Who’s Pie? Occupy!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I took Malcolm to the Occupy Oakland general strike on Wednesday.  I usually don’t make a habit out of taking Malcolm out of school for superfluous reasons, but I figured this would be a good teaching opportunity for concepts like “income inequality” and “tear gas.” I explained what the protest was about and gave him the option of attending and seeing the opportunity to get out of school early, he said that he wanted to go. (Of course, I only gave him the option of going to the strike AFTER he went to school for his piano lesson. To me, politics take a back seat to getting things that you have already paid for.) He even told his teacher that he was going to a presentation because it wasn’t fair that some of the people in the world get to keep all the money, so it looked like the day might even be instructional. (Those of you wanting to cry foul over me bringing Malcolm to a lefty protest, realize that I have exposed Malcolm to a wide range of events which some would find objectionable, including wine tasting, the county fair and, yes, Hooters. Don’t get mad at me for showing him the world out there.)

We are the 99!!! (Or, as Malcolm put it, "We are the chicken ear!")

The event we went to was called the Children’s brigade, a group of 100 or so parents and kids who wanted to tell the world that we care about our kids’ futures. The group marched from the Oakland public library to the main protest stage chanting, “Who are the 99? WE are the 99” or silly iterations of it that the kids thought up. Well, the other kids, anyways, Malcolm ate for a good portion of the march, meaning he had salami and cheese sandwich crammed in his mouth for most of the chanting. We held up signs, waved to supporters and had a great time walking down the middle of the street (a thrill in and of itself.)

While there, we ran into Malcolm’s friend from soccer and another family from his school, and upon greeting we gave each other an implicit, “Oh, you’re a hippie too!” nod of approval. I definitely did NOT want this to turn into a playdate, but after the march ended we found ourselves standing in the middle of the street too far to hear any of the speeches and close enough for there not to be any cars in the street. So, the kids played tag and frisbee in the street.

We toured the Occupy camp after playing with his buddies for a while. I can’t tell you how cool it was down there. They have food tents that give out free food to anyone who wants it. (They had ice cream, but only after we left.) They have acupuncturists. They have meditation centers, gardens and even what looked like an area for mimes to gather and express themselves mimically. Taken together, the place was a farmer’s market, swap meet, and political rally all built into one. I found it fascinating. I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a bar, but, judging by the number of joints being passed around the place, people were making due.

We made our way to an amphitheater and sat down to watch some musical events. They had old women singing folk protest songs from the ’60’s, a 15 year old boy reciting poetry about what they thought their future would look like, and an an actor performed a soliloquy about “the man” being a “white devil.” They had homeless poets describing their anger about life on the street. There were androgynous singers and a rapper named Kiwi detailing the earlier scuffles with police.  It was, in a word, awesome, except for the heavy use of the word, “Motherfucker” which I love myself, but was not quite ready for Malcolm to start using on his own.

Malcolm began to wain after a few hours, and I did something I usually think is bad parenting. I bribed him. I brought some Halloween candy with me and after he finished his lunch I gave him some. I also promised him some more after another hour to make sure that he would be into staying and listening. (That boy would wait through an entire day of actuarial accounting lectures if it meant a Reese’s peanut butter cup at the end.) The bribe totally worked, and he went from whiny lap sitter to enthusiastic dancer. We laughed for a good part of the afternoon, mostly at his awkward attempts to dance like a fish and a snake.

When I finally ran out of peanut butter cups, we left for the day. It was really cool to show up with fellow parents, Oakland residents, and homeless poets to express ourselves. You may disagree with the point that the Occupy Protesters are trying to make, but I am pretty sure you would have had a good time there nonetheless. Malcolm may not fully understand the politics behind the event, but at the very least he will know that good things can happen when a community comes together the get their voices heard. Well, that’s probably a little naive. In all likelihood he will associate political protests with salami and peanut butter cups. That will work for now.


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