Friday, November 23, 2012

Occupy Memories

Yesterday morning, we got up bright and early, put on some warmish clothes, and drove into downtown DC.   We found ourselves a parking spot, and wandered down to Freedom Plaza, where hundreds of others were starting to gather.

Just like last year, we were going to participate in a Thanksgiving morning 5K fundraiser for So Others Might Eat.   My wife and the big guy were going to run it, or rather, she was going to run it, and he was going to run as long as he felt able.  The little guy and I would amble along behind, keeping pace with the strollers and the dog walkers and folks like the two soldiers who'd decided this year to do the 5K in their EOD suits.

Let's just say I was glad to discover they were there for pleasure, and not on business.

As we approached Freedom Plaza, we chatted about the cinnamon and sugar bagels that awaited, courtesy of Panera.

And both of my guys asked me the same question:  "Remember last year, when the Occupy folks were here?  Whatever happened with that?"

Last Thanksgiving, there'd been an encampment at the Plaza, right there in visual range of the White House at the heart of the nation's capital.  It wasn't huge, but it was there, and it had...ever so briefly...the attention of a nation.

But now?  Now the square was filled with human beings.  It would, by the start of the race, be teeming with over ten thousand souls, exponentially more than ever camped out as part of that movement.   None of them were Occupy folks.   Why?

There were a range of reasons, which I talked about with my boys.   None of those reasons revolved around a lack of sympathy for what could have been Occupy's goals.  When the local radio DJ who'd been brought in from a sponsoring radio station cracked a joke about Occupy not being there and how much better the square smelled this year, the crowd responded with crickets.  It was awkward, and he knew it, and he didn't go there again.

Occupy failed...and it did fail...first and foremost because it did not speak the language of the people.  The energy was there, the discontent with power and the critical imbalances woven into our culture.  The potential was there.  But if all you can speak is the awkward language of leftism, you're simply not going to connect.

There were other reasons, of course.  The narrowing of the movement into the tedious joyless formality of committee collectivism didn't help.  That devoured the energy of the movement and severed the connection to a generally sympathetic population.  The swirling aimlessness didn't help, either.  This was a community that struggled to respond effectively even to the offer of a free Thanksgiving meal.

And so this year, the 5K was 30% larger, and Occupy was just an echo.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Uh Oh

This last Sunday, it was time for a baptism.

One never knows exactly how any baptism is going to go, particularly if you're not dealing with adults. Little ones aren't aware of exactly what it is they're committing to when they come forward and are embraced by the sacrament...but then again, I'm not sure any of us grownup human beings quite fully grasp it, either.

The wee one in question Sunday was not an infant, but a happily squiggly toddler, for whom the entire world is still something to animatedly explore.   Which, of course, she did, noodling her way around her parents and attempting to sneak up into the pulpit on at least three occasions.  A fine place for a little girl to learn to feel comfortable, think I.

When the time came for me to place the water on her, she was momentarily still, comfortably ensconced in her father's arms.  I showed her the water in the silver chalice, and plashed my hand in it, so she could see just what it was.  She looked at it intently.

And then, with the first words of institution, I took a cupped handful of water and poured it gently over her head.

To which she said, matter-of-factly, "Uh oh."

I took another cupped hand filled with water, and did it again, speaking the next words.  "Uh oh," she said again.

And I thought, "Yup, that's about right."

If even half the adults who get baptized had any idea of what that action implied, I think we'd hear those words a whole bunch more often.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Your Neighbor's Flag

On late Tuesday afternoon after the outskirts of Sandy dealt a glancing blow to the Washington area, the power was still out.   We'd get it back soon, and the damage to our little corner of the DC 'burbs was modest compared to the hardship further north, but there was still damage.

That evening, as night was still falling, I walked to the bottom of our street.  I knew that a small army of contractors and Dominion power folks had gathered there, ready to work the night through if necessary to clear a huge fallen tree from the road and to rebuild several hundred yards of power line.   I wanted to check it out, and to see what progress was being made, and to kibbitz with neighbors.

Moving through the burgeoning dusk, I surveyed what the superstorm had done.

Here and there, large branches sat in yards.  A small tree lay wanly on its side.   The drone of generators still hung in the air, growing louder around every tenth house.

As I reached the end of our street, I saw a snapped flagpole in the front yard of a split-level.  The wind had torn and tugged and pulled at the flag all night, and that pole had failed.   Old Glory itself had fallen into the rose bushes by the side of the house, where it lay a twisted mess.

Also in front of the house, which sat quiet and dark, was a sign for a political candidate.  It was slightly askew from the storm's battering.  It was also not for the same candidate as the ones that had been in my front yard up until I moved them in anticipation of the storm.

I contemplated the scene for a moment, and then, overcoming my "don't mess with other people's stuff" programming, moved onto my neighbor's lawn.   There was clearly no-one home, as many folks without generators or functioning fireplaces had grown weary of the cold and gone to warmer and more illuminated places.

The pole had failed structurally, the light-grade aluminum still holding in one spot, but crumpled in on itself.   It was irreparable.  I fiddled with it a bit, seeing if perhaps I could get it to stand, but it was done.   The flag itself was tangled up mightily in one of the rose bushes, held fast and pierced through with thorns in a dozen places, as securely trapped as if it had been tacked to a cork board.

I took a few minutes to gently extricate it, carefully removing it from each of the thorns so as not to damage the faded fabric.  Then I propped the pole carefully and securely against the side of the house, making sure the flag was not touching the ground.

Seemed like the right thing to do.  There's no political exemption clause in the Law of Liberty, after all.