During my daily hour-long commute to work on Tuesday, I had the chance to get stuck in traffic on a city bus while the May Day march was passing through Union Square. I, along with a pair of mommies and their toddlers, marveled at the movement. I was happy to see democracy hard at work, but wondered where all those people had been since I hadn’t seen them hanging out in the square for the past few weeks.
The last time I took my lunch there a week ago, the population of daily Occupiers had dwindled down to a few homeless people who spent the day there while checking their cell phones for important, incoming calls. Yes, I spoke with an ex-convict who was living in a half-way house with his friend and “looking for work.” I find it hard to look for work when you are sitting in the park, reading a horror novel, and passing your cell phone back and forth while reminiscing about the insanity of the nineties.
Eric told me he was born and raised in New York. His son has no idea who he is, and this saddens him. He is full of regret and anger at himself for his choices that have resulted in pain for others and disappointment in himself. He does not fully understand the implications of aligning anarchy with a socialism-charged movement, but neither do many people. He has “been clean” for a few months and hopes to find work again through the programs offered like the one he is in right now. I hate to paint an ugly picture of a person found adjacent to the achingly necessary anti-establishment movement that proves our political system works, but I just did. Sue me for exercising my right to say what I want.
The man had no idea what anarchy or socialism meant when I brought up how detrimental it would be to the movement’s image in mass media. He took the pamphlets I had gathered in an effort to gain an understanding of the elements involved in the human blob. As I watched him read, I realized that he is just one of millions of people that are as lost and confused as he is about the situation at hand.
I spent ten minutes in the subway once where a Kindergartener was playing a piano concerto. Does this make me a child prodigy? I guess when you lump everyone together because they are in the same vicinity, it does. I suppose I was a homeless, out of work, ex-junkie, dead-beat dad the day I spent interviewing people in the park too, then.
“Mommy, what are those people doing?” the toddler asked when he saw his mother roll her eyes at the spectacle outside.
“They’re marching.” She sounded tired.
“What’s marching?” I missed the answer because I was too busy thinking of synchronized military walks during basic training.
“Why are they doing that, mommy?” Out of the mouths of babes, as they say.
“Because they want more jobs, baby. And I don’t think they can find them.”
She turned and looked at her friend, who was staring blankly out the window at the raised signs and nearby police line. ”It’s just so destructive. That march is going to wreak havoc on this entire city. Nobody even knows what they want anymore.”
She looked down at me as she said that, shrugged her shoulders, and rolled her eyes again, sighing with exasperation.
I think actions speak louder than words sometimes. And, quite emphatically, hers said it all. I think the whole world feels the same, Mommy.
I hopped off the bus and sprinted to work.