A lady on the corner of Jackson and LaSalle was holding this. Every cabbie and bus driver that went by blew his horn, to much applause from the crowd.
Right now we are living in a time of aggressively not having important conversations. I mean we're really putting our backs into it. Those conversations, we're not having them hard. All around us the earth is caving in and our country's discourse is basically about how debt is bad and Obama is a Muslim. Watching TV, reading the paper, watching the local news, you could be forgiven for thinking things weren't that bad. That maybe we were all okay, and you were the one who was cracked for feeling the ground shake under you every time the phone rang.
Chicago's protests take place in front of the Chicago Board of Trade. So every couple of hours some knob would come out of the building and engage a 90-pound woman in a full-on defensive whine about "why should I be punished for working hard, huh?" Because those people with their signs are really harshing his ability to go home and cry into his GIANT PILE OF MONEY.
If nothing else, if nothing nothing else, at the very least on the streets of New York and Philly and Boston and Madison and LA and San Fran and here in Chicago, we are now confronted with the sight that many, many people realize things are not okay. So if you happen to think things are not okay, you are not the only one. You are not the lone voice in the wilderness, you are not the only one who Gets It. Lots of other people get it, which is the benefit of saying something out loud. You get to find out just how many people really do agree with you.
Judging by the number of people on the four corners of the Chicago financial district's holy crossroads, many many people agree that we are hosed and are not likely to get un-hosed anytime soon. Chicagoist has been following the demonstrations all week; I joined in today to bring them some homemade cookies from The Internet and see exactly what the fuss was all about.
About 100 people were gathered at the corners of Jackson and LaSalle, with signs and bullhorns and rolling carts of food. The cops, according to Chicagoist, have told the occupiers they can't sit or sleep or store stuff anywhere, so they have these rolling stations, with food and water, and they pack everything up and move when told to move. The age range ran the gamut from an elderly couple holding up signs that read "send the Navy SEALS to DC" to people who had the temerity to have both youth and opinions, and their shouts rang in the skyscraper canyons downtown.
This is where I met Heather.
Heather's not the one in the tutu. That's Alyra. She's three. Mom explained to her what was going on Wall Street while they were watching TV the night before, and when asked what she wanted to do with a rare day off from school, Alyra replied, "Wall Street." Kids these days.
Heather's a nurse in Chicago, working two jobs to support her daughter. She took the second job to make up for a pay cut, and then saw her pay cut at the second job, too.
"So what do I do, get a third job because of that cut?" she asked. "It's not fair, what's happening to working people right now."
People come into her ERs sick with worry about losing a job, a house, sicker still because they cannot afford the care they need.
"I've seen people have heart attacks from the stress they're under," she said. "These are hard workers, people who've worked their whole lives, and they're so scared they're going to end up with nothing."
I'm sympathetic to arguments that there are better places for protestors to put their time and attention, but life isn't a bowl of sugar. There isn't only so much. It's not "protest or organize," it's "protest and organize and donate and write letters and have meetings and vote vote vote vote vote vote vote," and it goes on all the time. It's just that right now, this is what's getting the attention of the Internets and, with regard to the freak-show factor, the local press. That doesn't mean this is the only thing happening. That doesn't mean this is the only thing that will ever happen.
It's just happening now.
Heather held up her sign. Her daughter danced to the drums across the street, to the songs being sung around her. It was a beautiful afternoon in the city, unseasonably warm and sunny.
The driver of a dark blue car stopped at the intersection leaned on his horn, long and loud. His passenger leaned out the window, pumping her fist to the demonstrators' cheers.