Elizabeth Cook-Romero on Occupy Santa Fe

Photo Journal of an Occupier

The encampment in Zuccotti Park was five days old, when I read about it on the Daily Kos. I Googled Occupy Wall Street, enlarged every photograph and found what I’d been longing to see: a movement lead by young adults.

I shared my discovery with a friend who accused me of ageism. I defended myself, explained that sixty-year-olds cannot lead a revolution. She repeated the accusation.

A few days later, I attended a MoveON meeting and met a women who wanted to organize a show of solidity with Occupy Wall Street. Everyone there embraced the idea. The group chose a date three weeks away. The woman insisted we had to act now. Police were itching to destroy OWS. MoveOn members said rallies need planing. She left. Two days later she sent an e-mail announcing an Occupy Santa Fe protest that Saturday.

On Oct. 1, perhaps one hundred of us gathered by the Bank of America on Paseo de Peralta. Gray-haired men and women outnumbered young protestors, and many of the signs were left over from rallies organized by MoveOn or Uncut US. I had fun but didn’t feel I had witnessed the birth of a revolution.

The next Saturday, our number had more than doubled, but more importantly, we now represented a cross section of the community — young, old and every in between — professionals, office workers, artists, students. We were even joined by a giant puppet that depicted a politician, with one huge ear for campaign contributors and one tiny ear for constituents.

We occupied all corners of the intersection. We marched through cross walks on green lights and ran on red. Most drivers smiled, flashed an upraised thumb or honked. Big-rig horns blasted. A fire truck whuuuped. We screamed that we, the 99%, owned the street.

Only two drives shot me a bird. One yelled, “Get a job.” During the past four months, the only rebukes I have heard are get a job and take a bath. Clearly our opposition lacks imagination.

The next Saturday, Occupy Santa Fe, MoveOn, New Mexican unions and other progressive groups marched on the Round House. Three weeks of planning paid off. There were at least 700 protestors, a dozen information booths, even a soap box where nurses, students and union members stepped up and explained why they were there.

I recalled a time when men in hardhats beat protestors. This movement is different. At least for the moment, we are standing together. We all know we’ve been screwed, and we’ll continued to get screwed until we make it stop.

Some of us marched to the plaza. Word passed though our line that a children’s concert, which was scheduled to end a half hour before, was still going on. We entered the plaza silently, listened to the end of the concert and applauded wildly. A few kids seemed shocked by the ovation.

Later that day, we held a General Assembly in the park behind the Round House. Union members and curious passers by lent their voices to the people’s mic and learned the hand signals that have become hallmarks of Occupy’s horizontal democracy.

We celebrated, though knew we were taunting a monster. Since then — in cities across the nation — thousands of us have been arrested. We’ve been doused with industrial-strength mace. We’ve dodged teargas canisters and rubber bullets. We’ve been shoved, kicked and punched. Our camps have been overwhelmed by the addictions and mental illnesses that plague the forgotten and long-term homeless. We’ve splintered over which tactics will further our cause.

Yet in spite of it all, we are strong, and we’re not going away.

What’s wrong with me? 

by Devon Miller-Duggan: earthquakes, the adjunct teaching life, and Occupy

What’s wrong with me? 

by Devon Miller-Duggan

Right before the semester started here in the next-to-smallest state, there was an earthquake. Then, on the weekend the dorms were supposed to open, Hurricane Irene came barrelling in, bringing tornadoes in her wake. The start of classes was pushed back two days and the frosh ended up moving into their dorms at the same time they were starting classes, which was a lot for them to take in.

So we hit a trifecta of scary Mother Earth behaviors. And the semester started off weirdly. Maybe that’s why everybody I know at the University feels slightly off-kilter. It doesn’t help that morale is already in the dumps because we’re all dealing with an administration that is actively hostile to faculty, terminally tone-deaf with the alumni, and insistently clueless about the importance of the University to the larger community of the state. So the zeitgeist around here is fairly crummy. Teaching is good, but teaching is pretty much always good. Things are fine once I get my draggy self into the classroom, but the general atmosphere around campus is just grey. This isn’t new for me, per se. My relationship to the institution has been conflicted/grouchy/unfullfilling for decades. I’m adjunct, which translates, in this medium-sized, semi-eminent institution to my being krill. Full professors are blue whales. The current administration, with some significant exceptions in the Dean’s office, are giant squid and great white sharks. Being krill is wearing. Teaching is great, but being krill outside of the classroom pretty much sucks. 

Still, I’m not sure either that, or this semester’s peculiarly tough schedule is why I feel so ridden-hard-and-put-away-wet. I’m not willing to entertain the notion that it’s age–and really, I don’t think it’s that. What I am beginning to think is that national politics are actually sucking the life out of me on some level. State-wide politics are blessedly sane-ish in Delaware, almost by tradition (though there are rumors that Christine O’Donnell is going to make another run at a senate seat, God save us). I think the Oakland police gassing the Occupy folks and shooting the Iraq vet in the head, the NYC cop pepper-spraying women, and the continuous flood of hateful untruths spilling from the mouths of various presidential hopefuls and sitting legislators and conservative commentators is just clawing away at my sense of something I don’t really have a name for. It might be less depressing if I hadn’t been raised by people who believed in paying attention to the news and in a fairly optimistic notion of what the American Experiment could achieve. Better, maybe, to have been raised among depressed lefties. 

I was briefly cheered by the thought that this year I’d be able to order a Turduchen from Costco and gleefully avoid a big chunk of Thanksgiving prep. But they’re already sold out. Maybe we’ll go out instead.

The death of Steve Jobs got me thinking–contributing blogger Devon Miller-Duggan is looking for optimism

The death of Steve Jobs got me thinking. Actually, a comment by one of my students about the death and how silly all the public grief was (especially the folks outside the stores holding up their ipads with animated burning candles on the screens). I said I didn’t think it was all that silly. 

Jobs was the last person I could absolutely identify with the sense of what it meant to be an American that I grew up with–the identity reflected in JFK’s inaugural speech–the notion that we were more than competent. We were uber-competent. We could decide to go to the moon and do it. Of course my  sense of our invulnerablilty and our boundless capacity and our commitment to doing good and doing right didn’t last very much beyond that inauguration. Even though I was pretty young, I knew something major was going on in October 1962: We lived in El Paso then and the SAC planes took off at 3-minute intervals for days. No planes of any sort were left on the ground for longer than it took to refuel them. And for some reason, I remember the NATO troops you saw when you went to the PX were particularly stiff and nervous-looking. And, of course, there were the notorious duck-and-cover drills, which even in 4th grade seemed silly to me.

Still, even in the midst of all the upheavals and revisions of the 60s and 70s (we had the National Guard in Wilmington for 5 years after the MLK assassination, so the Small Wonder got its full measure of the chaos), I remember thinking that people’s minds could be moved toward better, stronger, deeper truths–that they could be opened, and that light could shine. 

It’s been a while since I felt that. I had a nice visit from Optimism and Passion back in 2008. then they went away again. 

But several evenings ago the doorbell rang and it was a former student to whom I hadn’t spoken in a couple of years–since she graduated. She’s been working as an organizer of community gardens in Philadelphia–doing the sort of pro-green, pro-community, pro-change work that she’d always planned to do. But there she was on my doorstep with her boyfriend at 9 on a Monday night, out of the blue, freshly and glowingly full of excitement and enthusiasm for their time at Occupy Philly (you can see Robyn giving a press release at 12guageangel on youtube). They’d taken off on a post-gardening-season roadtrip to see old friends with nothing more than their amazingly light backpacks and some vague plans. That’s a sort of adventurousness I never had and am grateful neither of my daughters had, but I admire the heck out of it in others. 

They were brimful of excitement about the Occupy movement. They believe it is genuinely transformative and that it marks a true hinge-point in the country’s history. They Believe. God, I hope they’re right–both about the transformation and about how positive it will be. And I hope they travel safely and remain full of hope and spit and vinegar even longer than we did.