I love the idealism of this country. The Declaration of Independence is a creed as much as it is a manifesto. In 4th grade I studied the launching of this nation. We believe in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Americans proclaimed in its violent birthing pangs. US history converts children into the American dream. At 8 years old, I saluted the flag with wide starry eyes. My spine stood ramrod as straight as any Marine. My hair hung in pigtails. My mouth said the Pledge of Allegiance “one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all,” My young mind was thinking “freedom to do whatever I want to in order to be happy.” By 6th grade I refused to recite the Pledge, because I knew better. The truth was more important than my country. I silently saluted the flag and spoke to my heart up my own promises. Is the American dream about aspirations or more about economic prosperity? What pledges can each of us make to each other? Where in the American dream is being compassionate? Where is taking responsibility?
Pride in my nation depends on the dignity of the people. I need this country to continue its pilgrimage in acting justly. I want us to talk openly about the 1st amendment. Does the Patriot Act passed in 2001 corrode our freedom of speech? Is creationism still taught in schools as an alternative to evolution and do school children debate freedom of religion? As a child growing up in US schools I wanted liberty to do whatever I want; but now I’ve grown up. I need justice for all to feel national pride. I heard what fascism did in 1939, my freedom doesn’t mean I can take wantonly.
There needs to be fundamental change in tax structure. We can’t have rich Americans hoarding obscene amounts of money. Corporations aren’t beings, they are money machines. We need decency towards immigrants and generosity to the poor. However charity is not structural change. Galtung, a peace researcher, calls structural nonviolence positive peace. Negative peace is the absence of war, positive peace builds the peace movement. We, the 99%, need to refrain from personal violence and find a reform that includes structural change. This change is not just protesting injustices. Does the protest movement voice discontent, it’s one step toward peace. Are the US Occupiers morally persuasive? Let’s each join in knowing that nonviolent democracy has many growing pains. Find a way to help the dispossessed. So as Eldridge Cleaver says, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Dear readers, you who are hungry, curious or piqued, keep reading for synopses on Occupation, Nobel Peace winners, and the wily fall weather.
I spend a night during the week at Occupy Boston. Informally I was asked to provide mental health services at our Occupation. And, actually, many people dropped by the Medic Tent to talk to whomever:
I’ve got a migraine, I can’t sleep… Any extra tissues…
my boyfriend is sleeping with another girl…
my throat is sore,…
My tent mate smokes, ….makes love, …makes noise,….
my monthly blood is late…. I have stomach cramps.
I need Attention. I Need Help. I need others.
Occupiers are sleeping in tight quarters, primitive living with no electricity, no running water, and lots of passionate dreams. I spoke with some transient people who blew into camp imagining the Occupation is a Shangri La. I ask Occupiers, “What is the change you want in the US and how are you practicing that?” Occupiers want to share power in order to practice intentional nonviolence. There is still fear that violence is a “lack of imagination” as Adrienne Rich bluntly states.
Riding on the back of desperation, a sense of hope alights in Occupy USA. This movement can morally persuade the police, like in Albany and in San Francisco. Mic Check. MIC CHECK. (The crowd echoes in the style of the people’s microphone.) We can persuade the 1%.. We can persuade the 1%. I want occupiers to say, We are the 100%: We are the 100% : we are students…, health consumers…, laborers…, migrants…, people of color. Yes, all of us. All 100%. In the dark of the night we look up to the star-studded skies and plea, “May we have liberty and justice for all.” No exceptions.
Field Notes from an Occupier on the Move
October 29, 2011
What a weird weather weekend. Mystery abounds as I make my rounds.
It’s a bizarre confluence of events. On Friday I was steaming fresh gingerroot to make some tea. Ginger tea soothes stomach ails, and stimulates my upper chakras. My tiredness lifted. Chakras are mysterious human energy sources, akin to your soul. Natural herbs are important like pharmaceuticals. Perhaps more so. Natural healers use ginger along with garlic, cinnamon and bright magenta beets to cure such ailments as indigestion, chills, and headaches. Beets help with mood swings; flax seeds help with depression; pumpkin seeds help with UTI. Eat up the insides of the jack-o-lantern, seeds aren’t to be cast aside! Healing is a major niche in the garden of social change. Healing plants tie humans inextricably into the healing of the planet. Why is the word planet and plant so similar?
Saturday afternoon I went to a Peace and Freedom retreat sponsored by boston.wilpf.org. We were 18 women cavorting and scheming. These women for 3 hours talked about building political will. Our movement is slow, like a bear rising up on two feet. I translate political will to mean how do we morally persuade the mass of mall shoppers to move their money out of the Bank of America?
I told the story to my sisters about sitting with 600 people on the steps of the Supreme Court in 1987 with Act UP (AIDS Coalition to Unlease Power) to uphold gay rights. Civil disobedience isn’t something for me to take lightly. Activism changes the minds of Americans when we explain why we’re putting our bodies on the line.
Later I went with 6 friends to a play about Orpheus and Eurydice. We heard about Eurydice’s abduction and view of committed love and eternity. It was a feminist twist on a Greek tragedy as Orpheus wallowed in distress. We emerged from the play with a raging snowstorm howling outside. Was it Oct 29 only? The snow plastered down onto trees and blew away umbrellas. Central Massachusetts and NE got hit worse than Boston. Springfield MA got 20 inches while trees still had dangling green leaves. Two days later 21 deaths are related to the bewitching snowstorm and 500,000 families are without electricity. Happy Halloween. Mother nature had the best costume, coating herself in an October blizzard.
I baked a few pumpkin pies, and in order not to lose sight of my waist, I gave a pie to the new family on my block. They accepted it graciously without checking with the FDA. Friday night I polished a presentation on how OccupyBoston (and OWS) fit into the Nonviolent Struggle, a struggle as old as the first sovereign nation.
Sat morning I went to Earlybird Yoga. I stretched my thigh and Ilio-psoas until I felt like a marathon runner. I felt my breath while curling up from Child’s pose give my muscles a cleansing. No, I’m not Hindi nor do I know beans about Bhagavad Gita, the origin of yoga, or Vishnu the preserver. I layer my Quakerism with mindfulness and yoga. The distance from yoga to Quakerism includes 26 miles of marathon spirituality. I can’t give to the nonviolent revolution if my body is a battlefield. So I stretch out my tight muscles into a vast river of movement.
What’s the right way to celebrate Halloween? In other times Hallow ‘eve is called Samhain, a holy day in pre-Christian Europe. Oct 31 is the mid-point between the equinox and winter solstice. The harvest is finished, the days are dreadfully shorter. The early frosts takes my breath away. Many Americans fill November with fatty foods and glittery stores. Can we deepen our alignment with the meridians of Earth and succulent vegetables? In slowing down can we find renewal? Then although he’s breathing I prayed for the loss of life for Scott Olsen in Oakland CA. I prayed for personal friends and youth violence. Then I pray for the voiceless deaths of those in prison or in slavery or in desolate places. May the message of forgiveness and hope be fortified as we sink into the metamorphosis of our human history. The US is blowing up in a big way, natural disasters, economic debt, and civil arrests. I do believe 2012 will be a fateful year. Even after October 31, happy hallowing.
Have you been paying attention?– there are some incredibly exciting movements from Occupations to the Arab Spring. All of us: women, college graduates and raging granny ground ourselves in the long legacy of NV action, like a silver thread of hope through the US’s violent history. See the post of a chain showing those of us who carried the torch of NV action. See next post on Stellar NV history in the US.