Vote, Dammit.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a considerable amount of a beautiful autumn Saturday knee-deep and totally involved in the exciting and glamorous world of politics and intrigue, out there amongst The People. Me with ponytail and clipboard, voter registration cards and a friendly spunky smile with attitude…in my long-winded way I am saying that I was registering people to vote.

I know, the activism gig again. I can’t help it. I am a bit of a nut when it comes to well….a lot of things and one of them is democracy.  I am big on voting. It may sound corny but I am what I am and I had a blast!

Me with potential voters

True, there was some hard work involved but it was fun work. I got to meet so many interesting people! It was fantastic. Portland is such a quirky town and I savored all that quirky goodness.

I was just recently downtown and was ecstatic to be back. My turf was a section of The Portland Farmer’s Market at PSU. It is a lovely and lively place full of Farmer’s market type of people, college students and tourists.

If you are ever in Portland on a Saturday visit this place! It is full of good food and an eclectic and interesting mix of musicians and street performers all under beautiful trees in the south park blocks.

So there I was with a huge smile plastered on my face asking anyone and everyone who passed by if they wanted to register to vote. I found out that Portland, being the kind of town that it is, a lot of people have already registered and so it seemed more to me as if I was taking a poll than really helping anyone, but I was enjoying myself in the morning sun, talking to citizens about really how crappy the world is and laughing a lot.

Perhaps I was enjoying myself too much. An especially loud guffaw marked a change of tone just as old sourpuss entered stage left; apparently my spot was high on the list of appealing spots for do-gooders to stand. He made it clear through a series of looks, handshakes and innuendo that I was late on the scene; this was his spot.

“I’ve been here quite regularly. Several Saturdays in a row.” He told me.

His lips were moist and his breath reeked of old coffee. He stared at me with big bulbous fish eyes that quivered as he spoke. I’ve dealt with this kind before. I knew his type…

This was a prime spot–must be because of the close approximation to the coffee tent and Pine Street Biscuits which I hear is very good. I had a cute little grassy knoll with a street lamp to lean on. I liked the spot and I know this sounds a bit much but I wasn’t going to give it up without a fight!

I gave him one of those looks I sometimes give to my teenagers: it’s the “Don’t even try it or there will be hell to pay” look. I have perfected this and it never fails to work. Today was no exception. Mr Sourpuss moved on to the other end of the park. I would catch a blurry glimpse of him from time to time fueling up on coffee: he’s quite the drinker. He gave me a sourpuss smile. I beamed my bestest fake smile back, after all, aren’t we on the same side here?

These women had already registered but looked so fantastic I asked to take their picture.

I registered 12 people that day. Probably not a lot. Perhaps old SP made out better. I did however talk to a lot of people. I have found in my travels through life that we are more alike than different.

I talked to some independents, a smattering of Republicans (Blue State here) lots of Democrats (again Blue State) and a few alternatives; two leaning toward socialism and one anarchist. I was surprised by the number of people who choose the option not affiliated with any party.

Most of the people I talked to were articulate and engaged and passionate about our community at large. Many of us talked about how life was changing. We spoke of the economic downturn. I did not meet one person who hasn’t been affected.  Most were hopeful, but wary and many were confused. Everyone I talked to agreed on one thing: this partisan bickering fighting between the two major parties must stop if we are to move forward and fix what is wrong with the country, not to mention the world.

Our children will inherit what we have created.

I encountered some indifference, though not as much as I imagined. I didn’t try to sell anyone. I wasn’t aggressive. I represented myself with dignity. I was knowledgeable and engaged. I was polite to everyone and felt that I was an ambassador of sorts. Maybe not so much just to register people but to raise awareness about the importance of voting, because it is important. Many people have given up their lives for this right!

Too many….

So when THAT date rolls around, whether it be November 6th, 2012 or some other date, if you are fortunate to have the right to vote do me a favor, do yourself a favor, do your fellow citizens a favor and let your voice be heard.

VOTE, dammit.

One voice may be so quiet it is difficult to hear…keep adding voices and it becomes a roar of a sound that cannot be put asunder…

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

BEST WISHES,

Strawberryindigo.

“It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it”

Eugene V. Debs

Occupy moves on

occupy berlin

From its infancy the occupy movement has run the gambit of highs and lows of the human experience. The movement started in New York as a protest against the unbalance of wealth in our society and it has grown and morphed and spread all over the country and the world.

A movement born out of frustrations brought on by hard economic times mixed with vanishing natural resources, dwindling opportunity and the remains of a system once created for the common good that is now corrupted by the few and the powerful who put profits over everything else.

The American dream is slipping through the fingers of many Americans.  Our golden age is tarnishing. We the people have lost our way.

Occupy Portland March - 60

Image by merrick_monroe via Flickr

I believe this movement is only a beginning and it is a sign of more to come.  The events of late have truly surprised me and have caused me to re-evaluate my feelings on the Occupy movement more than once.

I  have always supported the ideals of the movement, in that there has never been any doubt in my mind. However, I have not always supported the means. This occupying has from day one struck me as unsustainable.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all the good reasons and high ideals cannot trump cold hard reality. These camps created by Occupy degraded into a health and safety hazard that cost our cities dearly at a time when city and state budgets are strained to the max. This occupying also cost the movement valuable credibility.

They showed why it is illegal for a group of people to take possession of a public park and just squat there indefinitely. No matter how worthy the cause, those ends do not justify that sort of means.

Night march through Portland

Image by K. Kendall via Flickr

In most places the cops have moved in and used a varying degree of force to retake the parks once occupied.  Every city is different and in my city, to my surprise, it was relatively peaceful thanks to all involved. The local police showed uncommon restraint and the protestors themselves seemed to police themselves in many instances.

The crowd, estimated to be 2-3 thousand, gasped as a fiery projectile thrown into a row of mounted police injuring one of them and causing him to be taken away during the eviction last Saturday.

The perpetrator was quickly pointed out by the crowd and the man was promptly taken down and arrested. Then in a move that surprised me, the police backed off and allowed the protestors to form a drum circle in the middle of the street, dancers in the hundreds surrounded the circle, cheered on by the overwhelming number of spectators.  A party atmosphere prevailed into the wee hours. There was a sense of unity shown that gave me a sense of long forgotten city pride.

I felt I had been a bit hasty in my predictions of doom and gloom but then I looked around and found the reaction in my city to be unusual.

Occupy Portland

Image by drburtoni via Flickr

The next day 50 people were arrested and the Occupy encampment was retaken by police.  A handful of protestors remained and helped clean up the disgusting mucky mess left behind in the two city parks held hostage in this all too human drama.  Many citizens came out to see the damage and confronted leftover protestors milling about  It seemed not everyone was happy with all the mess and the cost of the occupy.

Heated debates sprung out on street corners.   People that would have never spoken to each other before were voicing their varied but strong opinions,  exchanging ideas and solutions. Citizens were taking to each other instead of just ignoring.

occupy portland

Image by snap turtle via Flickr

By Monday, a press conference was held by what serves as our local occupy leadership fronted by youngish woman in a bright red cap.  She spoke eloquently as she demanded an apology from the mayor and the chief of police for the use of force during the eviction.  Tears welled in the eyes of a nearby protestor as the woman in the red cap spoke of a member of their group, a sign language translator who had apparently been hurt in the scuffle and was now in a wheelchair.

Evidence is sketchy on this and I have this natural inclination to believe the protestors  though I cannot say as I was not there. I have only seen what is claimed to be altered footage of the event.

When asked if they were planning on occupying any more parks, the spokesperson beamed a smile and said “no comment”.  I had hoped for a sign of leadership or a clear focus from the group.  They seem intent on continuing the movement and will not let anyone but themselves know exactly what they have planned.

On Tuesday, the protestors marched and invaded an upscale shopping mall.  On Wednesday,  they marched in solidarity with local university students protesting high tuition and an unfair treatment of school loans.  Today is dubbed “N 17″ and a protest on the banks is planned. Events turn on a dime. Only time will tell how this all plays out and how history will view this phenomena.

A smart person once told me that revolutions can be messy and that all that mess makes people stand up and take notice. I have to agree.

It is  prompting us, forcing us  really to look at ourselves as a community of connected individuals who can all have a say in our collective future . This movement has opened a dialogue with ourselves, all 100% of us. It is a discussion that is long overdue and if we want any real and lasting change for the betterment of us all, we need to have it.  If this movement has achieved anything it is this and it is the most essential.

fire

Image by matthewvenn via Flickr

The Occupy movement has provided the spark. To succeed the spark must grow and for it to grow and become something formidable, it must kindle the fires by adding new converts with clearer heads who can focus the attention on key issues.  For this movement to move it needs the help of everyone.  It cannot afford to alienate.  There are many problems and the protestors have every right to be angry, but their anger and a lack of clear focus hurts the very cause most they and I support so very much.

Strawberryindigo.