a new piece of kindling
January 30, 2012 § 1 Comment
I’m not one typically to get annoyed at horrible news coverage, as I’ve come mostly to expect it as a indicting reality about contemporary life in America. On the whole, I have less anger to appropriately distribute anymore: did it burn too hot for a time, I wonder, to the point that it is mostly now an ashen ruin, or is this just what resignation looks like? Nevertheless, the past two days of news, more really plagiaristic paraphrases of the city’s PR releases, relating to the events in downtown Oakland over the weekend have stirred the dust a bit, and a bit of that old anger found a tiny piece of kindling.
I couldn’t attend the 2,000-strong protest march in the afternoon (a planned takeover of a vacant building) because I needed to collect the wife at the airport and didn’t want to risk her being stranded if things should turn sour. Instead I made my way down in the evening after she’d collapsed into bed for hours on end, weighted down by a week’s worth of exhaustion & emotion. What I saw from a distance, “protected” by the paternally confused expression of police power, were some three hundred people on the sidewalk in front of the YMCA and a line of buses aligned like boxcars bound for suburban detention centers.
Theirs was a different kind of resignation – to that of an immediate fate, to be sure, but more importantly (to their credit) one defiant to this fate’s perceived cause & lasting effect. They were accused of (a) failing to disperse from the scene of a riot (when a riot is encased by police, whose riot is it?) and (b) attempting to invade & occupy the YMCA. What I came to learn, and had confirmed by numerous sources sympathetic & unsympathetic to the cause, was that some employees of the YMCA had actually opened their doors to protesters fleeing the bureaucratic pornography of the Oakland Police Department, who rarely issues a dispersal command that isn’t simultaneously counteracted by the corralling force of its bludgeons. A few protesters were, I’m told, fled through the back-alley exits; most, however, were caught. Reportedly, over the course of the day, some were flung down stairs, others absented their teeth.
These, whose weapons ranged mostly from Evian bottles to makeshift shields to tedious rhetorical & graffiti styles, we’re now told by a few leaders of Oakland are the new loathsome face of “domestic terrorism.” The coincidence of President Obama’s signature on new indefinite detention legislation for such enemies of the state is terrifyingly striking – not least because its first high-profile application may well be in the liberal Disneyland that is the San Francisco Bay Area.
I cannot write about Occupy Wall Street without reflecting, too, on the idea of movements. I’ve long ago stopped wondering whether it is in fact one. It is, I think, most certainly. But what kind? Is it, as I’ve suggested before, a kind of drunken stumbling — from side to side, maybe a little forward, but mostly just down, maybe even a little backward? Or, is it a death knell — not of history, never that, but of a certain historical moment? Which brings me back to ashes, from dust to dust. Life, even in decay, goes on.