The 99% will convene a National Convention in Philadelphia, so that’s the good news. Where America was born, they will try to bring her back to life, save her from this deepening degradation. Their list of demands, to be released in October of 2012, will most likely be ignored by whoever are in charge by then. The new, reshuffled Washington gang will be made up of Wall Street and Federal Reserve puppets, as usual. These career flunkies entered national politics to suckle and suck from big business, so why would they bite their gold men’s sacks? With their grievances ignored, the 99% will field candidates for the 2014 mid-term election, then, presumably, the 2016 Presidential one, but will they get enough officials elected to make any difference at all, and what kind of shape will America be in by then?
Will unemployment be 40 or 50%? Will we be fighting a dozen wars, or, defeated everywhere, maybe even none? Will the occupy encampments become “enduring” tent cities? Will Chicago protesters plant vegetables and raise chickens in Grant Park? For a preview of what’s to come, look no further than Philadelphia itself.
Unlike elsewhere, Mayor Nutter has been sympathetic towards these protesters. He visited them on the very first night, showing up at 1:15AM to say, “The things you’re talking about are the things I talk about every day.” He instructed his police chief to have the First Amendment, about freedom of assembly, to be read at roll call each morning, at each police district. Most importantly, he allowed protesters to pitch tents right next to City Hall.
Two weeks into Occupy Philly, there are about 350 tents right in the heart of Philadelphia, as well as makeshift dwellings of pallets, tarps, cardboard and plywood. One has a two-foot-high platform, so it can endure the cold and rain better than most. These people are planning to stay, in short. This plaza has long been a magnet for Philly’s homeless, with about 50 folks curled up on benches each night. Now they’re joined by hundreds who are only symbolically homeless.
Some of the long-time homeless have picked up donated tents, and three times a day, they also line up at the Occupy Philly chow tent. Though they tend to be more scruffy and older, it’s not always easy to distinguish between a regular homeless person and a protester, but, if you think about it, each homeless individual is already a protester.
All-too-visible and rapidly increasing in each city and town, the homeless are an accusation that our system is truly messed up. In the “greatest country on earth,” the top 10% own 71% of the wealth, while the bottom 40% must scrape by on less than 1% and, this year, at least 3.5 million Americans, or more than 1%, will experience homelessness at some point.
The brainwashed will sneer that the poor deserve to be broke because they’re so damn lazy and, well, not enterprising enough, but, in any society, no one works harder than those at the very bottom, where it takes a superhuman effort just to survive from day to day, and it wasn’t poor Americans who conned the entire world, then looted our treasury to reward themselves eight-figure bonuses. In this upside down nation, it’s the bottom 90% who must sacrifice everything to succor the top 10%. We must eat less and even sleep outside so they can indulge their vicious, insatiable greed and endless war. Our biggest companies rake in trillions from organized carnage and swindling, yet Citigroup, Bank of America, GE, Chevron, Boeing, Conoco, Exxon Mobil and other big boys pay no taxes. Instead, they get rebates from the IRS. Money buys influence, and all the rules are rigged against us, and unless we revolt, we must endure increasingly savage destitution. Not satisfied with our sweating and bleeding bodies, these ogres want to devour generations to come. No wonder the kids are rebelling.
Martin Luther King’s last project was to organize Resurrection City, where poor Americans could be made visible to the Washington elite, the rest of America and even foreign tourists. Living in makeshift dwellings, they were a protest against America’s misplaced priorities, but King was shot before Resurrection City was even erected, and Bobby Kennedy, its brainchild, was murdered just afterwards.
In Philadelphia, a new Resurrection City has arisen, however, and across the street from this rapidly expanding community, there’s Philly’s swankiest address, the 48-story Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, where a one-bedroom bachelor’s pad can be had for half a million bucks, and the penthouse, $12 million. Backlit by warm, yellow lights, Ritz-Carlton residents can be seen each night looking down at the mess of tents below. Some peer through binoculars, others snap photos, but they didn’t pay through their cosmetically enhanced noses to put up with this stinking Third-World vista. It is quaint and lively, yes, but also squalid and somewhat menacing. Tonguing a prosciutto roll, they frown and imagine the day, soon, too soon, when these tents will surround them completely.
Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.
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