The spotlights surround us. We panic.
The police calmly stream into the barricaded Park. We flee. No order to disperse was given, no pepper-spray laced the air, there was no need for that. It’s enough to simply stage familiar reenactments in order to move us against our will. Being human, we could not escape being beaten into submission.
We returned to former homes like soldiers who have lost a war, or found ourselves moored along the beaches of a world we’d been trying to escape. Future nights would see us close our eyes to witness the multi-colored tents of that American Autumn get washed away by the moon-white spotlights of the Raid: we watch as the blinding brightness removes the kisses of those we once loved from our shaking lips; we grasp for the bodies of our friends among the light that now floods between our fingertips; we wake up with an Occupation of the Mind from whose grip neither afternoon nor evening can help us to escape, second hands passing along an hourless clock.
Everywhere the layout is the same. Manicured mausoleums conglomerate around empty plazas to pierce the American horizon, pilgrim thoughts gone astray. Richmond, Denver, Baltimore fragment up into existence . Always the art-deco styled cash registers of Wachovia Towers over which the gold-dust of a Wells Fargo is marqueed; always the curving glass setback into the sky, by which we’re granted reflections of the sun and clouds we once enjoyed directly. In the South, the dull and dirty browns of BB&T replace the dull and dirty blacks of Trump Towers. In the North, Chase Manhattans instead of US Banks among the lineup of the sentinels. Sometimes you get a carnival like the nightly one that dances Duke Energy fueled over the citizens of Charlotte. Sometimes the scars gash out into a New York City and something ancient shudders within you, who after driving your life at a hundred miles per hour along Interstate 95, have just slammed down on the brakes—for surely you’ve just borne historical witness to Revelation, painted in panopticon towers, looming beyond the never ending grey…
After so much of the believer was removed from me, I found myself within the familiar shade that slants downward to Church Street from Broadway, against whose milk-white glass pavers set flush with granite slabs was America once again rupturing its soul. Standing in Zuccotti Park, you could count the bodies as they fell into the early morning hours of September 11, 2001 — and after ten years wasted in preoccupation with the plunge; just when you were about to lose the trajectory of your tally, you look down to find that while you were keeping score, the fallen bodies gathered into sleeping bags to form a general assembly that could rival the congregation of nighttime stars. Standing in Zuccotti Park when that morning’s sky was still clear blue, you could feel the speed of American history — its Manifest Destinies, its Monroe Doctrines, its Wall Streets — jolt as the nose of an American Airlines flight makes contact with the surface of a window, situated somewhere between floors 93 and 99 on the north side of One World Trade Centre.
Standing in Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2012, you could spot cool observers pausing along Broadway on their walk home from work to wonder at the spotlights flooding (again) the barricaded park (again). Scanning past forlorn figures on granite benches (heads collapsed in hands) your eyes reach a group (of no more than thirty) which by its dancing and yelling is seeking to return the world to the spirit of its supine stargazers, but instead provokes waves to break from the ocean of blue along Liberty Avenue, into which the group is swallowed up, one member at a time. Above the bone-white empty park, sitting as silent as the shore against the ebb and flow of that ocean’s waves, you spy the holographic image of America as it stretches those 102 minutes it took both towers to collapse across these eleven years in a slow-motion projection that — moving over the buildings of Brookfield Properties, Goldman Sachs, and Trinity Real Estate — seems a fitting tale to be told to any idiot: the American dream is a pantomime nightmare with no end.
For one year, we came together to fight the Ocean. Sustained by the mutualism of our belief, we battled directly with the Ocean’s waves. We believed when we marched past Nassau Street and Pine; when we tried to storm the barricades; and when they dragged us from the stolen gardens of the world. We believed from jail, underneath the punching force of men old enough to be our fathers. We believed when we were pressed against the ground. We believed when people began to turn away. Through the winter, spring, and summer we continued to believe, even as we broke each other’s hearts. Traumatized in diaspora and forever removed from Zuccotti Park, in whose commons we enjoyed the leadership of our free assembly. Having been restored to the projection of a collapsing world, what is the question? How can we believe otherwise?
In the brief aftermath, we’ve already seen that the assassination of Zuccotti Park has been an assassination of belief, that a vacuum is repositioning itself within the imagination of American youth. In the clarity of twenty-four hour cable and Internet broadcast, young people across America have learned that no peaceful methods with any possibility of actually alleviating our existential grievances will be tolerated. And so, as peaceful activists are jailed for blocking the Keystone Pipeline, while whistleblowers are paraded through kangaroo courts, should it really be a surprise that some of us have returned to shooting our reportbacks from an abandoned country? From the movie theaters of Colorado to the elementary schools of the Northeast, the peaceful psalms of Occupy fade to the gunshot opera of Columbine’s return. Newscasters sound the fabricated voice of a nation, asking, “Did we learn nothing from Newtown?” and every time we allow another elected official to openly undertake war crimes, every time we let another killer go because he’s a cop, every time we watch another banker get away with genocide, we move beyond Newtown, we move beyond learning, we move further and further into our disappearing.
It may be that we have lost ourselves at the fair….
Everywhere the layout remains the same: the clocks have readjusted to the monthliness of rent. The moments of our lives have leavened to our daily bread and at every turn the questionnaires demand to know, what exactly is it that you do? And you begin to wonder what exactly is it that you could? Spend the days making rounds at restaurants, borrow from the nights to tour the bars? Let routine lose your way in the bad neighborhood of the mind?
Dare to tilt your eyes dangerously skyward? Dream again to occupy the moon?
— Rami Shamir is the author of Train to Pokipse. He lives in New York City.
[cherry_banner image=”7962″ title=”Adbusters #124″ url=”https://subscribe.adbusters.org/collections/back-issues/products/ab124″]The Year of Living Dangerously Pt.1[/cherry_banner]