Zuccotti Park is morphing in the rain.
I got the phone call from Harragin on Saturday morning, the twelfth of November. He was on his way to Zuccotti Park to be part of the occupation that is the focus of the nation. Would I like to come along for the ride?
When history is being made so close to where one sleeps, it is the duty of all true patriots to make their presence known. When the times calls one to choose sides, it is better not to hide within the comforting walls of blissful anonymity. Wherever people gather to confront the forces of greed and destruction, those of good conscience must enlist in the armies of righteousness. This is not a time to be anchored by quiet desperation. Now is the time to stand up, my friends! Now is the time! CAN I GET A WITNESS!!!
"Uh, New York? This morning??? Um, well....Aw, shoot, Johnny, I've got nothing better to do. I'll come along, what the heck."
First a few words about John Harragin. Other than Kevin Swanwick and Tom Finkle (both of whom you've read about in these pages) he is one of my oldest friends in the world. It's hard for me to even fathom this but we go back almost 40 years. He's always had a keen awareness of injustice and hypocrisy which makes him the ideal traveling companion to witness the Wall Street Occupation in "real time" so to speak. He's also proving to the world that solar power is a viable form of energy. He is now installing panels on his house and in six months time, the entire place will be powered by the sun. He says, "If I can do it, that means we as a society can do it."
He picked me up at around ten o'clock at my house across the road from the adult book store and the tattoo parlor, and we were on our merry way. Traffic was unusually light, even for a Saturday morning, and we made it to lower Manhattan in less than an hour and a half. Parking our car at the corner of Clarkston Street and the West Side Highway, we hoofed it toward Zuccotti Park.
Somewhere along the way we became a bit disoriented and John inquired of a police officer, "Excuse me, sir. Can you tell us how to get to Zuccotti Park?"
"No." was his gruff answer. We were in fact less than three blocks away. John flashed his mile-wide grin and began to gently tease the cop: "Aw, c'mon! I know you know where it is!"
"What do you wanna go there for?" he asked, obviously exasperated.
"We're going there for you!" said John. The guy just rolled his eyes. It was clear that he was fed up with this revolution, and that he just wanted things to get back to normal. How could we get him to understand that things would never be normal again? Best not to even try, I thought. He'll find out soon enough, poor bastard.
I tried to convince him that we were important and respected journalists on a dual assignment representing the National Review and FOX News, but it was all to no avail. It was blatantly apparent that neither one of us were dressed for the part. We looked more like correspondents from Mad Magazine. We'd have to find our way to Zuccotti Park on our own. Fortunately for us this proved to be not too difficult a task.
Arriving at this gathering is hard to put into mere words. If you've ever been an eye witness to something you were certain historians will be discussing a century after your death, you'll know what I'm talking about. There is an energy that is palpable. The people here know very well that collectively they are the seed that will eventually produce the fruit that's going to turn this country around. No doubt about it: Zuccotti Park is the place to be. Y'all come down now, ya hear?
We ran into a guy named Ryan Michael who was giving away purple peace signs (for a small, optional donation) which John and I both purchased. "I give a lot of credit to the people who stay down here at night", he told us, "It's cold!" Indeed a good number of these faithful have been here since the occupation began on September 17. I'll be down here again, of that you can be sure. But if the weather starts to get out of hand, or if some "private security" army like Blackwater rolls into town with violence on their minds, I always have a cozy apartment on the corner of 8th Avenue and West 52nd Street that I can retreat to. These people are the real article. They have no intention of leaving regardless of the personal cost. You gotta love 'em. You just gotta!
If you're naive enough to rely on Rupert Murdoch's propaganda empire for your news and information, you'll be forgiven for having a warped understanding of what is now happening down in Zuccotti Park. In this morning's New York Post Toasties, they ran a front page photograph of some guy they identified as a "Occupy Wall Street protester" being dragged out of some event he was disrupting - in Queens!
Obviously he was not part of the Wall Street occupation, but that's how the Post and FOX Noise do business. They send their cameras down there and seek out the most disreputable (in their minds) people they can find, broadcasting the images as your typical Wall Street Occupier: Filthy, unkempt radicals.
BREAKING NEWS: THEY'RE LYING TO YOU. Film at eleven.
All of the people that John and I encountered on this day were very kind and well behaved. About the weirdest thing I saw was a young woman in a pink dress who ran passed me at full-speed yelling, "I've gotta pee really badly!!!"
Other than that little incident, it was a very relaxed scene. And if some of them were a tad "untidy", well, how tidy would you be after almost two months of being exposed to the elements? I tip my hat to them all. Forgive the cliche, but these are beautiful people.
We came upon a young and intense African American kid named named Dee Jackson who was giving away granola bars. He is going to be turning 21 on the 25th of this month. When we happened upon him, he was in the middle of a debate with a plump young woman who had come all the way from Oregon in an apparent attempt to convert us heathen who would dare try to overthrow America's sacred financial institutions. From New York she was headed straight to Washington DC to volunteer - full time - for the Ron Paul campaign. It was clear that Dee Jackson was not about to be converted. After she politely walked away in frustration, John and I talked to him.
"What people need to understand is that this revolution is in the embryonic stage," he told us. "I'm only 20-years-old and I've been waiting for this moment my entire life."
Dee Jackson is in it for the long haul.
When the movie of the Wall Street occupation is made, the soundtrack CD will have drums - lots and lots and lots of drums. Having taken part in more than a few drum circles in my day, I was in my natural element. Some believe that continual drumming drives away the evil spirits. I think these different drummers are onto something. If the spirits haven't exactly been driven away, they're definitely in a blind panic at this hour.
It's almost hypnotic - and very beautiful. Yeah, something is happening here but I do know what it is. Unlike their counterparts out in Oakland, California, the cops on this day - for the most part - were very nice. I think a lot of them sympathize with the aims and aspirations of the protesters. and why shouldn't they? They are, after all, a part of the middle class that is in the process of being obliterated. And if the cops in Oakland don't yet understand what is happening, I have a funny feeling they'll be understanding it soon enough. I'm just guessing
It would be a mistake for anyone to interpret what is transpiring down on Wall Street as a fad that will blow over the moment the weather hits the freezing mark. The fact of the matter is that weeda people are doing what we should have done 25 years ago. This imbalance between rich and poor cannot possibly continue. I don't know about you but I'm not particularly crazy about returning to a new Gilded Age. This is not just an American phenomenon. This is happening all over the world. OCCUPY THE PLANET EARTH, BABY! Anyone who thinks they can put a stop to this is in for a seriously rude awakening. A historical tide cannot be turned back. Try it sometime.
"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart." -Dorothy Day 1897-1980
We might be near to that point. This is a revolution that is inspired and nurtured by love - love of country, and a boundless compassion for the suffering of humanity. On November 12, 2011, John Harragin and Tom Degan saw it with their very eyes. Come down to Zuccotti Park and see for yourselves! Just be sure to bundle up.