it work for us, for you, for everyone. Most of us aren’t the ‘dirty hippies’ that people always see first. It’s much easier to remember the negative, especially when something so alien and incomprehensible as the Occupation stares you in the face. We work. We work and work and work and work. As much as you. We pay our bills and have nice things. We’re allowed to because just as much as we’re Occupiers, we’re also you.
And now I’m home. My apartment on Duboce street is just where I sleep now. I lay in bed and think about the faces and heartshapes I care about. I think about what I could have done better and how I will do better tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. That’s all we can really hope for at this point: Do amazing things now, and hope we’ll be here doing the same thing tomorrow. I guess that’s pretty much what life is too. I’m no longer just surviving, I’m living the shit out of my life. At least until Mayor Lee and the SFPD say otherwise.