By Matt Cutugno
Indio, CA, USA
I never knew it was called Zuccotti Park, even though I walked by or through it nearly every day of my adult life. Actually, it wasn’t known by that name until recent years. From its creation in 1968, it was called Liberty Plaza Park. But for me, it was simply the area across Church Street from the World Trade Center where I would sit with a slice of pizza and a can of soda, have lunch, and people-watch. It is now named after the Director of its management company.
Ironic that it has become the staging center of the Occupy Wall Street movement, with its revolutionary, anti-corporate intent. It is now a symbol, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on a private park.
I moved to California a few months ago from my hometown of New York and I was back there in mid-October. I took the occasion to go downtown and check out the revolution. Zuccotti Park is certainly full of earnest activity. There is much milling about its limited space, and there are guitar players strumming. There are symposiums run by people lecturing small groups of listeners on what’s wrong with America. “Tax the Rich,” a placard proclaims; “We Are the Ninety-Nine Percenters” another announces (referring to the thesis that 1% of our population owns 99% of the wealth). In the corner of the park, shaded by trees, a large American-style flag hangs upside down, a sign of distress, amidst an array of sleeping bags and tents. It’s the 60s redux.
It was a beautiful autumn day when I visited and the tiny quadrant was ringed with police keeping an eye out. The park is in the shadow of hallowed Ground Zero, from whose depths rises the new Freedom Tower. The irony is inescapable. Likely the protestors would not be there if the 9-11 attacks had not set us on a course that contributed to our economic woes. Freedom Tower represents our future, as do the young people in Zuccotti Park. As a forward thinking person, I offer that it’s time for the Occupy Wall Street movement to move on.
This is a complicated time, but slogans that oversimplify the complexity don’t help. To paraphrase H. Rap Brown, protest is as American as cherry pie, and in that spirit, I applaud the Occupiers. However, in deference to local businesses and New Yorkers in general, I wish they would give the city a break. Their point has been made, and it’s a point well taken.
I wonder though: Why Wall Street?…Why there? They say it epitomizes greed, but does it? And if it does, is that reason for permanent protest? As the mayor of New York has noted, the average salary on Wall Street is modest enough, and many of the too-rich CEO’s don’t spend all that much time in the office. As the New York Times reported, local business people, hard working men and women, complain that the protestors are hurting them by discouraging customers. Even the owners of the park have quietly urged the city to end the trespass.
Why not Occupy Hollywood? I think many of us can agree plentiful greed is to be found there. How about occupy Exxon Headquarters? Judging from their unending quarterly profits, the oil industry seems to have totally escaped our economic malaise. My choice would be Occupy Washington D.C. After all, it’s those public servants, our politicians, who legislate. You want to tax the rich, demand it of those who pass our laws.
Most of the Occupy Wall Street protestors are younger people, and with good reason do they complain: unemployment among those 16 to 29 years of age is 50%. That’s a scary reality. But I posit that a little historical perspective is needed. My parents’ generation, born into the good times of the Roaring Twenties, found the Depression crashed upon them as they reached adolescence, then, as young adults, they fought a world war for the very survival of their way of life. That’s a far cry from, “What a drag, I have to live with Mom and Dad until I get a job.”
I think the problem with the angry chanting of slogans and the unending finger-pointing is this: we forget the human faces of our “enemies” until, like Pogo, we meet them and they are us.
Scenes from Occupy Wall Street - Zuccotti Park