A Jewish Mother’s Advice to Occupy Wall Street

First of all, all of you in Zuccotti Park or Chicago or wherever–what you’re doing is kind of amazing. As a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War movement, I look at your protests and think how much the world has changed. I also wish we baby boomers could have provided you with a better world. We certainly tried. But we let the fat cats get away with too much. We let the Republicans get a way with a massive cheat in 2000 and 2004, and when Obama came in 2008, things were a little far gone for a good and quick fix. But a lot of what’s going on with the economy and the job picture, we couldn’t have predicted that. I don’t buy into conspiracy theories. Yes, there are a lot of bad guys. Some good guys let us down. (I’m talking to you Bill Clinton.) So now you, our kids, are using your energy to say, “stop, no more.” At least that’s what I think you’ve been saying. You guys aren’t exactly clear. It’s that “human mic” thing, which I’ll talk about later. Also, you’re not all kids as some studies have shown. (http://nyti.ms/vE8NwV) People my age have been down there every day, sleeping over, showing support. And thus my first bit of advice.

  • Call Your Mother. She Worries. I’m not kidding. And you can substitute any family or friends for “mother” there. Even if people in your life don’t agree with what you are doing, they do want to know you are safe. So far in New York City, Occupy Wall Street people have been pretty safe. But you never know. The protestors in Oakland weren’t expecting a former marine to suffer a brain injury.


  • Think of How What You’re Doing Looks to Others. The chant “The Whole World’s Watching” worked really well at the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968 when Mayor Daley’s police went after the protestors with billy clubs. Indeed, it was the Democratic Convention, and the whole world was watching.  #OWS has a different kind of coverage–live-streaming, tweets–along with the mainstream media which has been very much on the story despite some complaints. This was The New York Times reporter Sarah Maslin Nir’s tweet about her annoyance with this after Nate Silver’s story on the press coverage on October 7, 2011:A lot of what you’re doing in Zuccotti Park looks a little dumb unless you’re there and caught up with it, like the drumming circle.


  • So Don’t Make Drumming a Priority. Yeah, it’s cool and spiritual, but it looks really silly. And you are bothering people who live and work in the neighborhood. Take a minute to think how important it is to our economy and the eventual easing of unemployment to allow people to get a good night’s sleep and go to their jobs. The more jobs we lose now, the worse it will be. Meeting with the community board and getting porto potties, that was a good thing that showed strength of character.


  • Not So Much What Happened at the DOE Meeting. Since few OWS people went to the small meetings after the large one was broken up, those there looked more interested in disruption than construction. Believe me. I am a long time veteran of dealing with the DOE. I had two kids who went all the way through in public school, and things have gotten worse. But doing “human mic” checks instead of listening and designating a speaker from your group–you–we–lost an opportunity to put stuff out to the DOE.


  • One Thing About the Human Mic. Remember the game telephone. That’s what can happen. So be careful.


  • Don’t Antagonize the Police. @OccupyWallStNYC made a good point yesterday in the tweet:Document, don’t fight, unless you’re ready to be arrested and maybe beat up a little. Tear gas is painful (I’ve been tear-gassed).


  • But Count Your Blessings. This is not Tahir. You are not fighting in Syria. Thank your lucky stars for that. In Egypt protestors get horribly tortured (as the US has tortured and still may those they suspect of being terrorists). They die. We do live in democracy with a free press (even Fox is a free press, sort of). You can say a lot of things in the USA that people can’t say elsewhere without being in fear of their lives. Which reminds me:


  • Occupy a Voting Booth. Democracy is really slow, and that can be frustrating. But voting generally has an impact. (Look what has happened since people voted all those right wingers and Tea Party supporters into office last year.)


  • Back to the Police. Every since 9/11 Americans have had lots of nice things to say about police. They are generally brave people. But people willing to put their lives on the line often have a toughness that with a slight shove moves over to bullying. Most of the police don’t see themselves as part of the 99%. They see themselves as guys who can legally walk around with clubs and guns–and use them. Did you notice the turnout in the Bronx of off-duty police supporting the police indicted of ticket-fixing schemes? If a guy has a night stick, try not to come into contact with it.


  • And Don’t Be Naive. This from an article in today’s Times (http://nyti.ms/vE8NwV):  Sonny Singh, 31, a Sikh musician from Brooklyn who joined Occupy Wall Street early on, recounted the scene in Zuccotti Park the day the general assembly drafted its “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” — the closest thing to a political manifesto the protesters have put out thus far.Mr. Singh said that he and a few other “brown” people at the assembly were appalled by what was going to become the first paragraph of the declaration: “As one people, formerly divided by the color of our skin,” the document began, “we acknowledge the reality: that there is only one race, the human race.”

    “That was obviously not written by a person of color,” Mr. Singh said, calling the statement naïve. “Race is a reality in the lives of people of color, you can’t put out a statement like that without alienating them.”

You don’t want to sound stupid.

  • And If It Gets Too Cold . . . Go Home. Yes, the protestors who are staying there all the time are admirable in their determination. But New York City gets cold in the winter. Soldiers manage to stay camped out in tents during frigid weather, but not everyone is supposed to be a soldier. At this point the Occupy Wall Street movement has changed the way Americans think about protest. It’s not clear that anything can be changed by these protests–except our way of thinking about things. So if you have to leave, you haven’t lost. In many ways you’re winning every day.

I’d love to hear from everyone what they think, those in favor of the demonstrations, those against. Use the comment box as a forum. And in the meanwhile, stay safe.

What I Want for Mother’s Day

This is the email I received from my son this morning:

“Lauren got her mom a magazine subscription for Mothers’ Day.  I asked her which magazine, and she said ‘Neurotic Weekly.’  I said, the cover would read, ‘Are You Forwarding Enough Articles About Health Hazards to Your Grown Children?’ What do you want for Mothers’ Day?”

Well, first off I might want him to stop misrepresenting me. Yes, I do forward a lot of news articles to my son, especially since The New York Times paywall went up. (We have a subscription; as an impoverished law student, my son does not.) But they’re on all kinds of stuff. Actually, mostly stuff having to do with Brooklyn. And then the occasional article about bedbugs.

(Bedbugs are a big one for me. Yesterday in a phone call, when my son told me the titles of some books he and his girlfriend had picked up from the street, I said to him—before even commenting on the lucky find—“quick, check the bindings for bedbugs.” He threw the books in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer instead. I’m not sure that works.)

So what do I want for Mother’s Day? This year that question feels a little fraught since I’m spending the day totally without family because I’m at our weekend house preparing the vegetable gardens for planting in a couple of weeks and trying to make sense of the flower gardens. The kids are studying for finals. Howard had to be in the city. So it’s me, myself and I, as we used to say.

Actually, it isn’t fraught at all. I’m perfectly content to cultive mon jardin and eat what I want when I want and not have to answer questions and stuff. OK. The last clause isn’t really true because my husband calls every few hours and the kids bombard me with IMs and emails. (We don’t get cell service here, so no texting.)

And actually, there’s nothing I really want for Mother’s Day, except the big things. World Peace. My kids happy, settled and employed. Health. More money. Lots of more money. Wait, I’m getting going here: published novels, lots of speaking engagements, world travel, an appearance on Rachel Maddow or Jon Stewart. (Where did that last item come from?)

Sure, a new Chloe pocketbook or a pair of Prada sandals might be cool. But I have a lot of stuff. A lot a lot.

Of course, whenever someone special—husband, kids—gives me something, that thing becomes special. On the shelf above my desk I have a picture my daughter drew in second grade in a Popsicle stick and macaroni frame titled, “New York City Mother’s Day Ballet.” Holding my books in place is a ceramic head of a wolf, gift from son when he was 9 or 10. Last year my son gave me a novel I wanted to read, my daughter tried to get me a new camera. (Long story.) I treasure these things. So perhaps I don’t mean it when I say, “I don’t want anything because I have so much.” Or “what I want is for all of us to be nice to each other.”

Stuff I really do want: an iPad2, though I can’t figure out what I need it for. The new iMac and MacBook Air laptop, but my three-year-old equipment is doing just fine. Also, those are out of my kids’ spending brackets, and I could never trust my husband to buy electronic equipment.

Unfortunately I can’t take part in the current Facebook meme where people are using photos of their moms as their profile pictures—I have no pictures of my mom on my hard drive (thanks to a few computer crashes several years ago when I used a PC and didn’t back up automatically I lost every digital photo I had taken before 2007.) Our all-in-one printers are old enough so as not to be fully compatible with the Snow Leopard OS, so I can’t scan in a picture. But here in my weekend house, I am so surrounded by my mom’s things. Half the furniture came from my parents’ house, not to mention the chachkas on the shelves and tables. So I am reminded of her all the time.

And my children are in my heart and mind all the time, even as they become more independent, more . . . adult.

I liked that when I looked at Facebook a few minutes ago, my friend Sally had posted a picture of her sons with their fiancées. She commented that before the end of 2011, she’ll have two beautiful daughters-in-law. Indeed, the young women are beautiful, and it’s probably one of the best gifts she’s ever received.

As for the magazine Lauren really sent to her mother: it’s called Cooks Ilustrated. My son came by his wiseguy stuff genetically, I think.