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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy the Ozarks

I got an email saying there would be an Occupy Wall Street gathering in Springfield, in front of the office of Senator Roy Blunt on East Sunshine St. It was late in the day on Thursday, so I decided to go. I made two signs, one nicer and one harsher, summing up my current biggest concern that others should worry about, too: big money co-opting democracy. I also stopped at the store, bought a ready-made "For Sale" sign, and wrote "AMERICA" in the slot under FOR SALE, an idea I stole from the internet.

Remember "Mr Yuk," poison's greatest spokesman?

I arrived 30 minutes after the 4:00 start time. Though fairly small and uneventful, the gathering was quite visible from the road. About 40-50 people stood waving signs along the curb along the busy street. A wide range of signs and folks, but unfortunately, many or most of the signs were impossible to read from a distance. The worst was a whole sheet of posterboard plastered front and back with magazine pages, all from a FORTUNE magazine article about jobs leaving America. While I’m sure the information was relevant, I couldn’t even really read it, and I was standing 10 feet away. Some others said, basically, “Don’t Cut Medicare,” “Preventive care equals healthy families,” and “Jobs, Health Care, Education.”

Not one of Springfield's premier singles markets, though you may notice one pair of overly tight jeans.

A couple of reporters showed up and did some minor interviews, both for radio and TV. A woman walked up and down the other side of the street gently swishing a big American flag. No response came from Senator Blunt's office as far as I know, but his neighbor, a lady lawyer, came out and complained that we were standing in front of her place, and she didn't want people to think she was being protested. Kinda dumb, but we scooched down 20 feet to appease her. The best part was that it angered this old classic Vietnam-era hippie man who kept saying he wasn’t going to move, fuck her, we needed to get more militant, but the calm young Euro-style hipster who seemed to be in charge kept cooling him down and arguing against using the word "militant," with which I nodded agreement. I didn’t really talk much. The stocky, hispanic-looking guy to my right was getting cold. Most of the people were underdressed for the chill: it was a decent day, until you stood still.

There were many flip-offs and mad faces from the traffic even though the signs were no more extreme than "We are the 99%" and "No War in Iran". I never even used my "Plutocracy is for Assholes" one, because of the overall positivity/non-militancy of the gathering. But there were easily three times as many good responses, if honking can be reliably counted as supportive. I talked a little to the guy to my left, with “We are the 99%” on an orange sheet of paper on a clipboard. We got a few laughs out of the number of women who flipped us off. “There’s a lot of hate out there,” he said. But we agreed that the response was mostly good, especially for Springfield, which is relatively conservative and repressed. He said he was from Chicago, where there was more protesting, and that sometimes if he was supposed to write his race down on paper, he wrote “Chicagoan.” He wasn’t as funny as he wanted to be, but I guess I liked him.

After I’d been there for an hour, everybody started getting cold and going home. I went back to work. I didn’t expect any real payoff to come from this. Springfield is home to nothing, in the world of big finance or big government, but at least Roy Blunt should know that we’re here, even here. I’m sure he could give two shits about any of it. He’s a long-time Washington fixture, bought and sold long ago. Now he’s like an anti-Obi-Wan: if we strike him down by voting, he’ll just come back more powerful than before, as one of the Sith lobbyists he takes payola from now. 

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