FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Oh, USA

by MISSY BEATTIE

Beat-up little seagull
On a marble stair
Tryin’ to find the ocean
Lookin’ everywhere

Hard times in the city
In a hard town by the sea
Ain’t nowhere to run to
There ain’t nothin’ here for free

Hooker on the corner
Waitin’ for a train
Drunk lyin’ on the sidewalk
Sleepin’ in the rain

And they hide their faces
And they hide their eyes
‘Cause the city’s dyin’
And they don’t know why

Oh, Baltimore
Man, it’s hard just to live
Oh, Baltimore
Man, it’s hard just to live, just to live

Get my sister Sandy
And my little brother Ray
Buy a big old wagon
Gonna haul us all away

Livin’ in the country
Where the mountain’s high
Never comin’ back here
‘Til the day I die

Oh, Baltimore
Man, it’s hard just to live
Oh, Baltimore
Man, it’s hard just to live, just to live

~~“Oh, Baltimore” by Randy Newman

As my friend Steve and I headed to Occupy Baltimore, I could hear Nina Simone, singing this mournful song.  I’ve listened to her unique presentation over the years and have lived in this city during two different periods of my life, once for 13 years and, now, since 2007. But I became acquainted with the lyrics prior to meeting Baltimore and before I knew that there are many Baltimores throughout this country, so many cities and towns, diseased and dying, places where “Man, it’s hard just to live, just to live.”

Baltimore’s occupation site, McKeldin Square, is at the Inner Harbor, a tourist area, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has threatened to end the live-in. Like many mayors, she’s equivocated.  Cunning, they. And in a quandary. Because if they issue an order to shut down, the people will gather in greater numbers.

Rising from the ground not unlike sailboats dotting the Chesapeake, the encampment tents are colorful, assuming an energetic vitality.  The space is clean.

Steve and I walked through, stopping to read signs and talk with people who represent a cross-section of society—from the young to the elderly.

I spoke with a twenty-something-ish man who said an agenda is discussed and changed nightly.  He talked about “local concerns.” For example, a top priority at this site is education inequality.  That there’s money for a huge prison complex but not for the public school system. And another problem, the many empty houses in a city known for homelessness.

When I expressed my aversion to co-opting, he said that a “representative” from MoveOn came but that the group wasn’t interested. Then, I asked if he’d been involved with the antiwar movement.  He replied that his life is a testimony to peace.

An older man and former veteran engaged in a thoughtful dialogue with Steve and me, even inking in his notebook what we agree are the most pressing issues—that the greedy Wall Street bankers (bailed out by tax dollars) who perpetrated the crimes resulting in foreclosures, homelessness, loss of health insurance, and a collapsing economy have not been arrested and charged with fraud, but instead have continued to profit financially with lavish salaries, bonuses, and lifestyles, and the second: corporate personhood. We explained that huge corporations and their donations to political candidates have rendered the voice of individuals meaningless, creating a political dysfunction benefiting only the 1%.

And there’s this:  I’ve said previously and still believe that the protests would be more effective at Wall Street, realizing though that most people can’t afford to travel to New York City.  But donations to the Zuccotti Park group exceed $450,000.  If some of this money were used to bus people (those who’ve lost their livelihoods as well as all the college graduates who can’t secure jobs) from encampment locations to Manhattan, the impact on Wall Street would be enormous. Plus, the contribution shouldn’t be deposited in a bank, where it could be seized by the security state in the post-9/11 reality, one in which those who organize to oppose the ruling class might be labeled anarchists.

Because,“Man, it’s hard just to live, just to live.”

Cities are dyin’.

And we do know why.

Missy Beattie can be reached at missybeat@gmail.com

 

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail