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Proud to Serve

This is part 3 of my Occupy triptych. Of course Malcolm X called the whole thing. He said “I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash but I don’t think it will be based on the color of the skin.”

These days, I don’t just wonder what else my heroes might say about all this, I feel their spirits as I make my signs and put up my posts and do what I can, from here on the sidelines. I taped an image of Malcolm X onto the first sign I made, because I feel Malcolm’s truth almost every day. He helps me, because it’s an effort for me to not act like a jerk as I experience rage against the machine, the damned corporatocracy. I want to stay positive and kind and compassionate as we collectively lift the lid on the boiling pot of America. It’s happening, the clash that Malcolm predicted. Paul Krugman offered an eloquent take on the whole thing in the NY Times the other day: Oligarchy, American Style.

And by the way, when I called for Money Out of Politics in my post “Since You Asked”- well, not only is that not a new concept, but I realized afterwards that it was stolen verbatim from the July adbusters edition calling for the Occupation. Yes, the edition which featured this now-famous graphic:

I’m not exactly embarrassed that I lifted the concept, but rather I wish that I had been just a little more original. My experience lately is that there is so much data coming in that the line gets blurred between my own thoughts and the concepts that I’m taking in through media. I’ve long since resigned myself to the fact that the brilliant ideas are someone else’s- still, I can enjoy sharing and connecting, right?

Anyhow, here we are, with the lid lifted, peering into the pot, a little nervous. It’s a wild time. Amy Goodman, who is finally getting some mainstream props after years of beating the drum of justice, talked to Charlie Rose about how Occupy is changing things and why it’s important for the Occupiers to be there. Here’s the link to an excerpt from the interview and you can go to 12:20 if you just want to hear her “knock it out of the park”, as my friend Jack Hirschfeld describes it. The crowds are indeed gathering, in all of our cities. And I’d like to thank the kids for gathering. I know they’re not really all kids, but humor me. Because when I think of the young people who are the heart of this movement, I know that no matter what we do to aid and abet, it is their time. They are Occupying for all of us, and for all of the generations to come. It is their way of serving the greater good.

And I’ve been wondering lately: How and when did service become a bad word?

My father was a member of the Service Employees International Union. He worked, among other jobs, as a janitor for many years. He was cheerful and hard working. His coworkers and his employers loved him. He was also a World War II Navy veteran. He was proud to serve.

My mother spent close to 50 years as a waitress. Serving people their food, mostly well-heeled people. Her parents were immigrants and she often worked for immigrants. Despite the physical and social challenges of the job, she too was cheerful and also hard working. She never complained about it. Now she’s 85 and she does home care for “elderly” women. She’s still serving others.

I’ve spent 27 years working for the Postal Service. It wasn’t what I expected to be doing when I was a kid, but I’m proud of our mission and I give it my best every day. I work with people who are wonderful, community-minded, hard working folks. No one will ever get rich working for the Postal Service but it’s a good living and one that we’ll never have to be ashamed of.

And that six weeks of paid vacation that I called for in “Since You Asked”? Well, I get five paid weeks a year, and that is thanks to unions. If you have health benefits through your job, or paid holidays or vacations, or even weekends off, thank the labor movement. Sure, unions have their issues. When unions became big business and power inevitably corrupted some, those circumstances were used to make the whole movement look bad. But, please, let’s not throw the bathwater out with the spoiled baby. We need unions, probably more than ever, and they are seriously under fire. If you agree with me, please fight back for unions. Here’s a video of some brave folks doing just that in Chicago, calling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on his bad behavior: mic checking Scott Walker.

Because that particular American governor described collective bargaining rights as “an expensive entitlement”. And because we have ghettos where kids idolize people like Michael Vick, hoping that if they can be tough enough, violent enough, they might get rich too- in America. Because veterans frequently start out poor and then end up with post-traumatic stress disorder, and poor anyway. Because now the greedy bastard prospectors have found fracking and so we have flames coming out of faucets and earthquakes weekly- all over America. Because girls buy lingerie at eight and get their tits done at 16 so they can look just like the big girls on the Playboy channel. Because it’s not enough that we export billions of dollars in weapons annually- we also saturate the so-called culture with video games featuring murder, rape, and mutilation. Because the executives in our health care industry take home 6-digit bonuses while our country is ranked number 37 in the World Health Organization’s ranking of health care systems worldwide. And because America has become in effect just another third world country for opportunists to rape, pillage and then dump by the side of the road. Because America and its people deserve better and I’m not going to shut up until we get it. For all these reasons and many more, I stand firmly in solidarity with the Occupy Movement.

Power to the People.

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… [and] the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.” –Howard Zinn