There is a Welsh saying, let he who would be a leader build a bridge. I want to build a bridge. A bridge between the Occupy movement and my generation, my friends, the moms with mortgages, people from Corning, from Wheaton College, from Harvard Law School. from Washington, from London, from Cambridge, from all my life.
I got to witness the birth of the Occupy movement in England. I had my Samuel moment, gazing with wonder at the baby, so pleased to bear witness. It truly was great. It was overwhelming to me, actually, draining. And make no mistake, I am manic and unbalanced about this. But I think there is an inevitability here, because our cause is just.
The story of the day: my friend and I met in Cambridge and got the train to London and made it handily to St. Paul's for noon. I haven't had my picture taken that many times since I got married, walking to the protest. After a couple hours of torturing myself with essay-length sign slogans, I finally at midnight last night decided on my sign: JUSTICE IS POSSIBLE. Upbeat. Hopeful. Since I joined the Occupy movement, I have seen some of my long-standing hatred and disgust at the direction of humanity be replaced with some hope. My friend was signless.
When I tried to leave St. Paul's Square, though, to find a bathroom, actually, I couldn't. My signless friend was allowed out of the Square by the police, but I was not. I was told to stand in a line, single file, to beg the police, after handing over my name and address, to be allowed to leave. The police told me that I would not be allowed to leave with my sign. The police I was speaking to did acknowledge upon close questioning that actually the phrase "Justice is Possible" is not subversive or likely to breach the peace. But still, I could not leave. That scared me. Suddenly I longed for my children and the feel of their arms, I longed for the sight of Rhys and our family. What do you want? I'm a drama queen.
My friend waited on one side of the police barricades as I lined up to be permitted to walk down a street that my tax money had paid for. We are in a police state. The police are crushing people choosing peaceable assembly. This situation is unacceptable. I didn't get arrested and I still found it hard and kind of awful to be detained against my will and to be penalized by the state for saying what I think.
The plan to occupy Paternoster Square was foiled before it began: large signs outside the St. Paul's tube announced that we would be arrested for trespassing if we tried. This is police intimidation. They had a circle of police officers, on horseback, no less, around the square. So we loitered for a while, when I arrived the crowd was about 700 and it quickly swelled to, by 2:00 or so, a couple thousand people. No matter what space we were in, we were surrounded by the police who effectively blocked off exits, it was very claustrophobic outside of Paternoster Square, and a little better when we moved onto the steps of St. Pauls where I stayed, witnessed the incredible thrill of energy that accompanied Julian Assange's visit, and had a small group discussion.
First, Julian Assange was right. He surprised the General Assembly today. He spoke, he said we were not outlaws because we gathered not to break the law but to enforce it. This is rule of law in its best conception so far, a conception of radical inclusiveness, a conception of fairness. The General Assembly in progress today was fair and peaceful and I was so thrilled to be there.
Now that I have done two of the Occupy London small groups, I can report the following about the crowd: I have had in my small groups people from Egypt, Spain, Italy, Jordan and Canada. The stories people have from Spain and Egypt are inspiring, frightening and wonderful beyond any story I have heard in a long time. Stories of bravery and human kindness. Also in every small group apparently there is a person who is very serious about needing to talk about the alignment of crystals. I shouldn't say this, but to me they are like the comic relief of the movement. Probably next week when I am blogging about an outbreak of world peace caused by an alignment of crystals I will regret that I found them so funny.
We are here in peace and with good will, we are here knowing we are right, that we are on the side of justice, that we, and not the sovereigns have moral authority, that the people, and not the religions have moral authority, and the people and not the corporations truly hold the power.
These are big ideas of justice, huge ideas of moral authority, of human organization, of the failures we as humans have in our organizations, failures that keep people hungry who need not be, failures that mean the most serve the few, failures that mean the culture of our politicians is such that the voice of the people to them is an annoying cry in a foreign tongue. Remember tonight - 100,000 people marched through London the last time I protested (and by protested I mean I was early to my playwright class and hung around for fifteen minutes) and it did not move the government, even one bit, to stop the war in Iraq. The government will not be moved. And the police do their best to starve us of the oxygen of witnesses.
If you think, as I do, that change is possible, that justice is possible, that we could actually live on the earth not in service to banks and sovereigns, but with, as is right, them in service to us, then these guys are your foot soldiers. Life could be free and beautiful. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world. They are fighting. Right now according to twitter where I was sitting a few hours ago, the police are throwing protesters down the stairs. Those are some serious stone stairs by the way.
Don't you want to help them? Don't you believe that the cooperation among humans is essential to the health of humanity? Doesn't your whole world of shopping and competing against your peers seem very Matrix before the red pill? Believe in this change, and put your belief into action, and occupy your own lives not with fear but with love. Reach out to your fellow human beings, fellow Christians, and artists and parents and streetdwellers. Reach out to them and say, you know, we may in fact have a lot in common. Does it bug you that the government keeps giving money to banks? Does it bug you that the culture of politics is to take what you can get, and that ethics and honor have no place there? Are you worried that your children will be wage slaves, lucky if they try very hard and you can afford private school fees to get in the 1%? Are you worried that the great Off Track Betting system that is Financial Services does not serve people? Does it make you sad that food banks are full to overflowing with hungry people? Talk to your communities. Talk to your families. (Also please send food) What will move the government is when this movement spreads to rural areas, to small cities and villages, when the ideas of the occupation - justice and truth - become watchwords for all of us in our own lives. The success of this movement is not the success of those now standing in defiance of our oppressive police state (yes, I said it!). It is the success of bringing together the 99. Please stand together. Or, you know, you could keep shopping. Because nothing ever really gets better and nothing ever will change. Yes, the whole thing is on that much of a knife edge between ridiculous and sublime.But it began today, the 15th of October, 2011. I was there. It began. It will not get smaller and it will not go away.