I’ll not pretend that this post will make some of those within the Occupy movement like me. But as @kennethlipp always says, and as Ghost reminded me yesterday, “if it can be destroyed by the truth, it should be.” (See original quote by P.C. Hodgell here.)
And as I said yesterday …
It’s a chilly day here in Washington D.C., with wind gusts forecasted up to 35 mph. As I type, a quick Weather Channel check shows it’s 38ºF but feels like 27ºF. Earlier today, I stepped out of Fort Mayhem II (#TOYM DC headquarters) and into the sun. I headed over to CVS on 15th and K streets for a quick warm-up, before heading over to Cosi’s across the street to grab a small coffee (and a much-needed pee break).
Outside CVS this cold January morning sat Antonio. I’ve seen him before, and I’ve passed by him a few times without saying a word, but I’ve flashed him a quick I’m-sorry-I’m-broke-too smile each time.
Antonio sits outside CVS daily, and continually tells passers-by to have a happy new year or speaks blessings to them. He has an easily approachable attitude and is quick to smile. Though I had not stopped to speak with him before — to my own shame — this morning was different.
“I’m sorry I don’t have any money to give you,” I said, as I passed him on my way into the pharmacy.
“That’s all right, you have a blessed day,” he replied, without judgment.
I tooled around the pharmacy for a few minutes while I thought about Antonio and the rant I launched into on Twitter yesterday evening.
For those of you who missed it, I’ll recap it here nearly verbatim in italics and as block quotes, with a few edits for clarity. I’ve also expanded my 140-character thoughts in-between, in regular type and with some additional information.
If you are uncomfortable when the light hits the dirt and exposes the underbelly of the things this movement has ignored — good. You should be uncomfortable. You should be upset. You should take a long, hard look at yourself and at your actions or inactions.
I’ve seen it before — local homeless communities ignored or disdained by occupies. Where is the outreach? Where is your compassion?
Specifically regarding the
#occupydc baby story — most aren’t asking the vital questions. How did he end up homeless in a tent with a baby in the first place — assuming he is homeless and didn’t just choose to occupy?
Ghost and I spoke with K. about this yesterday. K. is another occupier and journalist who was on-scene to record the incident and the action that followed. (The video has not yet been released.) According to K., there was immediate condemnation by an occupier who was present.
“’He has no rights,’” K. said, quoting the occupier who was referring to the man who allegedly left the 13-month-old child in his tent for an undetermined amount of time. (I cannot confirm a specific amount of time as the times stated by all accounts range anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.)
Excuse me? He has no rights? What. The. Fuck? If he has no rights, you have no rights. No one has the right to be judge, jury and executioner.
This snap-judgment alone (and the actions that followed which K. recounted to us, but which I will not describe yet as I have not seen the video and also because of the potential legal ramifications of said actions) is abhorrent. This snap-judgment by an occupier who is at #occupydc 24/7 blows my mind. K. also stated the video will show that said occupier also began to tear down the accused man’s tent.
To that occupier I ask: Did you forget why we are occupying? Did you forget who we are supposedly representing? (That is, we are the 99 percent.) Again I ask, where is your compassion? Also, what the fuck?
To the rest of you, including those on Twitter who are condemning this man as if they are the judge, jury and executioner, I’d like to know why you want to immediately burn this man at the stake.
Why don’t you ask yourselves the following: What is the root of his situation? What is his story? Do you not realize he is human, just like you? Did you forget he is part of the 99 percent, too?
The label “99 percent” is not exclusive to those of us who only occupy 24/7. The 99 percent is not exclusive to those of us who consider ourselves part of the Occupy movement.
Do you not see the failures of our current system which lead to things like this?
Yet people condemn the person rather than condemning the system. And if we are condemning this system to which we are vehemently opposed for all its failures to adequately facilitate equality, do we even have the right to occupy when we ourselves are mimicking a broken system by ignoring those of us who are the most vulnerable?
Open your eyes and realize you hold no right over another human being. You are no better or worse than any other. Unless we stop the in-fighting and bickering and grade-school, petty bullshit, this movement will fail at its loftiest goals.
And unless we stop mimicking the broken system by changing our own actions and attitudes one-by-one, this movement will fail.
Here are some guidelines I tweeted in my anger (in no particular order):
1. Grow the fuck up.
2. Learn how to be respectful and compassionate.
3. Be respectful and compassionate.
4. Realize this isn’t about you. This is about a movement.*
5. Remember actions speak louder than words.
7. Don’t be a cunt.
*And this movement includes the man who was arrested for allegedly leaving a baby alone in his tent at #occupydc/McPherson Square.
We need to come together and patch our broken world, one small community at a time. This is bigger than any singular occupy. If we’re not all in this together — including the most vulnerable — then what is the fucking point?
By ALL I mean ALL. Employed, unemployed, homeless or not, legal or undocumented immigrants, citizens or not, black, white, purple, green, [insert all the additionally irrelevant labels you can imagine here] — it doesn’t fucking matter. We’re all made from the same matter. Have some humanity for fuck’s sake.
This morning I took my own advice. I walked out of CVS and told Antonio I was going to Cosi’s to grab a coffee, and asked if he would like some. He readily accepted.
Antonio, 54, is from New York but has lived in the D.C. area most of his life. He is currently waiting for his disability application to be approved by the government.
“But I don’t sleep outside at night,” he said, and explained he sleeps in a shelter at night.
While I talked with him after getting us coffee, a man stopped as he passed and handed Antonio a five-dollar bill.
“He just gave me good luck,” Antonio exclaimed, and thanked the anonymous, generous man.
We talked for a few more minutes — a little bit about the Occupy movement but mostly about life itself. Before I departed from our conversation, he gave me blessings and also said, “Don’t let your past haunt you. If you find yourself down, pick yourself up and move forward.”
Is even one small act of compassion and generosity contagious? With one simple act of compassion, can you change a person’s day? Life? World? I really hope so.
By the way, Antonio takes his coffee with extra cream and five Splenda.
[Antonio, outside CVS at 15th and K streets. Jan. 13, 2012. Photo by me.
He gave me a hug after I took his portrait.]
We are the 99 percent, and we love.
Thanks to Ghost (together we make up the #gypsycell of #teamoccupyyourmom) for spurring me to rant on Twitter. I’ve taken screenshots of his tweets regarding this topic, as well as tweets from additional people — @OccupyAura, @jeeezelouise and @Kaymee — which I have inserted below as they are important and influenced this post.
If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, be advised you need to scroll down to the bottom of this post and read from the bottom up.