Once Upon a Time in Berkeley

Once upon a time, when I was a starry-eyed young idiot, the world had just had a social revolution. Sex, civil rights, music, money, politics – people were rioting in the streets about everything, and women were burning bras. I was too young to do anything but watch “The Monkees” on a black and white TV. By the time I was old enough to be rioting in the streets myself, the world had moved on. Oh, sure, there were pockets of would-be-radicals looking for a cause, and there were still plenty of causes. There always are. However, people were getting lazy and fed up. Here’s a story that will illustrate the zeitgeist of the post-revolutionary era.

Those were the days.

Scene: small gaggle of 8 or 9 protesters arrive in the lobby of the Berkeley CA branch of Bank of America. They’re waiving signs that read “Smash Apartheid now!” and “The people united will never be defeated!” They wear tie-dyed shirts with raised fists lithographed on, although one has “I’d rather be sailing” instead.

Bank Manager: Yes? Can I help you?

First Protester: We’re here to smash apartheid now! It must end! Your bank is investing in a morally bankrupt system! Get your bank out of South Africa now! There’s blood on your hands!

Bank Manager: I agree with you 100 percent. I am horrified by what’s happening in South Africa, and I personally support Nelson Mandela and his work. But this is a small retail branch of a large international bank. I suggest you go to our main corporate offices, in San Francisco.

I can smash apartheid AND go sailing, right?

(Protesters mutter)

First Protester: Let me guess. You won’t tell me where the main corporate office is, because you’re a Capitalist Tool!

Bank Manager: It’s One Montgomery Street. Reception is on the 30th floor. Take BART to the Embarcadero Station. Here’s a map.

(Protesters mutter. We hear “that’s so far!” “I lost my BART card”, “I get panic attacks in elevators!” “Well, I get panic attacks from heights!” “I want to smash apartheid HERE!” “It’s past my lunchtime, you know. There’s a great vegan place right across the street.”)

First Protester: “OK, it’s decided. Lunch first, and if Taylor can loan Sienna a BART card, we can smash apartheid this afternoon. Oh? We’ll miss the meditation standup sit-in? And Ashley says she doesn’t like the vegan place across the street because they’re not gluten free? “

Fade to black.

After witnessing scenes like that, I got cynical. I never enjoyed the chanting and the yelling and the buttonholing of people on the street in the first place.

Dirty politics.

Now it’s 2017. Things are different. I have a civic duty to perform. My civic duty is to protect the rights of those who have no voice, and to get out the vote for those who do. Your civic duty is to pony up with the cashola.

Here’s why.

US citizens are being held and have been deported.  That’s right, US citizens. In addition, when someone with a valid green card applies to become a citizen, they run the risk of being deported for a minor offense like boarding a bus without paying when they were a teen.

The Federal “bed mandate” REQUIRES the Dept. of Homeland Security to fill 34,000 beds per night. If the number drops to 33,999,  the feds have to go on a hunt to fill that bed. In other words, there’s a quota.   It’s bounty-hunting.

Children of undocumented parents have high rates of anxiety and mental health problems. Movements like New Sanctuary are helping by using the centuries-old traditional role of churches as sanctuary.  Undocumented people and their children are offered a living space in a church, so that families aren’t torn apart. We all need to help them.

This was more my speed.

Eight elected Democrats in the NY State Senate are calling themselves “independent” and are sitting with the Republicans to block progressive legislation. This kind of back-room politics means my vote counts for bupkis. Yours, too

So yes, I do miss living in my former ignorance-is-bliss “Look! There’s a daisy!” bubble. But some things just can’t be ignored. That’s why I’m giving money to

1. Council on American-Islamic Relations
2. American Civil Liberties Union  ACLU
3. Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights NMCIR.org
4. Me.

That’s right, me.  I started a fund raiser so I can print flyers (Staples ain’t free you know) and donate to operating expenses for Action Potluck. You can do your civic duty and pay up here.

So, unbuckle old pocket book or pay app and give 5 bucks to each of these guys. Tell you what – make it 10 for me and I’ll give it to someone I met who is sheltering in a church with her young kids so ICE doesn’t drag her and her family off in shackles. The kids need some notebooks for school, too.

2 comments

  1. Hi Jane!
    I think your Bank of America anecdote needs a date, for the sake of the younger folks who have never heard of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.
    I also think it needs a “to-be-sure” disclaimer. Yes, you happened to overhear some spoiled kids talking to a very polite bank manager, but let’s also remember that disinvestment by U.S. financial institutions, under pressure from protesters, did in fact end apartheid.
    I’ll send you some dinero!
    Love,
    Joanie

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