You say you want a revolution? Well, you know —the first thing you have to do is show up.
So I did, with my kids.
The skies were dreary last Sunday afternoon at Emmet Park on Bay Street, and I figured the Occupy Savannah people would’ve packed up their signs and gone home once it started raining.
“That would make them pretty weak protestors,” pointed out my 11–year–old son. “I bet they’re still there.”
He was right. Phoenix Godwin, a 20-year–old writer who organized Occupy Savannah in four days using Facebook, started up before 9 a.m. and was still going strong at 5 p.m. as the winds buffeted his plastic rain poncho.
“This simply had to happen here,” he said, sweeping his arm along the line of 40 or so folks holding signs along the curb. “Our government is owned by corporations that are destroying the economy and the environment. This is about the future.”
Godwin says the crowd mingled and mixed all day, swelling to around 75 in the early afternoon. Donations of bottles water, donuts and a tray of sandwiches from nearby B. Matthews appeared throughout the day. Trucks and trolleys honked in support.
Michelle Solomon and her son, Oliver, brought chalk and markers to keep little hands busy. The leader of the local Redneck Party handed out red bandanas representing solidarity with the nations’ workers. Musician Basik Lee strummed his guitar and smiled, listening to the diverse crowd exchange ideas.
“The best tool we have is sharing our knowledge,” mused Lee. “It seems to me people are reassessing what’s valuable and how willing they are to fight for it.”
Godwin says he plans to stake out Emmet Park all week and invites everyone to come join what’s become a nationwide call for change.
I hope his mother’s really proud.
Our family has been talking all week around the dinner table about the Occupy Wall Street movement, about how a lot of people have lost their jobs, or gone to an expensive college and can’t find a job, or have three jobs and still can’t cover the power bill.
“You know how your little sister likes to pour your hair gel down the drain with the faucet running because it bubbles?” I asked my son. “Well, that’s kind of what some big corporations and banks did with our tax money and now everyone’s pretty pissed off.”
He nodded, touching his coiffure protectively.
People aren’t just angry, we explained. They’re confused and scared, because we’re all taught that if you work hard and do what you’re told, everything will be all right, and if it’s not, then you must be doing something wrong.
But it’s not that people don’t want to work or aren’t working hard enough, it’s just that the way our government and corporations and the economy work together makes it harder and harder for individual people just to get through a day without feeling punched in the stomach.
“It’s like being bullied,” he remarked. Yep.
So people started gathering in a park in New York City. Then more came, and now people are congregating all over the country in big cities like San Francisco and Atlanta and in small towns, too. Students, soldiers, retired teachers, truckers, artists, businessowners — they all keep coming.
Standing together feels better than moping at home, and it’s a real relief to find out others have noticed that things just don’t seem very fair in this freest of free countries. When enough people show up, maybe the bully will be smart enough to stand down.
That’s how revolution happens, kids — take France at the 18th century. Actually, since we’re not down with public executions, that’s a bad example. Better the Czech Republic’s Velvet Revolution. Or the Civil Rights movement. Or Egypt just a few months ago. Regular citizens fed up with the status quo can change a system in radical ways.
I wasn’t sure any of this was getting through to my kid until I found him on the couch leisurely reading my old copy of The Anarchist Cookbook .
Most of us have lived on the block long enough to know that the problems generated by life and politics and economics are far too complex to be solved by carrying a sign. But the Occupy Wall Street movement isn’t just about individual or partisan issues — it’s a collective howl from American’s disenfranchised.
Maybe it will reach a tipping point that effects change at the highest levels, maybe everyone will get tired of standing in the rain and go home.
But at least now the kids know how it’s done.
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.