“Please don’t get arrested.” These were some of my stepdaughter’s parting words last night. We’re visiting New York City and feel the magnetic draw of the protests going on in Lower Manhattan, protests now being replicated in cities around the country and even the world.
I’ve also been told by my kids to turn my music down. Of course, I don’t listen. I’m a Baby Boomer after all, and I grew up thinking that you can’t trust anyone over 30, and if it’s too loud, you’re too old. I’ve given up the former, having passed 30 decades ago, but it’s my kitchen and I’ll dance in it, dammit.
Maybe I’m naive, but I’m not concerned about getting arrested. We took a preliminary look early yesterday as we wandered down to Washington Square Park, where protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement held a meeting the day before (having relocated due to growing size). Not much was going on yet, though we did see a small band of young men marching with signs and chanting, “We are the 99%!” A number of park police were milling around, with other police cars circling. Interestingly, the Starbucks at the corner claimed its restrooms were out of order. The park was filled with young people waiting, with “Occupy” written in chalk on the concrete — near another sign with an arrow pointing to “Jam Sesh.” In the meantime, a father threw a football to his son. Other families brought their children to play, as though it was a typical Sunday. Later, I saw a woman about my age with a sign — she is one of the 99% — and more evidence that this is not just a movement for unemployed young people.
When I needed to find a restroom, we had to walk several blocks away. I thought about the politics of bathrooms, recently described in one way in the book The Help, and now shown to me here, in this day and age, as a way to discourage protest. Hit people at the point of their basest needs. We eventually found a place that welcomed us as long as we purchased something — which I always do anyway. Inside one of the coffee shops, a group of young people were gathering. A sign outdoors invited people to come in and “join the movement. So, apparently not all business owners are disgruntled about the protesters — some welcome them.
We left before the day’s main event — after all, our primary plan is to visit Sarah. We had a normal day in New York, taking in a Sunday matinee of the musical Follies with Bernadette Peters. How does that woman stay so gorgeous? She’s ten years older than I am. Sure, one can get “work done,” but she has the trim, fit figure of a woman much younger. And her voice is amazing. I wasn’t wild about the musical, but she’s fabulous.
Today, though, we plan to head down to the protests. We attended last year’s Rally to Restore Sanity, and it feels as though Occupy Wall Street provides an outlet that the rally did not. While the rally provided plenty of entertainment and a spirit of solidarity, it was clear that something else wanted to happen, needed to happen, in order to shake up the status quo. A lot of younger people were disappointed that the rally didn’t provoke a movement, so they set up their own.
Normally I’m not political here at A Woman’s Nest, but I would just like to say this: Americans, regardless of political affiliation, have the right to assemble and to demonstrate. The media first ignored the protests, and now have begun to villify the protesters. I have seen enough online to not trust what’s being reported in general, and I want to see for myself what is happening.
Here’s what I do know: I am neither young nor a hippie. My husband and I are not on the dole in any way, shape or form…and yet I, too, worry about the infiltration of corporate interests into our government, including the Supreme Court. I get angry when I hear of hard-working Americans losing their jobs and then being treated as though it’s their fault. Yes, there are always people gaming the system, but I believe those represent the minority. I grew up in a household where manufacturing was the primary industry, and unions helped my father earn a living wage to support his family. Those people that I grew up with worked hard and were the backbone of this nation — so I know they are not the lazy bums that certain politicians would have you believe that they are.
I have a sister who is a teacher, and I know that much of the nastiness in the media about teachers is not true, either. She works hard, including during the summer, and is a single mom. She tutors on the side to earn extra income, and has coached as well. She is hardly living high on the hog.
I also know that unarmed people who have been corralled into a pen don’t need to be pepper-sprayed.
This is why I need to see for myself what is happening at Occupy Wall Street. I am a proud American who loves my country and wants it to be better, and I support the passion of those who march in hopes that they can make a difference. And, in case you plan to ask me, I support that right for Tea Partiers, too, even though I find their politics distasteful.
My plan has been to focus on “lightness” this month, but part of lightness is having freedom and a government that works for the good of the people, so I intend to explore more of that this week. At this point I don’t know how the blog will look — normally I have my book and blog recommendations and some sort of feature. I may or may not deviate from the plan this week. Sarah said, “Please don’t get arrested.” My friend Samantha said, “Please don’t get hurt.” I don’t plan on either, but if we’re writers, we can’t pass up a good story. This turmoil, this messy democracy, the cries of the people — none of it is “light.” But perhaps, as this group begins to find and articulate its message, we can see down the road a lighter future for our country. I hope so.