Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sanders rally: a blast from the past

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I hadn’t intended to go to Union Square yesterday; I just wound up there.
Months had passed since I had last visited Manhattan, so I didn’t even mind the mid-town madness, tourists and others crowding the sidewalks, pushing and shoving to get ahead.
I simply got into a groove and let the street take me where it would, through Herald Square, then to the Flat Iron Building and then down into the depths of my teen age years that started at Union Square and usually ended up along the parks near Eighth Street.

I was headed to Washington Square when I paused at the farmer’s market at Union Square to get some fruit, and heard the chanting on the 14th Street side of the park – a flash back to a time when we gathered here and elsewhere for anti-war protests, ex-soldiers and hippies locked arm in arm against decisions being made by our leaders.
Not until I neared the Union Square subway station did I realize it was a political rally, but by then, I could not mistake for whom.
Life-sized images of Bernie Sanders floated above the heads of the crowd, as did giant eyeglasses accompanied by giant white eyebrows, symbolic images as rebellious against the political machine as the peace sign was in my time (although there were plenty of peace signs, too.)
A handful of women, who looked dressed for Wall Street, approached some of the female Sanders’ supporters, saying, “You’re betraying your kind,” meaning that they were supporting a white man over a woman, Hillary Clinton.

This was a clear message that women should vote for a woman, regardless of how much that woman (Clinton) betrayed the poor and working class when her husband was president, or how like a reverse carpetbagger; she had run and won a seat in the U.S. Senate representing New York. While some might puzzle as to why so many African Americans support Clinton, any good history book on post Civil War ought to be a lesson about how loyal former slaves were to their former masters – even when it was against their own interests. I understand women’s needs better, how desperate the feminist movement is to move on up into the White House after a black man made it, and how horrible it is to live under a glass ceiling watching others get their turn. But why does it have to be Clinton? Warren is a much more inclusive woman, but unfortunately, the political machine is behind Clinton.
Most people ignored these Wall Street women; many had bad things to say about Clinton’s support for Wall Street.
I don’t agree with Sanders on a number of issues, such as his position on guns. But I felt the wave of his support wash over me, a flood of nostalgia making me more sympathetic for his cause than I had any right.

For one thing, I had half expected the crowd to be dominated by gray haired hippie types left over from my generation. It was not. It was filled with young people as if some time machine had transported them straight from the Columbia protests in fifty years ago, supporters of every color and gender identity, all caught up in a fever that made me sweat just walking around them. Their signs filled with the same mixture of anger and comedy war protestors had displayed, while on the side likes Sanders organizers quietly signed up these people for their cause.
I had intended to spend only a few moments gazing before moving on to my original quest to find my past farther downtown, but I could not drag myself away from a living breathing vision of the past to wander the ghost town gentrification and Wall Street had turned the East and West Villages into.

This was the place to be, here the war was being waged, like a Native American ghost dance, hoping to hold back the tide of political tanks that backed people like Clinton – these people were like those protestors at Tiananmen Square so long ago, standing their ground even as we in the media painted Clinton as inevitable winners. This was the same faith I saw in the faces of protesters in my own time convinced that if they shouted loud enough and stood firm enough, they could change the world, and keep political Hawks like Clinton from regaining the throne of power.
Unfortunately, I have seen too much of the political machine that backed Clinton to have much hope that Sanders will prevail. But in that moment in that historic park where unions fought for their rights for generations and protestors have always stood up against the system, I wished to believe.

Maybe that’s enough.

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