Sunday, October 16, 2011

Change You Can Believe In

"Matt," an older man says, looking at my nametag. "I'm from Portland State. Can you guide me to the movement's leaders?"

I look at him and make no effort toward answering.

"Right, right. No leaders. What about a spokesman?"

My jaw slackens. He presumes that since I wear a speckled armband to identify myself as an occupied librarian and a name tag to make myself more accessible to the scores of newly conscious walk-ins looking to drop off or pick up revolutionary information, that I must have a ganglial link to the movement's frontal lobe.

"How do you hope to achieve change if you have no leaders and no spokesmen?"

"Look around you," I say with a sweep of the hand. We stand near a makeshift canteen that serves three squares a day to hundreds of campers ranging from the homeless to the trustafarian. A xylophone trio is laying down an anti-gravitational groove. A statue of a pioneer family stands wrapped in the Cascadian flag and holds a cardboard sign reading WE ARE THE 99%. Above our heads flutters a kaleidoscope of tarps. "Let me ask you a question. Have you ever seen anything like this before?"

He shoots me a look as if to say Yeah, I rode this wave in 1968 until it crashed on the bloody streets of King Daley's Chicago.

"In every major city of the United States?"

"Not in every city," he says.

"All around the world?"

Index finger on his chin, he nods.

"How can we hope to create change? Let me ask you that question. If what we are witnessing is radically new, have we not already succeeded?"

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