Understanding the Occupation of Wall Street (an ongoing project)

October 13, 2011

I know I’ve been a bad blogger. I let real life get in the way of things and I forgot about this place and the voice I have here. But this has been on my mind for a little while and not for the first time I am glad to have a chance to let out my thoughts on what is going on in my city.

The Occupy Wall Street protest has been going on for a couple of weeks now and I feel it has captured everyone’s attention. Both for its passion and incoherence, it is a symbol of the general discontent of the people. The problem is, there is so much to be unhappy about, that there is no single cause to fight for, no one symbol to hold on to. So more people swarm to Lower Manhattan and it only seems to get worse and more unwieldy as time goes by.

Now here’s the thing: I look at this ever-unfolding event and I can sympathize with both sides of what has been going on. Don’t hate me for saying this: but I do get what the police are going through. Hear me out before you throw rocks! The police force is only meant to take care of the people of New York in a certain way. They are dispersed throughout borough and they are set up as check points in certain subway hubs such as Grand Central and they generally just keep an eye on things. When there is a big event like a parade or the president is in town (or Lady Gaga), they are generally apprised of it far in advance so that they can mobilize in an orderly fashion and try to keep the peace without people getting hurt. Are the police a perfect group of men and women? Of course not! As a petite woman (I’m 5’2″) who is relatively soft and fragile, I always feel a little safer when I see the blue and the badge. But I have also seen the uniform hold a lot of assholes who abuse these symbols to hurt others. But there are also good people involved like in any other group. But you put all of these officers in a situation that becomes rapidly out of their control and you lose that fiercely trained force and instead get a bunch of nervous, frustrated people with guns. This can never bode well for anyone. Occupy Wall Street was never meant to get as big as it was. That’s why it’s getting so much attention. And that is why the police are acting like rabid teenagers. This goes beyond much of anything they’ve trained for.

And the main reason for their behavior that I can think of is this: no one really protests anymore. Oh, we get those in Union Square about the Civil Right of the Week, but those never really extend beyond the park. Small gatherings of like-minded people venting and hoping to be heard. These are nothing like the grand sit-ins and marches of the 1960s. It was a time for revolution and the world did indeed turn, as it always does. But after that, people settled. Gay rights got in a good turn and they eventually got some of the changes they were after. But the apathetic 80s turned into the “alternative” 90s, where people would rather listen to a band rock out about riots rather than get involved with them. This is how I grew up. Things were fine, things were swell, so why rock the boat? A friend emailed me recently because he had a dream that I went down to Wall Street and I got pepper-sprayed and arrested. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t going down there as his dream really made him nervous. My response was immediately, “…no, of course not. I don’t protest.” And it’s true. I donate, I speak out, and I sign petitions, but I don’t think you’ll ever see me holding a sign and yelling. I like when other people do, but it’s not my style. I hate crowds, I don’t like to yell, and I get tired easily. It sounds terrible, but it’s true. And I almost always believe someone gets hurt at those things.

Which is why while I do understand why the police are acting this way, I in no way condone it. It sort of baffles me when I think that this once peaceful protest is now devolving into groundless violence. I just don’t get it. Why Tony Baloney (thank you Jon Stewart, I will never consider Anthony Bologna anything else) had to mace a couple of women who were already detained, I can’t fathom. The country watches with horror (or if you’re one of those “Crazy Conservatives,” with some satisfaction) as the police take down the protesters with seemingly unnecessary force. Do they need to choke, punch, or rip at these poor people? No, I doubt that. Because the protesters, who are calling themselves the 99%, are tired, broke and tired of being broke. Things aren’t changing, so the population has decided to do it on their own. But as I said before, there is too much to be angry about. So what started as a peaceful gathering is morphing into a mass of incoherence because they don’t know what to talk about first.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination in a bad financial situation. I’m not. But, I have lived in times when I could have been homeless and I have lived through times that meant sacrificing anything to get by. So I do understand the aggravation of the unemployed, the wanderers, and the broken. All I hope is that they can unify under something. Anything. As long as it moves them forward. Because until then, they will just be a mass to be dealt with and the police will just keep regressing further into violence. And I don’t know if the world can turn again on that.

For now, I suppose I’ll keep watching and trying to piece together what is happening. Maybe then I, and whoever else is confused, can begin to really comprehend the whole thing. And this is important because when even the casual observer can take a side, then that is when changes can be made.

To be above all that anger is the first step of true revolution.

This post was inspired by the following video. It was posted on another New School classmate’s Facebook page. As I watched it, I realized how little I understand what has been going on around me not two subways stops away. Maybe if you watch this, you can explain it to me. And then we can all understand.

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One Response to “Understanding the Occupation of Wall Street (an ongoing project)”

  1. Slade Oz said

    Hey, it’s mr_jbauer from Twitter here – another great post on your behalf. I am always in this city too and I think this has been one of the most significant protests in recent history. I was telling the chair of my Department in university that this protest is like the anti-Tea Party. Even Chris Matthews of MSNBC said that the Democratic party would try to benefit from these protestors and aligning with them. Hell you even see celebrity’s jumping on the bandwaggon. I love your 90s grunge reference in the post. That was my favorite era of Rock music. I would dare to say that Rock music (non mainstream) is still very “revolutionary” in its premise. I think these protests will only grow in size. The police has been too rough on these poor guys. What’s next? Throw out the national guard and start running over people with tanks? Geez. Well thanks for this blog post and the honesty you presented. As mentioned, I’m a big fan of yours. If you could, check out my new blog. i just started it up last night.

    http://graveguffaw.wordpress.com/

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