It is a stormy day in Chicago, one hundred and one days after the Occupy protests began. Its been deteriorating all day, enough that O’Hare airport will all but shut down, closing all but a single runway as icy cold gusts of 50+ miles per hour and periods of torrential rain bludgeon the city. Waves to 20 feet will hammer the lake front, threatening to close Lakeshore Drive. Even as the storm worsens there are citizen occupiers manning the post in what has become a war of attrition as well as sacrifice. they may not spend this night, as safety and prudence would dictate, but the citizens I spoke with today would not relinquish this ground lightly.
I met Dave, a former Marine, a young kid, dressed in his old uniform sweater and desert khaki boots He looks like a marine, a little boyish, but with that deep soulful determination imbued in Marines. Just to be sure I threw him a test, asking what the Sith General Order for Marine Corps sentries.
“To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me,” he replied correctly, “all orders from the Commanding Officer, Officer of the Day, Officers, and Non-Commissioned Officers of the guard only.”
No Marine ever forgets the 11 General Orders.
But this isn’t about Dave, just like it isn’t really about the weather. This is about something deeper, something that binds all those elements to the spirit and soul of the movement. It is about The souls who are out in front of the banks, making noise as a constant reminder to the bankers of the protester’s presence. It is about the men and women who stay long into the night and all night in many cases. It is about those who when faced with arrest, when warned that arrest is imminent, they stand and turn and offer their wrists peacefully but resolutely to the police.
I’ve seen these faces before. I saw them in the trenches and frontline buildings in Bosnia, huddled against the cold, on hard ground, suffering under rain and snow for desperately long hours with nothing but purpose and the camaraderie of fellow soldiers. Those faces are eternal among those who stand upon a line for justice and freedom. They are the simple soldiers who risk life and fortune for an ideal. One would expect to find these faces gathering to meet the better armed, better clothed and better trained British troops during the Revolution. These people believe in a better world because they have lost it or fear losing it or fear for a neighbor. It is an ideal far beyond money and more akin to heaven. It is that which exalts them above any banker, corporatist and politician.
The 1% has their surrogates well established in the media. Thos surrogates will point to a nearly empty corner this night as the wind screams along La Salle Street, drives thundering waves against the shore and whips sheets of rain to mock and undermine the movement. They will proclaim this as the movement’s lack of commitment and as a weakness. But I remember how during battle in Bosnia that weather was the final arbiter of all things, dousing or smashing aside all pretense of human hubris. In Chicago and elsewhere the protests may pause through the winter or become sporadic, or change tactics altogether. For all those I spoke with today, and from the very first day of this protest, prudence should hardly be construed as a lack of commitment.
There is no individual gain here, as there was for the Tea Party. To a person in the Occupy movement, it is about the nation and about someone else. The Tea Party movement was immediately a cash generating enterprise, making Sarah Palin and others exceedingly wealthy. It spawned businesses and careers and grew into something dark and self-serving. So far the Occupy movement has resisted all that, and god-willing, that will carry the movement forward.