by Lauren Paulson
Two Occupy Portland ships didn’t meet in the night, recently, though they steered an impressively close course. One ship is the Oregon Area Jewish Committee (OAJC) who put on a meaningful update of the Occupy movement during an august group luncheon March 28th, at the tiny digs of the Miller Nash law firm in downtown Portland. The other vessel, Occupy Portland’s weekly Spokes Council, convened at the rugged St. Francis Dining Hall that doubles as a daily venue for feeding the houseless.
Connie the facilitator moderated dialogue between Spokes Council enthusiasts. Adam Klugman, son of actor Jack Klugman and radio talk show host held the OAJC throng enthralled.
The Respective Occupy Discussions
Miller – The well-dressed crowd was there to watch Klugman’s Powerpoint presentation. The formal question is whether Occupy is the spearhead of an unstoppable human movement. Most in the audience, lunching on Yuppie wraps, said they feel hopeful because of Occupy.
St. Francis – A group from North Portland is there to voice their solidarity with Occupy. Their primary focus is foreclosure issues.
Miller – Klugman covers the populist movements of the past and the history of the New York version of Occupy. Does the Occupy concept have staying power? Does it resist media-friendly labels? It may not be well-known, but the magic of the October 6, 2011 date is that it is ten years after the October 7, 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
St. Francis – These meetings are chaotically eclectic, as people float in and out. Yet, somehow meaningful business gets transacted on subjects important and sublime. Subjects discussed include changes of the major meetings days, supporting the post office unions, and organic gardening. One would be surprised at how much Occupy lends to helping those that do not have enough to eat. Uta is the food wonder-woman.
Miller – As the audience warms up to the Occupy subjects, the questions become more animated and central to what brings us all together. Most can agree we are disappointed in President Obama. The 99% is trying to build a world that works for all of us. The 1% has already built a world that works for them; the status quo works for the 1%. Because Obama failed to fertilize the progressive vision, Occupy transcends that failure by returning that hope to us rather than him.
St. Francis – More discussion on how to gather seeds and develop community gardens to provide for the Occupy events. At the last ALEC protest the food committee provided veggie burgers for the entire group, handed out in front of McDonald’s on Main Street.
Miller – One listener recounted that a member of the lame media decided that, “If you put every left wing issue in a blender, Occupy is the sludge you would get…” Klugman opined that the primary thing missing in media is their failure to really listen. He speaks as one who knows.
Miller – The group was cheered about how Occupy seems to take care of each other; and the homeless.
St. Francis – The peace and safety committee is always present to ensure we are all friends. St. Francis Spokes Council meeting space is also where the church feeds the homeless.
St. Francis – The group discussed moving the General Assembly from outside on Sunday to inside on Monday; however, it was observed by many the call to Occupy outdoors.
Miller – A social worker saw many at camp needed more serious, even professional help. Her opinion was that help was only available to a narrow group of the movement.
St. Francis – The broad array of medical, psychological and holistic care available at camp was impressive.
Miller – It was astutely observed that the mic check process is really a metaphor for the fact the 1% is tone deaf to the 99%. The group cheerfully mocked Klugman’s attempt to demonstrate the mic check process by repeating what he said long after the point was made. Very funny spot.
St. Francis – One cannot help noticing the diversity present.
Miller – One cannot help noticing the one-dimensional mode of dress and mien that totally belies the diversity of thoughts and opinions about Occupy forcefully expressed today.
St. Francis – The fund raising and reimbursement process is not only illegal it is broken. Leadership is weak and wrong.
Miller – Occupy would not be necessary if the tax system was fair. Klugman opined it is not taxes, it is priorities. Clinton observed the public would rather have a leader that is strong and wrong (Bush) than a leader that is weak and right (Obama).
St. Francis – The challenges are broad and resources few except for people power. Who is going to help on the Info desk?
Miller – There is no difference between the government and the funders of those that run the government (the corporations).
St. Francis – Occupy is so poorly organized as to be politically impotent. Liberals do a horrible job framing their arguments.
Miller – Dick Armey and his Tea Party boys are so organized that they are highly politically effective; conservatives do an effective job framing their arguments. One Miller professor is starting to see students becoming aware of the Occupy movement.
Miller – Mayor Sam Adams was initially sympathetic. Then he became attached to the National Mayor’s Association conference call which was aided by The Police Exchange Reform Council (retired police chiefs) who advised The City to use the ‘Shock and Awe’ approach and to ‘take no prisoners’.
Miller – Former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Jacob Tanzer advised he thought it was wrong to focus on Obama. The way the civil rights movement gained sympathy was when there was tragedy like the present day pepper spray incidents.
Miller- Klugman wrapped up by forcefully stating that we need fundamental Radical shifts, NOT Incremental change. We need a paradigm shift. Don’t wait for the next generation–make change and radical change now. Some people are actually saying it is time to work outside the system with new currency and regional governments (Cascadia). It is about a conversation with each other, NOT a conversation with government nor the political process.
St Francis- Donna asks if we are ready to die for our cause. Several others concurred that is the question. We are the people we have been waiting for.
Miller-The group is energized and animated as they stride confidently to the doors leading to sweeping stairs to the elevators down from the 34th floor.
St. Francis – The participants put the chairs and tables back where they belong for the next homeless meals. And shuffle off into the night.