It’s been quite awhile since I stood on a street corner waving a sign, ingesting car fumes, and encouraging people to honk at me. But the latest round of Occupy events attracted me. I live in a really laid-back community, so the crowd that gathered together on Thursday in solidarity with other Occupy events was small, but enthusiastic. Many participants were seniors from my retirement community. One man had a wonderfully bright Santa hat to catch the attention of passing cars.
We held up U.S. flags, and signs like, “If you get rid of the middle class, who will buy your stuff?” It’s doubtful that anyone in the cars could read the signs, but it made for a colorful waving display. People chanted “We are the 99. You are the 99″ and other catchy phrases that kept us energized.
We were too small to attract much media attention, but there was one man there with impressive camera equipment, and one young man walking around making a video that is undoubtedly already somewhere amidst the mass of YouTube offerings. I didn’t see any police, but there were two security guards in front of a nearby restaurant.
Some in their cars sternly looked away from us while stopped at the long light, while others gave us thumbs up, waves, and honks. We particularly loved hearing the strong blasts of trucks, buses, even a moving van. The one I liked best was a driver who loudly played a rousing Souza march that got me dancing. As I said, it was a looong light at that major intersection.
While the news of other Occupy events was of arrests, violent confrontations, and forcible dismantling of the tent cities, our little Occupy was more like a celebration of the right to gather on a street corner and demonstrate our frustration and extreme disappointment with the blatant corruption and greed that continues to overburden 99% of our country’s residents, forcing American history to a new low — of our own making.
Leaderless, grassroots movements can end up going in many directions — to extinction or toward accomplishing something meaningful. I’m glad to be a small part of what it is now, with some hope for what it may accomplish in the future. Fortunately, there are examples from the 1960s and 1970s where persistence, hard work, and a noisy minority forced change.
I ended my evening catching an old movie on tv that was eerily relevant to why I was on the street corner today. The movie was “Presumed Innocent” with Harrison Ford. His young face, old computer, and the low level of forensic investigation showed how old the picture was. It was a murder mystery that cleverly exposed many levels to dwell on. An innocent man was proven innocent, not because he was innocent, but because there were many nasty secrets to keep to protect an elected official, a corrupt judge, inept police, a wife whose devotion to her family caused her to commit murder, and a husband who protected the mother of his son. In the end, no one could feel good about the web of tragedy they had spun.
At one point in the movie, Harrison’s boss says, “You’re still hanging on to the shreds of your ideals.” Harrison replies, “The shreds of my ideals are all I have left.” By the end of the movie, he had let go of even those shreds. I wonder what shreds of ideals I have left.
Suellen Zima is the President of the Laguna Beach Chapter of the National League of American Pen Women. Her travel website is called Memoirs of a Middle-aged Hummingbird.Suellen recently got interested and involved in Occupy movement.