Sunday, December 25, 2011

and Joy... to the World

I took my sister to Liberty Plaza last night. It was her first time, and she wasn’t comfortable twinkling or shouting or holding one of the freedom fingers—the candles in the shape of a large fist with a middle finger raised high—but she was there.

I wasn’t going to take a candle either—just pictures—but someone firmly handed me his wax hand even as I said, “But…but these hands play with play-doh!”…Peer pressure is a powerful force.

So, feeling a little light-headed—and very light-fingered—we joined the wild and freezing mob huddling for warmth around the big circle that used to be full of plantings and now appeared to have some sort of landscaping fabric over it. The trees twinkled, the park security in day-glo vests watched, we lit up.

Eventually we decided to go visit Wall Street. It was spontaneous enough that there weren’t many police when we arrived. Some steps were briefly mounted on our way, but we ended up on the sidewalk across from the Stock Exchange with no harm nor foul. Its pillars out front were flood lit a deep red. Someone in the crowd announced that it was unfortunate as a color choice, since it was the color of blood. I decided that it was the color of communism (better red than dead?), and just enjoyed the pretty lights. Some of us started to sing (though the number of people who just hummed after the first few words of Silent Night was regrettable. I soldiered on, but wished I hadn’t just spent ten minutes chanting myself hoarse. Urgh.)

There was some philosophical discussion—do we say Fuck the Cops when someone else mic checks it even though we don’t approve of that message because of its divisiveness? Or do we have that conversation in private because solidarity in public is important? (It would be nice if people didn’t Mic Check things that others might be uncomfortable shouting, but I guess that’s an even more awkward conversation to have…)

And there were speeches: earlier at Liberty someone had spoken about how the middle finger was a form of speech and free expression. In front of Wall Street, someone stood on a piece of sturdy street furniture and told us to pay attention to this moment. In twenty years, we would remember this night with tears in our eyes.

Folks had such a good time, they decided they should finish the GA there. But the wind was hard and sister and I did not feel up for staying for the GA, so we turned and walked back up Wall Street. It was a little unnerving: walking with a large and rambunctious group of young people past silent cops is one thing, walking past when it’s just you and your equally short sister is quite another. (One young man turned to the livestream earlier that night and explained that he didn’t want to do X because he would get arrested, and “I’m too cute to go to jail!” …our sentiments, exactly…)

So, we wrapped ourselves in our adorableness and, as we strolled the long way around the cold metal barricades, started singing.

That was a moment I will always remember: up a dark and windy Wall Street towards Trinity Church, watched over by vaguely miserable blue angels, singing “Silent Night”… or at least the first one and three quarters verses of it… My sister and I sang together for solace and for solidarity.

There were no tears for once, just joy in the quiet moment.

May all your days be merry and brightly lit, and may all your revolutions be filled with such joy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tidings of Comfort

When I was 16, a mental health professional told me that she thought I’d be ok for 4 reasons. I forget what the other two were, but one was because I still had a sense of humor and the other was because I was still able to feel discomfort.

People who go through severe/extended trauma can, for obvious reasons, numb themselves. Some do it through alcohol or other external measures, others transform their hearts and minds so that they are safe inside… deep inside… and nothing bothers them, nothing disturbs them… nothing really matters, nothing hurts at all…

It’s really not comfortable following General Assemblies and Spokes on twitter when there’s shouting and “just a joke” that isn’t funny and pain and ignorance and disappointment and panic…

But I just wanted to say—I am glad that people are speaking up and sharing their discomfort. It’s hard to read and I expect it’s harder to participate in. But please—please keep your sense of humor (the sense of it, not the brush-off/excuse of “it was a joke” but the true making-fun-of-the-powerful and the comfortable and the self) and please (oh please) keep your ability to feel discomfort.

Consensus doesn’t mean everybody’s happy all the time. It means that everyone works together to find (a) solution(s) that everyone is comfortable with. In the mean time, there will be awkward and uncomfortable moments. They are part of the process, a sign that you’re doing important work, not that you’re doing it wrong.

I’m not qualified to say if you’re doing it right.

But I’m so fucking glad you’re doing it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Forgot to post this earlier! Oops!!/AliaGee1/status/149191796432437248/photo/1 and!/AliaGee1/status/149191791743205377/photo/1 were both taken yesterday.

In case you are not familiar with the area, that's the tree in the courtyard of Bloomberg's corporate headquarters. I took!/AliaGee1/status/149192953896771585/photo/1 to give a sense of location-- that's the Bloomingdales' cafe directly across from the tree.

There were a lot of police officers in very fuzzy hats, so I was very nervous. Especially since I was carrying around a 6' long poplar plank--hard to look inconspicuous, with that much wood. So I gave up on inconspicuous, and just worked slowly and made sure I stayed on the sidewalk.

Really, I need others to help me if it's going to be anything more than one furtive tent. And I don't think I have the ovaries to actually enter the toilet bowl (If you stand where the tree is and look up, the walls of the skyscrapers curve around you. It feels like you're at the bottom of a toilet bowl and someone is about to do some trickle down economics on you, hence its nickname).

There was one awkward moment when I was trying to get a good shot of the tree, and a helpful passerby said, "It's a great tree, isn't it. It would be even more beautiful if you stood in front of it. I'll take your picture!"

Argh! Wrong kind of helpful!

 "It's alright, I won't steal your phone," he said, misreading my hesitation.

Cue awkward honest moment, "Actually, this is kind of a political picture," I said, flashing the tent at him, "And I don't want to involve you because I don't want to get you in trouble."

His eyes got really big, then he smiled and said, "Aw, you're cute (or adorable, or something vaguely patronizing but still mostly accurate and not actively insulting)," and walked away still happy, and me still with my phone not falling out of my frozen-yet-nervously-sweating hands.

Win-win, really.

I'm not sure that's the closest a tent has gotten to Bloomberg, but it made me happy. And, besides the nervous sweat, it was surprisingly fun.

And, as brilliant husband said, that's what all this revolutionizing is about: The freedom to have fun.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So you want to be a Protestor

I don’t remember if I mentioned, but I didn’t just donate meals to the OWS Thanksgiving Event in November—I also picked up a book from the People’s Library.

So You Want To Be a Wizard was a magical book that I found in my own public library when I was ten or eleven. The long shelves back then were crowded with good books—I was lucky to have access to a small library with excellent librarians. But this particular novel was special to me—a glamorous older heroine (13!) who talked to trees and had help with her bullies from a magic book that caught her attention (snagged her finger, no less) on her own small but good library shelves.

Nita was me. (Side note: It’s only now as I re-read it that I notice that Juanita is a Hispanic name and that Kit’s family spoke Spanish—he was no doubt much darker than any of my Central PA friends. But at the time, that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book or my identification with the characters for one second. Hey, book publishers, please notice that when publishing future books!)

Anyway, to find the glossy paperback among the small but tidy collection at Liberty Plaza was a truly special moment for me. Fellow friends of books will understand: when a book is a childhood chum and not just a story, when you meet up with it again, it can be magic.

Since then, I’ve been reading the book to Older Son as our special Friday after school treat. While Little Son has his extended day at nursery school, we drink hot chocolate and read about Nita and Kit learning how to face monsters using their wits and The Book of Night with Moon.

Those moments, when he’s cuddled up next to me, biting his finger or slurping his chocolate while Kit shoots fire at flying helicopters, they are magic, too.

And I’m grateful to Occupy Wall Street for all sorts of wonderful and frightening and real moments—but also the magic of the unreal, as Older Son and I dive into fantasy… with hot chocolate. We’re already halfway through the book, and I will be sad when we’re finished. It doesn’t have the OWS People’s Library Stamp—that got destroyed in the raid November 15th. But someone wrote “OWS” on the top in Sharpie and I know where I got it.

The thing about libraries is that the books are for sharing. Just like all wealth in a community, it does no good sitting still or being hoarded. Enjoy it, use it, pass it on, create a life with magic for someone else. When I can't cook or carry signs or write letters to the President, I can still share some magic with someone I love. 

That's a kind of protest, too.

So I will pass the book on when we are done—and in the meantime, I’m passing on this link:

…and I hope that you discover many magic moments in books and in life.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

For future reference:

One loaf of Arnold whole wheat bread makes 9 sandwiches

Half a jar of Arrowhead Mills organic creamy peanut butter makes about 12 sandwiches

Jelly to taste.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dear Mr President (from Twitter)!/AliaGee1/status/147342424816099328/photo/1

I am a concerned mother and citizen. Your phone was busy so I am sending you a and a .

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An open letter to people who dismiss Occupy

Dear person who does not want to occupy,

I see that you are skeptical of Occupy Wall Street.

I see that angry young people shouting makes you dismiss Occupy as angry young people.
I see that cute kids painting makes you dismiss Occupy as crazy parents.
I see that old people being pepper sprayed makes you dismiss Occupy as hippie rejects.

I know that angry responses make you dismiss Occupy.
I am getting angry
And I don’t want to dismiss you.

I think you have a story.
I think you are angry, too.

Are you angry at yourself?
That you can’t work harder?
That you don’t get to see your kids enough?
That your parents can’t make ends meet on Social Security?

Are you angry at the government for using your taxes to fund bankers’ bonuses and there’s nothing you can do about it?
Are you angry that everyone keeps lying about everything?

Go ahead, be angry. Be angry at Occupiers, even. Heaven knows we are not perfect and get a lot of things wrong. And if it isn’t rage, it isn’t even skepticism, it is something inexplicable and grey but yours—that’s fine, too.

Be skeptical.
Be angry.
Be dismissive.
Until you cannot.

Hopefully, we’ll still be here.

But please forgive us if we are sometimes impatient.
We are greedy: we want your voice, we want your story, we want your inexplicable greyness.

Without you,
The center cannot hold.

Without you,
Our solidarity is limited and incomplete.

Impatiently yours,

Hearts, with more Boing

So boingboing posted a very sympathetic post about the Events of Saturday, and I showed up near the bottom of the comments with my usual enthusiasm and flailing. And because I am nothing if not honest about my flailings, I thought I would re-post my words here, too. Might be helpful for others who are faced with similar questions/concerns in the future.

(First post)

I was there-- my kid was in the blue coat and the black hoodie, talking, painting, and frolicking. He's seven years old, and I always ask him before we go to an OWS thing if he wants to go or not. (The same with my 3 year old-- who usually declines.) The only time my son hesitated was when I wanted to walk with the unions two weeks ago. He was excited to go and bounced up and down-- then he paused and said, "Will there be riot police there? I don't want to go if they'll be there. They kinda spook me."

That's why we went on this most recent protest. Because, in my house, we define bullying as someone using fear to get you to do something you wouldn't otherwise do.

(BTW: My son also cried the one time I voted without him; he really wants to be a part of it because I've told him it's our civic duty. He wants to join the military when he grows up to defend America. ...And he says on weekends he'll come protect the protestors...)

It's a complicated thing, but I know he felt empowered that he started a chant at the union march and twenty grown-ups followed him when we marched with the teachers' union. He bragged about it for the next week.

I wish I had felt that powerful when I was 7.

(Oh, and is a piece I wrote up that night about our experience. I haven't seen anyone else mention the Santa that went over the fence...)


(Second post, in response to a previous "I don't understand what they were doing! Why did the kids cover their eyes! It Makes No Sense To Me..." sort of post)

I believe the symbolism of covered eyes, as it was explained to us, was that we were protecting our kids from the images of police brutality that were on the signs in the background.

First the kids lined up and sat down, then we went behind them and were handed the posters facing away from the kids and the cameras. Once the kids' eyes were safely covered so they couldn't see the images, we turned them around and did the Foley Square part of the protest. Then we gathered the pictures back up and put them away and the kids could look around safely again. It was both a real way of protecting them and a symbolic "Look, this is horrible stuff we don't want our kids to see. Do you want your kids to see it? Do you want to live in a country where this is acceptable behavior?"

I could be wrong, but that's how I saw it. 

(Third post, in response to a nice comment about me and my kid)

It gets awkward when he starts shouting stuff that isn't exactly what I agree with. (He's not much into nuanced argument.)  I know everyone thinks that he's parroting my opinions or that at the least I've fed him lines-- but the one time I made a sign for him to carry (Whose future? My future!) he said, "No, Mommy, I have my *own* idea for a sign." ...Caught repressing my own kid. How embarrassing... :*)

(Fourth post, in response to people who said variations on, "Well, what did you *expect* to have happen? How could you drag your children into a potentially violent confrontation? For shame!")

...oh, and we were actually about to leave-- the kids needed naps-- in one of the videos you can hear a woman we mic checked thanking the organizers and saying it was her first action with POWS... we had more hearts than tape so they hung up some shopping bags with the last thousand hearts on it... and I really thought that was how it was going to end. We would wave to a few more drunk Santas and sing our OccupyCarols on the way to the Subway with tired feet.

I didn't expect the hearts to last ten minutes after we (and the cameras) left; I don't think any of the parents did.

I don't think any of  us expected the cop to rip the hearts down in front of us, though, either.

And I do think there is a difference between those two endings.

(Fifth comment, because I just can't stop. Especially when a poster writes, "So, did they just leave their trash at the park without picking it up")

We gave Bloomberg a gift of 5000 hearts neatly lined up and in easy to carry shopping bags. There wasn't any trash until the police started tearing things.

And yes, some of us did pick up the hearts that had fallen down on our side of the fence. (I have a small stack I was going to send to OccupyFriends who weren't able to attend.) However, most of the mess was on the other side of the fence that we weren't allowed to pass.

I assumed that, unlike the drunk Santa who got through when the cops  were watching us, if I tried to pass the fence I would be arrested/forcefully disabused of any tidy notions I might have. In front of my kid.

I get that you are insinuating we were thoughtless, dirty protestors. Actually, we were people who had just had a gift (the chance to change, to grow, to model adult behavior to the next generation, to model courtesy and respect to the livestream viewers) torn up in front of our eyes.

So... No, we did not clean up the cops' tantrum. 


What's interesting to me was that last one, where I got closest to losing my temper, got the most Likes. Hunh.

People are funny.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


It feels so good to be tired for a worthwhile reason again.

This morning I took Older Son to the anti-bullying Children's General Assembly and Photo-op. He was the first to get on stack at the General Assembly (of course he was-- he was practically jumping up and down with excitement at the chance to speak in front of all those cameras), and he spontaneously sang the Jingle Bells, Bloomberg smells song. Must not grab child when the cameras are rolling...

At least he wasn't carefully prompted by his mother, right? It was all genuine and from his heart?


Then he painted on some of the 5000 construction paper hearts that were symbolizing the arrests of protestors since September 17th and drew a peace sign on the Children's Brigade banner and got interviewed by someone with a real lapel mic and an extremely soft voice. He chose a pre-made sign with a big cartoon on it and we hit the subway to Foley Square (Which stop? This stop!)...

I had seen a suspiciously large number of people wearing Santa-themed items of clothing, but assumed it was a flash mob sort of thing. Then we got to Foley Square and they-- and their little helpers-- were everywhere. (You haven't lived until you've seen Santa-Jesus--red velvet outfit, carrying a cardboard box cross covered in shiny wrapping paper-- walking past City Hall)... And they were drunk.

So, there we are, taking pictures in front of the courthouse steps and there are drunk Santas frolicking around us... (I'm just setting the scene here, I'll get to the good stuff in a minute...)

We move over to City Hall, heavily under renovation and well-fenced. A decision is made to use tape to tape the hearts onto the fence, since we can't/ aren't allowed to bring them onto the City Hall steps. So, the kids (and parents) start slapping up painted hearts on the tape. We occasionally shout "Kids are the 99%!" and "Banks got bailed out, schools got sold out!" and "Hey, Santa! Bloomberg's getting coal in his stocking this year, right?"

At some strange point, Person Who Seems to Know What Is Going On turns to the livestream guy and starts narrating. Remember those Drunk Santas? Well, it seems the City Hall Police were keeping such a good eye on us and our cute kids, they missed one of the Drunk Santas getting over/through/around their high security fence.

...All I saw was him being gently lead out, but he was already fifteen feet away from the fence at that point, and I'm pretty sure he hadn't traveled in a straight line.So... Drunk Santa 1, City Hall Police 0.

Fellow shy parent Carlos and I grabbed either end of the Children's Brigade banner and stood to the far end of the hearts, so passersby would know what was going on if they hadn't figured it out by the time they got to us. Older Son frolics.

We were there for at least twenty minutes, maybe longer, when one of the People Who Seem To Know What's Going On comes over and says, "Roll up the banner, roll it up," and I drop my end (Carlos had it well in hand) and locate Older Son and make sure he is in frantic grabbing distance.

Suddenly (and I cannot say whether he was taunted, ordered, or pushed, as I am always safely away from where the excitement is. It's the short legs, I need a good head start on the running away thing...) a cop comes over and starts ripping the hearts off the fence from the other side. It was so weird: it wasn't a careful removal, it *looked* violent, enough so that I held Older Son's head and pressed it to my chest in the other direction. I didn't want him to see an adult-- in uniform or not-- lose their temper like that.

It was very unpleasant. There is no way to stop them from doing what they want to do. And he wanted to rip the hearts down. But... he didn't finish the job. That was the other weird part. He started working his way down, and I put my hand up against the fence over a white paper heart, and he tore the tape and it ripped the heart in two... and then he stopped, a few feet past me, with half a heart in my hand. He turned away and marched over to his superiors and I don't know what happened next but I turned my back and started picking up the hearts that had fallen to the ground and tried to stick them to the bits of sticky dangling tape.

An angry dad shouted, "You made a little girl cry. Do you feel big now?" And I felt like crying, adult woman or not.

I don't understand. I don't understand why our small group was so dangerous that they missed a drunk Santa invasion. I don't understand why our paper hearts had to be torn up.

I picked up a small handful. I couldn't rescue them all.Then we got hotdogs and went home because there was nothing more we could do.

If you would like a heart, one of the 5,000, let me know and I'll send it  to you.

I don't want to be the only one who saves a heart today.

Friday, December 9, 2011

oh yeah, we bad...

Our little revolutionary kitchen got artistic tonight. We made a few Occupy Tenting cards and then we started our next project: #OccupyCarols.

So far, we've got:

Deck the Wall with Gasoline
Strike a match and watch it gleam
Don we now our masks and hoodies
Hack their servers, take their goodies

See the blazing malls before us
Strike with unions, chant their chorus
Follow me in direct actions
All together without factions

Don’t you jail me for no reason
You say safety I call treason
Stand we joyous all together
Fuck the cops and fuck the weather 

...and fragments of many other cool ones we'll work on later...