Still enraged. And exhausted.

This has been quite the weekend to live in Chicago. A NATO protest even made its way to North Center, close to where I live. It wasn’t really a NATO protest; NATO was just the megaphone, the reason to be out now, when the world might be watching.

This protest had passed Mayor Emanuel’s house, speaking out against the closure of six mental health facilities in Chicago. They sat down in the middle of the street for their mic check, to rally for a moment before moving on. They were just south of the grocery store where my sister and I were headed to buy supplies for a barbecue, and we joined them for a minute to listen and take a few photos. (This sort of thing doesn’t happen in my neighborhood very often.)
Outside the store, we heard three men talking under their breath about the group headed their way:

“Freaks.”

Sure, it was a motley crew…but I loved them for being out there. Speaking their minds.
I always have.
What are you doing, you bystanders who are so quick to judge? Does a mohawk make someone’s argument invalid?

Bottom line, officially: I’m sick of all this.
This weekend — hell, this whole movement and everything about it — has become all about black and white, and I’m sick of it. The normal, hard-working folks and the jobless freaks with nothing better to do than wear bandanas and make a ruckus. The police and the protesters.

You’re either with us, or you’re against us.

I’m tired of seeing otherwise reasonable people — people I would ordinarily call friends, people I usually respect — driven to black-and-white rejections of this movement essentially because they’ve been inconvenienced by their big-city protests. I’ve never heard my Spinning teacher rant about a Tea Party rally he saw on TV. But when an immigration rally downtown got in his way during a delivery last week, he was six kinds of annoyed and couldn’t wait to turn his bike into a soapbox.

But guess what: Change isn’t convenient. Change will probably involve you missing a deadline or having to wait to deposit that check tomorrow. The world’s a big, fat shitstorm right now, and most of you aren’t doing anything about it.

Yes, you.

I’ll take an impassioned group of people holding up signs for any cause over the Twitter masses kvetching about them for not having a unified message — for being worthless, unwashed hippies who should go just go home — any day.

This has turned me into a ranting freak, too, and at times, I’m not even sure of what I’m saying.  Maybe that makes me part of the problem.

I guess we all think we’re right.

But I know this and will state it for the record: I don’t like violence.
At all.
I don’t like NATO because it’s a big, four-letter vehicle for the most powerful countries in the world to perpetuate war under the umbrella of “defense.” (Horseshit.) I don’t like the police who show up wearing gas masks, holding billy clubs they’re not afraid to use. I don’t like the protesters who hide their faces behind Guy Fawkes masks, throwing bricks and starting a bunch of nonsense.

I’m tired of police in riot gear; I’m tired of protesters provoking them. I’m tired of reading live streams of protests like the one today at Michigan and Cermak, scared of what I can’t see, fearing the worst. I’m tired of cringing at sensationalized television footage, wondering who will draw first blood and whether I’ll see it.

I know that change isn’t pretty. Change gets violent. But I hate that it has started happening so close to me.

Still, I’m more than a little embarrassed that I spent the day eating brunch, window shopping and starting fights on Twitter — from Starbucks, for God’s sake — instead of actually getting involved.
What does it mean to get involved, though? Is this “getting involved”?

Who can say?

These are complicated times.

Nothing is black and white.

Amazing capture by Steve Stearns (www.stearnsimages.com)

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8 Responses to “Still enraged. And exhausted.”

  1. Steve Stearns Says:

    I found the weekend to be incredibly beautiful.  I was sad to see things get a little violent at points on both days, but at it’s core we had passionate people expressing their feelings and police doing their job quite well.  We had press reporting, National Lawyers Guild and ACLU observers monitoring to make sure everything was done properly and legally.   There hasn’t been any property destruction, or loss of life.  This is a wonderful thing.  I feel like this is the kind of thing people had in mind when they founded this country.  

    Of course then I get home and something turned my stomach a bit and made me a whole lot less romantic about our Democracy.  What pushed my button was that after editing my photos and drinking a lot of water, I found this on the Internet: http://is.gd/UrOmbH  A photo of Obama, tonight, throwing a football at Soldier Field.  While the underpaid and overworked police were keeping us at a safe distance, Obama got himself a nice photo op.  He got to pretend he was an NFL quarterback for a few minutes and look all manly.  Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?  This reminds me of the kind of tone deafness displayed by Obama’s predecessor.  It makes me all the more glad that I went downtown today.  It makes me feel all the more part of the 99%, and just a little more resentful of the 1%.  Obama is better than Romney by a damn sight, but they all exist in that same bubble of privilege while we shout against the storm, seemingly unheard.

    *sigh*

  2. Tim Grimes Says:

    A thoughtful, passionate piece, Paige. Nicely done. I’m inspired to get downtown for the last march tomorrow because of this essay.  I know my “Lazy ass” needs to do more. I respect that you fight back to many of your Twitter followers that see things so Black and White. It makes me very sad that so many think this way. The vast majority of these protesters are fighting for great causes. No War, unions rights for Nurses, Teachers, and city Workers. Hell even trying to protect the Police’s Pensions. I had to bite my tongue many times where I work because of hearing the same bullshit you are hearing. “They smell” They need to get a job” They are a bunch of Pot-smoking freaks” Its so unoriginal and pitiful when I hear these comments. These people that say that have empty lives because they have no real passion for humanity. They just want to know they can get what they want when they want it and if they don’t start paying attention more to the world around them, they will realize too late they should have listened to these “dirty hippies” more.  By writing this you are “getting involved” By going downtown last November you definitely got involved. By always questioning the powers that be means you are involved. Keep it up, Lady. I’m proud of you but we both know we need to do more. The rest of you out there making snarky comments about these protesters, Wake. The. Fuck. Up.

  3. Renita Says:

    I spent a good chunk of last year poring over the “we are the 99%” tumblr and had a few problems with some of the sentiments there. And I still feel like there are problems with the Occupy movement as a whole. But how can I possibly dismiss people who are actually trying to do something? When I’m just sitting here on my couch?

    That said, I am willing to give some of the whiners you mentioned above this much: we, as a rather entitled country (broaaaad generalizations here) hate to be inconvenienced. Chicagoans and suburbanites love to whine about traffic, Metra/CTA delays, protests, tourists, anything that gets in their way, no matter how necessary or tragic or valid or whatever. God Herself could come down to earth on Michigan Avenue and give out free puppies and a million dollars and people would complain.

  4. Niki Says:

    “I’d join the movement if there was one I could believe in. Yeah, I’d break bread & wine if there was a church I could receive in.”

    I”m not protesting because I believe there are better, more productive ways for me, personally, to get my point across. I’m not protesting because I don’t 100% believe in a cause represented strongly enough to articulate why I”m causing a hassle. I’m not protesting because I don’t 100% understand what exactly is being protested anyways. I’m not protesting because I’m exhausted from all the other ways I use my voice to affect change. And I most certainly will not protest in a manner – nor affiliate with any group that protests in a manner – that endangers the safety of others, including but not limited to the men & women sworn to protect me, especially when my beef is not with them.

    This most certainly doesn’t make me apathetic.

    I protest in ways seen & unseen every day. I use my voice – as loud & brash as it sometimes is & as soft & vulnerable as it is other times – to raise awareness. I protest for women’s rights, for LGBT rights, for healthcare, etc. I don’t think it’s fair to write off anyone who doesn’t literally march & yell, “Hey hey ho ho something something’s got to go” as not being involved.

    Paige, you protest every day in some way – just like me – so please don’t feel bad because you’re not literally putting yourself on the front line. You feel the impact of a strongly worded tweet or blog post or comment thread just as hugely … & not only with a potentially much larger audience for change, but also with a potentially much larger chance of personal insult slinging as a result.

    I’m living in shades of gray about this. I was raised listening to the protest songs of CSNY. I wrote a lengthy research paper on the Kent State University shootings of May 4, 1970. I organized a sit-in. So that part of me screams, “You go, nurses! Way to organize! Way to tell truth to power!” But I also can’t throwing bottles at law enforcement officers just because they are doing their job to protect the President of the United States of America (among other people). & while I cringe at the drawing of billy clubs, there are instances in which I really can’t fault them for doing so. I mean, hell, I get all grrrr argh if a douchy guy in a bar won’t back off after I’ve told him several times to leave me alone. I can’t keep quiet, so why should I expect to press the limits of another human being & have them sit idly by? There’s a rather large gray area here & it’s always existed … we are just more acutely aware of it now, perhaps, because it’s just down the street from our house, inconveniencing us, shouting in our faces, forcing us to acknowledge.

    I love this post because it’s beautifully & honestly written in a thousand shades of gray. I love it because I don’t agree with it all. I love it because I agree with so many points – points that totally contradict the fact that I don’t agree with the other points.

    Thanks for doing your part, in the way only you can, Paige, to affect change. xoxo

  5. Coachalpo Says:

    ” I’m not even sure of what I’m saying”
    ______

    Clearly.  This should have been the title of this meandering, incoherent, rambling, cherry picking failure of a rant, which goes nowhere and takes no discernible position. 

    Oh, and Niki, it’s “effect.”  Thanks for playing.  Carry on with being angrily self-important.

  6. Protest. « …the pursuit of happiness… Says:

    […] my friend Paige pointed out, there are a million shades of gray when it comes to protest – & this weekend in Chicago […]

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