Monday, 04June, 4:14. Occupy attracts a broad spectrum of people. Not surprisingly, a great many of those with the least opportunity to weather the “market trends” are among those filling the ranks of a movement that actually addresses their suffering. These people run the gamut, from runaways, kids from broken families, some from abusive homes, suffering neglect, or struggling with parents indigent, drug addicted or mentally crippled but unable to find help in the current state of our healthcare system. Some have had brushes with the law, survived gangs, or struggled with their own addictions and are working through those burdens through the hope that the Occupy movement might have some affect upon those social ills.
There are homeless people among the movement, many finding community, compassion and purpose for the first time in their life. Some lost those connections, but for whatever reason, negated at the margins of society could not find those things before now. Occupy is their road back.
Others have lost their jobs and in the trauma of this economy, have lost their homes. The ranks of Occupy are plainly peppered with a great many who lost their homes through foreclosure; some illegal, others because without work, housing eventually became an unafforable luxury as well. Think about that. Think about being in a position in which housing becomes a luxury secondary to food. I have been with these people, heard their stories, held them in my arms and marched with them. A few made terrible choices, some made the same confused and irrational choices many of us might make in desperation. Most of them are like all of the rest of us, who take the comfort in our lives for granted, despite that unspoken terror lurking in the shadows of our hearts…there but for the grace of god go I.
So I stopped by the corner of LaSalle and Jackson. There were perhaps a dozen activists there. There are familiar stalwarts; those who maintain the “Occupation” as it were. Up rides an officer on bicycle.. A stocky, muscular guy with a white beard and colorful tattoos on each forearm. His name tag read “Hansen.” I guessed his age to be roughly the same as mine. I’ll turn 50 in a couple of weeks. He looked like the sort of guy I’d have a beer with, and could find a great deal to commiserate with about all sorts of topics. No doubt, although I couldn’t tell for sure, he’s a family man, and looks like he’d be a tough but decent dad.
The lady beside me, roughly the same age as Officer Hansen and me, was one of those struggling to keep her head above water. She was dressed to protest, a quirky soul in sort khakis and a ht covered with buttons, one of which read “Mom.” I didn’t know her story. She held a flowing American flag, and a long flimsy cardboard horn covered in black electrical tape, which she called her “Rahm horn,” hope that Chicago’s mayor would hear her better.
So Hansen calls her over. “Come here, I’ve got something for you and your friends.”
In his hand were two small Xeroxed-no I’m not showing my age here, they were that crude-pages each roughly the size of a postcard. The first had a man wearing a gas mask that read “You Stink.” The other read “Take a bath.”
“You stink,” he said with a sophomoric grin. “No, I’m serious. You and your friends need a bath.”
I was just coming from my office, still in a nicely pressed suit, so I thought it all rather amusing, rather than necessarily infuriating. Consider the source, I could hear my dad saying in the back of my head.
Interesting, when pressed a bit, Officer Hansen admitted his own concerns about being “screwed” by the mayor, as the attack had already begun by the Right and the city against the police and fire unions. The city was still refusing to pay overtime to police officers for the NATO summit, and to honor a number of contract provisions for police officers. It just flatly ignored them, and ignored the FOP and union’s complaints.
To be fair, I had the impression Officer Hansen was more bored than cruel. I had a sense it was a safe and simple thing to “mess” with peaceful Occupy protesters as a means of passing the day, in what would otherwise be a boring afternoon in the Loop: The biggest crimes being the occasional shoplifter at a Walgreens, or a double-parked Taxi.
But officer Hansen is also an example of how this nation of the free treats dissent-as a nuisance at least, and as a crime at worst. It is a supreme example of how the weight of status quo in society overrides clarity in understanding who is ultimately responsible for the definite degradation of this nation in favor of the very wealthy and powerful. Officer Hansen, doubtless is a working class guy, maybe solidly middle class, or maybe fighting to remain middle class like many who now fear the American Dream was an American illusion.
Like those who will vote for Scott Walker in Wisconsin tomorrow, or those officers who unwaveringly follow orders to oppress dissenters against the status quo rotting the soul of the nation, they have become besieged by a corporate media who convinces them the poor, indigent, dissenting and immigrants are the ones they should fear. They are told those people are the ultimate threat to their home and future and livelihood. They are told this by the 1% and buy it all too often despite the plain evidence that the 1% are the real threat, eradicating their pensions, dissolving their healthcare and assailing the unions that protect them from having to face the powerful all alone.
And that is the fight, and the ultimate challenge. Not to convince the 1%, who will not be guilted into understanding their responsibility to this nation, but to convince the 99% of their stake, and to finally recognize which side they should be one.