Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Crystal Zevon

Crystal Zevon is author of 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon,' an oral history of the life of her former husband and lifelong friend and co-conspirator

December 23rd, 2011 12:53 PM

We're Still Here

This is what a holiday looks like at Occupy Washington D.C.

While many occupations - from New York and Boston to Oakland and Los Angeles -  have been shut down, the two Washington D.C. occupations seem to just keep going.  We’ve been occupying Freedom Plaza for 78 days now.  In one sense, we’ve relaxed.  We no longer have our bags packed with the expectation that we’re going to be evicted any minute (even though we could be).  I wish I could say that what appears to be acceptance of Washington D.C. occupations by the powers that be makes life in a tent community easy, but occupying is hard work.  As one sign outside a tent on Freedom Plaza reads, “I had a job.  Now I have an occupation.” 

I’ve been an activist all my life, and occupying is definitely harder than any job I’ve ever had, in the movement or otherwise.  Just the housekeeping part of keeping a community together is a fulltime job; forget about keeping up with the minute-by-minute changes that take place in the D.C. political scene every day.  Whether it’s the National Defense Authorization Act, Bradley Manning’s hearing, housing foreclosures or Canter’s fund raising dinner, there is always something going on that requires us to be focused on organizing actions and developing strategies, going to yet another meeting, finding a place with WiFi to do research for a mic check… the list goes on.

We’re tired, and we get wet and cold.  Sharing portapotties, walking 13 blocks to the showers the CWA lets us use and brushing our teeth and spitting into a soggy paper coffee cup takes its toll.  Even though we’ve been told by visiting occupiers from all over the country that we have the model occupy kitchen, we still have to stand in line for dinner and then eat outside (although we just put up two gigantic army tents and will soon be able to eat inside).  We gripe and disagree, and sometimes it’s hard to show up for G.A. – especially if you know there’s a major issue in camp… say… we’re drinking more coffee than we can afford and someone’s going to propose limiting the hours coffee is available… OMG… that’s gonna take at least 45 minutes to reach consensus on.  But, we show up and listen to everyone who has an opinion or proposal and, eventually, we do reach consensus.  Most often, whatever gets decided turns out to be the right thing.    

 So, between mic checking Carl Levin and John McCain for the hideous provisions they wrote into the NDAA, doing the camp dishes, joining our neighbors at Occupy D.C. for an action at the White House and mopping up the river running through your tent from the rain storm the night before, who has time for a Teach-In or a reading group?  I am heartened to say, it seems like a lot of us do.  Not all, to be sure.  There are those who are here for a party, or a free meal, but we deal with that, too.

 Yesterday afternoon, a group of young Palestinian students attending schools and universities in the U.S. (funded by Project Hope) held a Teach-In on Freedom Plaza.  The level of knowledge and understanding among the occupiers ranged from none to vast.  While one young woman described her dismay at how many Americans don’t seem to even know of the existence of Palestine, in fact, often mistake it for Pakistan, these remarkable young people were not there to criticize the overall lack of knowledge by Americans; they were there to educate and enlighten by sharing their personal stories. Some of the occupiers questions were based on years of study, while others betrayed total ignorance.  They responded to them all with equal respect and attention, welcoming the fact that we were there to learn.


The Palestinians told stories of their experience coming from Gaza and the West Bank, and as refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.  One young man described coming out of his school on December 27th, 2008 to look up to a sky almost obliterated by the sea of bombs.  He said, “We are used to the shelling. It is a part of our daily life. But this was different.  The entire sky was black.”  He told the story of how his cousin who had just received his Masters Degree and was working as a medic, trying to save lives, was killed in that initial surprise bombing that marked the beginning of the three week Gaza War, known in the Arab world as the Gaza Massacre.  Only a few of the occupiers were aware that this war had even happened, let alone that the surprise attack resulted in approximately 1,400 Palestinian deaths.  13 Israelis were killed as well, 4 from friendly fire.


The students described the over-crowded and unsanitary conditions of life in Gaza; they talked about how there is no place to escape to; they described how any of us had the right to own a home in their country, but they did not; and, they talked about how traveling from one point to another requires going through dozens of security checkpoints, metal detectors and invasive questioning.  At one point, I looked around the circle at the occupiers assembled.  Their expressions were tearful, angry, confused… and attentive.  They asked about Israel, and co-existence… about solutions, two countries or one?  We were young and old, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Atheist, vets and hippies, homeless and income secure.  We talked openly, without fear of reprisal or being chastised for what we did not know, or thought we knew.  This is who and how we are.  This is what we’ve come to expect in our lives as occupiers.  

Lately, I've been missing my grandchildren and the comfy condo I left in Massachusetts.  But, every time I start thinking of leaving, something like this happens to remind me to keep my eyes on the prize.  As I sat there, watching the fully engaged occupiers, one more time, I marveled. This is the way it is supposed to be.  We’ve got a long way to go, but every so often I get to feel the chill running up and down my spine telling me that this is what hope looks like.   

Next week, an Egyptian is coming to enlighten us about the situation in Egypt.  Our reading group is about to start discussing Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy.  We have actions planned into the spring.  Celebrity visits and concerts are being scheduled.  Plans are being made to occupy foreclosed homes, and we’re talking with a local cable access studio to get an Occupy TV show going.  Meanwhile, the kitchen is cooking turkey and ham for our holiday dinner – without an oven.  Someone left their cigarette butt on the Plaza, and someone else is cleaning it up.  G.A. was thankfully brief this morning.  It’s supposed to rain again tonight.  And, we are still here. 

Happy Holidays to all.  We ARE the 99%, and so are you. 



Creative Commons License This content is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law Donna Smith Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? Donna Smith We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa Nick Turse Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch Donna Smith The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? Ray McGovern Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Latest from David Sirota on Enron billionaire John Arnold smuggling anti-pension propaganda into "neutral" institutions like PBS and now, the...

Mar 1st
12:58 PM
Read More

Second Guessing a Life: US Health Care System Robs Security and Human Dignity Donna Smith The dysfunction of the US health care system...

Feb 27th
1:40 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles