Saturday, September 8, 2012

Going to a First Birthday Party

There is a first birthday coming up on September 17. I was there as an observer in the early moments which were chaotic, overwhelming and amazing. A big party is planned in New York City on the days leading up to the anniversary. I am invited, and whether you know it or not, so are you.

Occupy Wall Street was an amazing concept that came to life with the force of a category four hurricane, threatening to demolish anything and anybody that tried to block its path. It took over our streets and our minds, literally planting itself in the middle of the most important city in our nation and refusing to budge. It was, so it said, here for the long haul and it was going to change the way business got done.

I had to go to the Occupy Wall Street website to verify the movement's continued existence. It described itself as a "leaderless resistance movement"..."using Arab spring tactics to achieve our ends". Yet it is almost the American fall, possibly the most critical election of our time is two months away, and Occupy has not done enough to occupy our minds or impact our votes.

When I went to Zuccotti Park in those first frenetic days almost a year ago, I was very curious, and very excited. The organized march through the streets of the city was unlike anything else I had experienced. I listened to the chanting of slogans, many vying to become the centerpiece phrase for this revolution. I would return on several occasions in the weeks thereafter to the park that served as headquarters for an idea, to feel a part of something that was significant and was giving voice to the concerns and frustrations of so many of us.

The most recent post on Occupy Wall Street's website is in the unmistakeable voice of an equal opportunity criticizer. It faults President Obama as being merely another politician who can be bought and sold, as being no different and not bringing about real change. The idea of Mitt Romney was rejected as being incapable of doing anything but gut what remains of the public sector, destroy what remains of social services and empower corporations to further take over our country. Powerful words.

I had some discussions during those initial giddy moments about what Occupy was and where it should be headed. I thought that this movement's philosophical underpinning was clearly aligned with the Democratic party, with its denunciation of the 1% who were taking over the country, dollar by dollar, and choking out the life and vibrancy of the rest of our population. I thought that for the movement to have staying power it had to eventually choose sides and work to promote the cause of the Democrats, even if it saw this party merely as the lesser of two evils. I worried that without leaders, and without a defined direction, it might be a shooting star that burned intensely and brightly for a moment but then fizzled and fell to the ground.

But, in those first days, I tried to embrace the idea that being amorphous and all encompassing would not eventually diminish its power but would instead expand its universe. It was everyone and everywhere overnight. It was going to shape and change us fundamentally as a nation.

When we are in the moment, it seems like the moment is forever. This image, this snapshot is the immutable and permanent reality. But, fall turned into winter, and the strength and dedication waned. Weather and the demands of everyday life seemed to sap Occupy of its vitality, little by little and day by day. We went back to the rest of our existence and Occupy became merely another slogan. I think I retained a copy of one of the first issues of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, but I am not even sure where it may be.

There is a birthday party planned in New York City  in about 10 days. I may be there to celebrate the most outrageous and intriguing beginning of the revolution that wasn't. Maybe the embers of that star can be stoked and its light shine gloriously and powerfully on us again. Maybe it is not too little, too late to choose a path that will have an impact on this election and the direction that this country is headed. But, one year after the birth, if I do go to Wall Street it will be with far diminished expectations and a much more sober view of the power of this movement to occupy our heads and change our destiny.

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