Song for Occupations

For three years since the bailout of the banks—with each year’s news of record profits and bonuses; with the failed re-regulation in Dodd-Frank; with the revelations of the Fed’s hiding other bailout lending programs; with the spectacle of politicians taking banking and lobbying jobs before and after serving the public; with the banks’ donations to campaigns; with each instance of Obama’s economic continuity with Bush and Clinton—it crossed our mind, Why doesn’t somebody just go and stand on Wall Street? Until someone from the press asks, “Why are you standing here?

It probably crossed many Americans’ minds.

But then the voice of conscience would whisper, “Why don’t you go and stand there, coward?”

And our cowardly answer had been, We’re waiting for someone else to start it.

The first time we saw Zuccotti Park, on September 17, our heart sank. There were maybe two or three hundred people. We came that day because all summer the Adbusters website, then many others, had been saying that all the angry people of the nation were going to descend on Wall Street and be heard. We thought there would be at least a thousand of us.

A few hundred proved to be enough to start things. It was only the first day.

The first few times we went to Zuccotti we didn’t run into anyone we knew. This was disconcerting. And then, gradually, we met more people, and ran into them. Gradually, too, we started running into the people we’d known before. They’d been there all along. We just hadn’t been going often enough.

The first two weeks, the only people we saw at Zuccotti Park, besides the friends we’d planned to meet, were interns. Funny to think of them as an emerging demographic category. But they were interns, undeniably: people we knew as interns at magazines, interns at websites, young people who could write, artists who couldn’t find jobs commensurate with their talents. A few who’d struggled up to assistant this or that.

We wondered, as we strolled around ugly, slanting, paved, tiny Zuccotti, which under other circumstances we never would have agreed to dignify with the honorable name of “park,” where were the pundits, the adults, the ones who speak on panels, who opinionate on blogs, who go on TV and say what’s going to happen? None of them in evidence. Just their interns.

Lots of students, too, past and present. The fall semester started just before OWS did, and it took a little while to figure out who in our classes, if they were absent, might have been arrested.

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