Here’s coffee darling, I remember how you take it. And you have to eat breakfast before you go, you can’t save the world on an empty stomach.
I’m glad you listened to me with an open mind last night. I’m sorry the Fred Hampton piece gave you nightmares, you should have seen the ones I had when it happened. It pains me to be the one to tell you about such awful things, but if you’re going to devote yourself to the life you are choosing, I am a) qvelling with pride and b) trembling with fear for you. You have to know that changing the world is not a game, and you need to know what the stakes are.
The only truly free choices are informed choices. When they murdered Fred Hampton he was only 21, sleeping in his bed with his 19 year old girlfriend who was pregnant at the time with Fred Hampton, Jr. So as harsh as it is, you need to learn how to keep yourself and your comrades as safe as possible. And — no offense — but you have a way to go in that respect.
Stop getting upset, I am not blaming the victim in your case or in his. But it has been made clear what the moral issues are where Occupy and it’s forebears are concerned. You know now that police will beat the crap out of people, spray gas in their faces and possibly even risk people’s lives or kill them with little or no provocation.
I can tell you that as sickening and frightening as it has been to see, it isn’t new. If they’re loud and annoying enough to the 1%, it can happen to college-bound white kids. For a lot of non-white poor people, it’s “Welcome to my world, and the park I get beaten in has no exits.”
At the beginning it advanced the protest, and a lot of people were willing to suffer police violence. But after a while it no longer helps and, in fact, hurts the cause. How many times does one sustain blunt force trauma to the head before s/he stops looking like a hero and starts looking stupid?
If you offer no way for an 84 year-old activist to contribute other than by getting a face full of pepper spray, if black and brown people, who are always at higher risk, have no other means of contribution but to go through that repeatedly, you haven’t built a movement. And if you don’t build one beyond the steps already taken, Occupy will have squandered a chance to change the world. It will have been a flash in the pan and fodder for right wing propaganda.
Remember: when you make a choice in a crowd, you have made a choice for those near and around you as well. Someone who represents an example by extension of that is Scott Olsen. Only he can know how “worth it” it was or wasn’t. I’ll bet he’d have preferred the movement matured into Occupying things like The Indoors, Voting Booths, Halls of Congress, The Courts and other places in which protest might actually accomplish change. The truth is the “Powers That Be” would love for you to freeze your ass off outside all winter getting busted, beaten, gassed. Just because they might say you “backed down” wouldn’t make it true. Privately they would be saying you got smart.
My friend A. and I agree on this. In my case having been diagnosed with a neurological condition late in life has made me very sensitive to what it is to live with deficits. In her case she ran into a few right wing fascists a few years ago. With her skull. Repeatedly. Living in the aftermath of serious traumatic brain injury, she knows that neurons and, contrary to appearances, dendrites don’t grow on trees. And no cause was advanced and none of those fuckers ever did serious time for trying to kill her.
On the topic of infiltration, the good news is you have no need to implement any preventative measures at this time. The bad news is that’s because it’s too late, you’re already infiltrated to the tits. You have a serious problem distinguishing among friends, allies, unaffiliated but generally supportive types and extremely dangerous enemies who only mean you harm!
When the Oathkeepers offer to do security at your events it is not because they are your friends!! When the Ron Paul followers show up he doesn’t stop being a racist, misogynistic, homophobic Rand Paul siring freak. They don’t stop being a scary cult! I personally have argued until my temper got out of control with a Tea Party maniac who salivated to all her Facebook fans about the “young minds” she “would get” by infiltrating Occupy. They want to get you saying things like “Occupy and the Tea Party have a lot in common.”
Don’t say it. Here is what you have in common with the Tea Party: You can both sometimes be very loud, and neither of you is clear on what comes after “Step 1: Express anger.” Nothing else. Despite the fact that it seems recent history, you weren’t even born when the Tea Party (the Frankenstein’s Monster of the GOP) was really created, so I don’t expect you to know about them. But I do expect you to find out who and what they are before you let them tell you that they’re part of the movement. Before you throw the doors open to them.
On messaging: Stop saying you really have no one message. A) You will not succeed that way, and B) it’s crap. You have had a message from day one. Every successful social movement has one, maybe two clear things to say, and you need to get your message into simple words.
So what’s your message? ”Get the money out of the political process.” Want it shorter? “Overturn Citizens United.” Want to punch it up a little? “Smash the Corporatocracy!” It doesn’t make you a fascist to identify a unifying message and to ask people to stay on it. One reason the GOP has been so successful at dragging the country to the right is they know how to stay on message. It’s easier for them because they just care more for what their corporate masters want them to say.
I have cared deeply about saving the whales since before you were a tadpole, I have wished for Mumia’s freedom for at least that long, I truly wish someone had brought Death to the Patriarchy before I was born into it. And if you wake me up in the middle of the night, I can name 50 other issues I care about passionately because we are leftists and that is how we roll. But none of that means I need now to mention any of it or carry a sign about it. When you are at a demonstration you are there to bring attention and focus to, ideally, one issue.
That is, if you want the kind of clarity that brings results. Virtually every one of these social problems would be lessened if not eliminated if we could “Get the Money Out of the Political Process.” Sheesh, it could be so simple and you’ve made it so complicated.
Alright sweetie, I’m gonna stop. I’ve tired myself out talking again, I have a way of doing that. And I know you have to go meet your friend and try to fix your tent. I’m proud of you and I love you, and I know you’re smart. You always remember to feed the cat and not to carry any you-know-what if you might get busted. I know I taught you right. I’m not so sure about your friend — the nose-ring, it looks infected. Alright, I’m stopping.
(Fake) Mother loves you! It wouldn’t hurt if in between taking pictures of police brutality you used your phone to call me!