Sunday, September 25, 2011

Occupy This!

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

I would really like to support the Occupy Wall Street folks. The economy is crap. Poor people are suffering. Young people can’t get work. And god help you if you’re a female. At first men were just hogging ninety percent of newly created jobs. (Yeah, men were losing their jobs at higher rates, but nothing like 90 percent more.)

Now, women are not only getting screwed on the new job front, they’re also getting fired more because the sectors they mostly work in, service and government, are downsizing as fast as they can. And if anybody gets hired back, it’s almost always a man. Which means dykes are awfully near the bottom of the heap. They have no man in the house to pick up the slack if they get canned, no new opportunities waiting in the wings, plus dyke couples often have kids to support.

This is my question: Is Occupy Wall Street the best we can do? I appreciate the energy, even “shared” a couple of photos on FB, but that loose collection of people barely know how to organize a demo, much less a movement. When a rare TV camera was actually shoved in their faces, all they did was complain about the cops, which were horrible. But maybe it would have been more useful to take the occasion to deliver their message to Wall Street.

The problem was that there was no real message. Plenty of the demonstrators weren’t even out there for the economy, but the environment or whatever the hell their pet project is. And while a few had the boring and useful suggestion to “End corporate welfare,” or “Kill zombie banks” far too many seemed to be parroting that homophobic idiot Ron Paul and calling for the end of the Federal Reserve. Or a thousand percent tax on imports to force us to buy American crap. Or the end of capitalism altogether.

Yeah, and I want a pony for Christmas, and a villa in France. Never going to happen. Eliminate the Federal Reserve? Seriously? It’s such a good idea we’d be pretty much the only country without one. As for putting huge taxes on imports, if all of your iPhone’s component parts were made in this grand ole U.S. of A., it would cost as much as a condo in Hoboken. Where you could park a pony if you had one.

That crap just isn’t serious. And we need serious with twenty percent of New Yorkers under the poverty line. And a lot of people hungry. I passed a food bank yesterday on Second Avenue that had posted a sign declaring it was “closed until further notice due to state and local budget cuts.”

There are more people panhandling on the subway, and if last weekend was anything to go by, they’re getting more angry and aggressive. They’re no longer your “buddy can you spare a dime?” sort of characters. But “C’mon! Gimmee a buck. I know you have it.” I watched a Hispanic guy with a speech impediment wait frothing and growling in front of a black guy who flipped over the page of his newspaper and pretended the other one didn’t exist. Other passengers in the car were appalled at them both.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that pretty soon, people that only a few months before may have dropped a couple of quarters or a buck into somebody’s sticky paper coffee cup, will get pissed at being taken for granted, harassed. “I got bills, too, you know.” And after that, it’ll pop out naturally, “Why don’t you get a job? Fuck you.” These same people that were tossing in a bit of change the year before.

And the nuts seem nuttier. Like they pick up all the misery and frustration in the air. And the preachers that climb on the subway and preach are more attracted to fire and brimstone rants, than Jesus is your friend. I even got yelled at as a honkey the other day, just like old times. And why not? The economic divide is not only gender, but race- and ethnicity-based. Though you wouldn’t have known it from the mostly white faces at the demos.

Which is too bad, we need change. But I’ll say it one more time, you don’t change anything just by feeling outraged and waving a sign. Or just by getting arrested. You have to have viable, concrete ideas. And if you’re going to protest, you really should narrow things down and chose a simple message, and a target that can actually help you get something done. Unless of course you can mobilize several hundred thousand people in Times Square. Then forget my advice and enjoy your very own New York Spring. But I wouldn’t bank on that happening, not any time soon.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering September 11th on the Williamsburg Bridge

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

Friday night, we walked over the bridge to Williamsburg, grabbed a beer, and offered up our blood to the mosquitoes which drank as much as they could hold, and probably woke up hung over. I hope so. So many welts. Why the ear? And three bites on one arm is excessive. That bone on my ankle couldn’t have been the most tender spot. I hope you broke your schnoz.

On the way back, the sky was just turning that dark velvety blue. And the windows of the skyscrapers were just then appearing in shining yellow blocks. The river was a glassy black obsidian under us, and you could smell it over the exhaust of the trains that roared by now and then.

There was a Hispanic mom pushing a funny plastic car with a tiny boy slumped in it, and people of all races who had gotten a drink after work, and were staggering home with their backpacks and briefcases. A skirted Anglo woman peddled a wreck of a bike with an enormous basket on the handlebars that was full of potted flowers.

She was passed by all these thin, muscled guys going fast on their mountain bikes, and fat ones, too, driving themselves up and over, gasping less than you’d expect, though one was slumped against the railing, staring at his bike, re-considering the matter. And there were tons of dykes spinning efficiently on their beaters.

We saw joggers and skateboarders and rollerbladers including one beginner who crashed dramatically then picked herself up. On other days, I’ve seen the Hassidim getting a walk in after dinner -- powerwalking women with one or two strollers. And sweating couples blabbing as they go.

That’s the New York I like. The strivers and talkers. The self-propelled. Leaving messages for each other in the stickers and graffiti. Like the biologically correct heart at the Brooklyn end that pumps out a whole rainbowy flag from its broad red valves.

We are indestructible, and don’t need ceremonies to tell us so. What a mistake it was having that September 11th hoo-hah here in New York instead of D.C. or Dubuque. In the attacks we lost three thousand people, but not our soul. That was America, a little later, in a kind of post-bombing suicide, when her citizens jumped in lockstep behind Bush as he used the opportunity of the two flaming monstrosities to make war. And when too many were quoted smugly justifying torture at Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo. “Better get them before they get us.” And didn’t offer a peep -- and still don’t -- as ordinary freedoms swirl down the drain, along with the common sense and generosity Americans used to be known for.

In an article in Spain’s El País, Moisés Naím reminded us of the moment just after the attacks when everybody was asking, “Where are the moderate Muslims? Where are the leaders of this great religion that don’t share either the twisted logic, motives, or passion for homicide and suicide of Al Qaeda?”

Now, ten years later, with Al Qaeda on the ropes, Naím's new question is, “Where are the moderate leaders of America’s Republican party?” That too, he writes, has been hijacked by an extremist minority that has the power, for reasons and methods distinct from Al Qaeda, to destabilize the world. They sneer at fundamental economic principles and basic science about global climate change. And everything else for that matter. Screw Darwin. They have enough rage for everyone, but only compassion for themselves.

It’s as if they are guiding a fading senile nation, and while imagining we are off to Disney Land, and dragging the rest of the world with us to the grave. If you have to mourn something, it should be the decline of a nation that doesn’t know it is sick.

Is it reversible? Maybe. Depends on if the Tea Party is a symptom or the cause of a greater dementia. Every dog has his day, you know, and then his final injection.

If you have to remember something, quit extolling a day or two of heroism, and turn your attention to all those subsequent years we spent shooting ourselves in the collective foot. That’s the real tragedy. What I’ll mourn until I die.

Leave New York to the New Yorkers. This accumulation of islands renews itself daily. We’re more solvent than the rest of you, and have better debt ratings. If we have to walk home to stay within our budget we’ll do it. We’re not ashamed of Green. Not on the bridge anyway. And we don’t put up checkpoints. And we don’t check visas passing from the Lower East Side to Williamsburg and back. Everybody is welcome. (Except you assholes on scooters. And the ferocious mosquitoes.)