Protesting From the Bleachers…For Now

Today can be considered the second day in what I like to call “National Jewish Depression Week.” This is the week between Rosh Hashanah that leads into that most wonderful of holidays, Yom Kippur or as it is known “The Day of Atonement.” It is the week, where even if you have not gone to a synagogue in ages, your blood is going to remind you in some way that you are still Jewish. This is the time where my ancestors come knocking on my door and say, “Why Bruce. Why?” And I answer “How the hell should I know, I am trying to figure it out!”

There is a lot to think about these days. And National Jewish Depression Week is a good time for reflection. One does not need a rabbi to be prompted to reflect on one’s life. And people of all races are inherently moved in this direction. Like Levy’s rye bread, when it comes to reflecting “You don’t have to be Jewish.”

A protester is arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge during an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York on Saturday. Police reported about 700 arrests after traffic on the bridge was blocked. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

This morning the news that greeted me was that 700 protesters were arrested for marching over the Brooklyn Bridge in the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest. I have watched daily reports and films from the streets all week. I have to admit that I would love to join them, but the truth is, I am afraid of being arrested.

I have never been a big marcher. I was a teenager during the Viet Nam protests. The only protest I ever went to willingly was in Central Park when I was 14. Admittedly, I went with a friend, and  because we heard Stevie Wonder was going to be there. He never showed, but we spent the day smoking joints and eating free food from the Hari Krishnas.

I was also there when in 9th grade some local college students came to the high school and led us in an anti-war action. I was there when the students of Cardozo High School shut down the Long Island Expressway for a few hours. Present in the fact that I was standing at a bus stop watching from a distance and thinking “cool.”

Occupy Wall Street is a movement that needs all of our attention. It is interesting how the media is treating this like it is minor, but we all know who owns the media. And as one of my friends posted this week, hundreds have been arrested for peaceful protesting, but not one banker who caused this mess has been indicted.

The image that constantly passes through my mind is the smug face of the Citibank president walking out of a hearing a few years back. The guy looked tan, coiffed, expensively suited and untouchable. The only thing I could visualize at looking into this assholes’ face is that he should be swinging by the neck from a lamppost somewhere on lower Broadway.

We are all victims of these robber barons. Why are they off the hook? The truth has not visited them yet. It needs to. They keep on going with impunity, while those suffering the most dire consequences of their actions, get the benefits of incarceration.

Yesterday we received a letter from CitiBank stating their new fee structure for checking accounts and debit cards. One more fee they want to pass off to us. God forbid they should forego a little profit in favor of keeping customers. The letter states that the fee will be waived if you maintain a balance of 15K in your combined accounts. It used to be 5K. It is clear that these people are so divorced from life on this planet, that there is not a single human feeling left in them. And our police force continues to stand out there and protect them, harass us, while their own 401Ks are rapidly being flushed down a toilet, along with everything else.

It is hard to see where this is all going. We hope it does not turn violent. The protesters must stay resolute to their approach, and the whole country must stand behind them.

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money. —Native American proverb

We cannot eat gold either. We need the return of humaneness.  The consumer culture is dying. We cannot eat big screen TV’s or iPhones, game systems, or automobiles. But we can invite each other over for dinner.

Facebook is a very useful tool. There are many in my generation who feel that it is trivial, but I do not agree. I think it is one of the greatest networking tools ever created in this digital era. In a time where it is hard to find community, there is the evidence of one on FB daily. There are people who I have conversed with in other towns, states and countries. I have attended reunions and conferences, opportunities that originated on FB. I am in discussions right now with someone in New Zealand about the possibilities of showing my work there. And even if it never happens, without FB, it is not even a consideration. My work has been shared internationally and last night I attended Laurie Lipton‘s opening in New York. An artist whom I have followed for years, I finally got to meet and chat with. And I have been following the daily reports of friends who have ventured downtown to support the Occupy Wall Street as well as protests popping up all around the country. It was not intended when I started writing this, but FB is as important to the question of “Community’ as anything else. It is the beginning of aType 1 connection that Michio Kaku speaks about where we are connected on a planetary level.

The last thing I wanted to share is a video. It is from a man I have written about and whom I met two years ago at a democratic education conference. His name is Ira and some have called him Ira the Irate. If he is irate, he has good reason. Ira spent a good deal of his life incarcerated, and he is now dedicated to being a positive voice. For me, he represents the kind of dialogue we need to have. ALL OF US. The color, gender and class boundaries need to be erased so that a healthy exchange can happen between human beings who all have the same problems.

There is a Lenny Bruce bit I remember hearing as a kid where he stands in the school yard center and calls all the various ethnic groups together and makes an impassioned speech: “my black friends, my jewish friends, irish, italian and greek. We must all stand together…so we can beat up the Puerto Ricans!” Now I love the Puerto Ricans, but maybe what I am saying is we should all band together and beat up the Bankers! I think Lenny Bruce would agree on editing that joke.


2 Comments on “Protesting From the Bleachers…For Now”

  1. It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. — Henry Ford

  2. Diane says:

    Ira is right: we could all eventually be throwaways if we don’t take a stand. I’m really proud of all the young kids who started this movement. It made me feel confident about the next generation of adults.

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