“Anything new with Occupy?” my 12 year old asks me

He’s asking because he hears me talking about it all the time, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Tulsa, Occupy Oakland. If there is a group, even a small group occupying so much as a street corner, even a dumpster, I’m all over it. I go on-line to check out the scene on Wall Street. I find the Facebook page and scroll to the most recent postings. I honestly don’t understand what the people are talking about. I go back to my original search and find some video of a recent march. The video is taken with a handheld camera, maybe even a phone. It is so grainy I can’t make out much of what was happening. Mostly it looks like two girls from the show Sex in the City locked arm in arm. The audio was muffled by the wind and then there were some people cheering in the background.

I decide to take my kids into Manhattan to witness history first hand. They will be part of this great movement sweeping our great land. We as a family will take our place among the 99%, not as mere spectators but as one of the movers and shakers. The only problem is I can’t figure out where we have to go to move and shake. I don’t want to spend all that money on train fare and not be able to find a comrade in the fight against inequality. Much though I try, I can’t figure out what a General Assembly is, and then there are the people camping out in Zucotti Park but I couldn’t figure out how to spell Zucotti and I want to go where the action is. There are no sidewalks to vacate in a park, no street to run from pepper spray, so in the end I decide to take the kids food shopping. At least I know where the grocery store is.

When I hear on the news that there are people occupying my home town New Haven, I am ready to march. I again go on-line and read about the most recent General Assembly. This is a movement with its own jargon. Unfortunately, as one of the people, in the people’s movement, I don’t have a decoder ring to figure out what my fellow people are saying. What is a facilitator, what is the General Assembly?

I tell the kids I am going to the green to check out Occupy New Haven. It is a cold Wednesday night and the kids have homework and then TV shows to watch. No one wants to come. I finally talk the 12 year old into going by suggesting we might be on the 11 o’clock news.

We make our way down town through the maze of one way streets. We drive slowly to the annoyance of the other drivers on the road. We each look out the window on our side of the car but don’t see so much as a single protester. Then through the trees we spy a small cluster of tents. To see tents on the New Haven Green is so exciting. No one is allowed to camp on the Green so to witness this outrageous act of defiance is invigorating. We circle the Green looking for a spot and end up parking at a parking meter. We don’t have any change for the meter but with the occupy people so close, we feel reckless and leave the car, certain we will not get a ticket.

We approach the cluster of tents but see not a soul. It is pitch black out and under normal conditions the green is not a safe place to dwell at night, still we venture into the makeshift camp looking for some signs of life. Finally we hear some voices up ahead and follow the conversation until we come upon a group of about 6 people sitting on plastic chairs in a circle. There are another half dozen standing but without an invitation, we just stand among them listening.

I try to follow the conversation. A balding man, about fifty, is holding a piece of paper in his hand and reading something about The Nation or First Nation, having something to do with Native Americans. He wants to make sure that we, the occupy people; announce at the General Assembly, that they, the Indians are in unity with the movement. Everyone in the circle gives their approval and agrees that tomorrow night they will announce it at the General Assembly. I wonder who we will be announcing it to tomorrow night. Who comes to the General Assembly? I hope that it is more than this small ragged group. The facilitator of the group then asks for volunteer speakers for tomorrow night. Everyone there seems to understand what the job of the speakers is and three people raise their hands. They each give their names and agree to meet at the public library at 5:30pm the following evening. It will be quieter there says the facilitator.

There is a motion put forth to end the meeting but there is more to say. A young girl who has volunteered to speak tomorrow, wanted an addendum to the minutes to discourage putting too much negative stuff into the General Assembly. I am certain that we were at the precipice of some big organizational conflict but these protesters are bending over backwards to be inclusive of everyone’s ideas, everyone’s support, everyone’s input regardless of how tangential it is.

The meeting comes to a close and people break off into small clusters and continued their conversations. My son and I stand there with our hands in our pockets.

My son whispers to me,” Mom can we leave?”

I whisper back, “Let’s try to find out what’s going on here.”

He agrees and we continue to stand alone in the dark shifting back and forth to keep warm.

Finally I break into a conversation and ask if any of them are camping out on the green. They all point to a man who looks as though he lives on the green year round. We approach him and ask how we can join the protest.

He cheerily tells us “You’re here now that’s great.”

I tell him we are interested in camping out on the Green.

He says great but is unable to direct us to do more than show up.

I want to ask what the General Assembly is but he seems to have shared all the information he has.

Two other guys come up to us and introduce themselves as Tisle and Art. They came up from Wall Street to lend their support to New Haven. I ask how things are in the city and they both say crazy. I ask about the police presence and they say crazy again.

I ask if they are camping on the Green and they say yes. I tell them we want to join them and they seem enthusiastic enough to tell us we should. I ask them what they do when they are not camping out in public places but Tisle and Art don’t seem to have much to share unless it can be answered with a yes or no.

I feel my sons gaze as if to say, “Mom you are embarrassing me lets go.”

I introduce him to our new friends Tisle and Art and tell them how my son led a one man protest last year in his school.

“Way cool man.” they say in unison.

We then stand there in awkward silence until someone else steps up and asks if anyone plans on cooking dinner. No one answers.

We say goodbye and promise to be back on Friday to camp out with them. We are now brothers and sisters, part of the 99%, kindred spirits. They ask if we have a tent. I tell them we do.

On the way home my son and I talk about our plans for the week and how we have to get the tent out and cleaned up for Friday.

When we get home, we announce to the rest of the family our intentions for the weekend. No one cares. No one wants to join us.

As Friday approaches, the weather man warns of an early snow for Friday night into Saturday. We don’t need any encouragement to change our plans. Neither of us wants to sleep on the Green in a snow storm. Really, we just want to go camping, but like the rest of the 99%, we can’t afford a vacation.

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