In 1992 I wanted Jerry Brown to be President.
I was a performance poetry artist who just moved to Brooklyn from Los Angeles. I hated Los Angeles, but when the riots broke out, I felt that I was somehow connected. I walked the streets of Brooklyn at midnight looking for somebody to celebrate with. But I had to wait until the next day. I had a very complicated and sophisticated message to bring to the people of New York City, but I was frustrated.
I wound up joining the legendary William Kunstler on the stage at Times Square at a rally in solidarity with the activists in Los Angeles demonstrating against police brutality. It was a complicated matter, but what they really wanted me to do was to pump my fist and get the crowd rowdied up for a rambunctious, but peaceful, but noisy, but legal, but revolutionary, but non-violent, but angry march.
My gripe at the time was that the subtleties of the problem in Los Angeles were not being addressed by the media. I was correct about that then as now, because I am a writer of some subtlety. My gripe against the mainstream media was in effect then, my understanding of the power of computer networks was just beginning, and complete one year later.
The following rambling essay called White Flight Friday shows my state of mind. In fact, I just want to excerpt one little part.
Thus I felt haughtily superior in my pity and disgust for the clutching yuppies self cornered behind the caged storefront cafes and restaurants along the parade route. Trashcans flew into windows normally employed as stages of vanity. Now the sybaritic know nothings seek the protection of proprietors. Maitres D' were suddenly stripped naked. Of all the things to do on the Friday evening after America suffered another painful plumbing of its uglier soul, dining in an upscale restaurant with big windows seemed the most foolish. But folks of this particular stripe seem to enjoy making victims of themselves. I consider it a complete waste of time, this useless simpering guilt of individuals coddled by the political majority. They all could have easily come outdoors with a raised fist, or an intelligent political statement of solidarity against the travesty of injustice and police brutality. But their fear outran their good sense and citizenship. This demarcates America's immediate political future - the privileged having the intellectual and political wherewithal to stand in the streets for noble reasons and instead remaining physically caged behind boutique security and politically bound by fluff/fear journalistic interpretations of those on the street. How many horror stories have you heard about the mob that almost got me? Political actors mere yards from each other in completely different dimensions. It makes me want to puke. I imagine their thought balloons; "Who's backyard? Not my backyard!"
I have sought out reporters this time trying as I might to inject a bit of fact and background into the stew. I was compelled to ask sista to give me a moment to speak back at Times Square because I felt nobody in this whole metropolis had any clue that white men in Volvos were looting computer retailers, ailing businessmen were allegedly torching their own inventories and college students were assiduously dismantling ATMs and burning the contents. Nobody realized that what happened in Los Angeles portends political chaos of Russian dimensions. But my spoken allusions to John Slaughter's words, Melanie Lomax's words and Mike Woo's words have been drowned out by soundbite editorials voiced over the infamous visual. I keep waiting to see amateur videoist Holliday responding languorously to "So, set up the clip." on some talk show. Someone other than the most critically affected will have the last words. I myself didn't help much were mooted by the mute response and a bad case of nerves. My speech to activist New York prompted by "Pump 'em up" petered out. Next time perhaps I'll conk my hair or come in a Kunstler mask. I keep trying to get to speak to people and Press and Police press and police.
Anyway, those from the print media all carried the same notepads and pens. They dressed down, some wearing 35mm cameras. All wore the ubiquitous badges that rendered them immune from police batons if not flying bottles. I plainly told them that they wanted to hear me out. I, after all, was a young black man from Los Angeles who from age 17 through 29 had been detained 17 times and cited only twice. But most of the print journalists didn't walk far past Madison Square Garden, where I chortled with glee at the Rangers fans watching us like a pack Midwestern zoo goers. I wanted to give the sportos violence for real, but guessed they'd love returning it. They alone were the only white folks not a direct part of the parade who didn't cower in fear. I told a woman reporter who paid the most attention to me that I didn't think the violence in Los Angeles would last very long. Mostly I was concerned that New York wasn't concerned.
You should know that there is a place in NY called Thompkins Square Park. And if you ask enough of the right people, you'll find out what went on there of symbolic import to connect police brutality in NYC with the police brutality in LA that people around the nation were rioting about. And so as I marched, I found out from fellow marchers that under no circumstances were the NYPD going to let us reach that place. The legal advisers to the march let us know that ahead of time and made it clear that if we weren't in the mood to break through police lines and get our heads busted and be arrested, (i.e. if you were just a Sunday driver kinda protester who didn't already have a legal fund with bail money ready) then you should not try to get into the Park. They were right.
Not having engaged this thread of my own youthful anarchic / bohemian desires for what I once called the 'noble arena' over the past week, some of the juice in the overarching theme of this essay has escaped me. So I'll just jump to some bold declaritive statements.
1. OWS suffers a great delusion that it can counter the forces of global corporate oligopoly non-violently. The more they describe the great evil of bad corporations and corrupt pols in Washington and every other capitol, the more they must inevitably begin bombing.
ows^pepper_spray < sqrt(rodney_king/2);
2.OWS must face the fact at the core that the American corporate oligopoly stands in service of the consumer economy. It must not fail if they are to deliver middle class goods.
3. There are rarely national improvements made by local protests. OWS holds the admirable goal of ridding excess money from influence in national policy. I wish it all the luck in the world in reforming democratic politics here in America. But nobody local can pull that off. OWS needs to be more organic and start where the rest of America has given up building from there.