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Tales from The Edge of a Revolution #1: Ya Just Never Know

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General Assembly–Arcata Plaza, Oct 12th

A seagull careens overhead and trills its high pitched cry as it makes an acrobatic dive for some crumb left on the plaza. My eyes follow the dive though I continue to be present with the circle. I am unaccustomed to such a glorious day. The sun is uninhibited, actually warming my skin, and there is only a gentle breeze. No sign of the more typical bone chilling North Coast cold, gray wind.

We sit on the grass in a loose circle. Two young men fight with mock swords behind us, laughing at their own missteps and brilliant parries. Beyond them a group of hitchhikers spange pedestrians likely to have money in their pockets. A single squad car and officer look on, disinterested. I am at peace. Despite my appearance, I belong.

The moderator is a gentle, open woman in a cowboy hat and well worn jeans. She keeps the meeting low key and the anger that bubbles up at other meetings is quickly dissipated by her soft spoken interjections. She has us introduce ourselves and say something about why we are here.

To my left a traveling college student introduces himself in English heavily accented by his native French. He has come here to see the differences between American revolution and French. Next to me is a man who arrived on bicycle in a worn denim jacket, decorated with various writings and hand drawn art. His gray hair is tied out of a weather beaten, bearded face. He tells about arriving in Arcata in the late 60’s, the last time revolution was in the air. He has waited a long time to see it resurface and glad that it has finally come.

The young man to my right says his name is Mango and the man next to him is Forrest. These are “forest” names, of course. A long tradition from Redwood Summer, when tree-sitters, trying to save the last of America’s Redwoods, gave arresting officers these false names, making conviction more difficult. Their speech is more angry than the rest, but it is redirected by the group away from aggression at the CEO’s of banks, toward education of their customers. The group decided on a lobby sit-in for two of the major banks in a few days.

Then it is my turn. I have come from work and I am not dressed like the others. I am in tan slacks and a sweater with a silk scarf and broach. I look like I don’t belong here–like I am a spy of some sort.

I, too, give my “forest name”–the pen name I have been writing under for five years, T. P. Alexanders. I don’t know what to say so I start where T. P. started–at the WTO protesters in Seattle in 1999.

Oh no, I wasn’t at those protests. Far from it. I was a Major in the US Air Force. My only contact with the protests was the same as millions of others around the globe, through CNN or MSNBC. (Even then I could not bring myself to watch Fox). I watched as the reporters told us that this was a new generation of college students who just wanted to relive the Haight and Ashbury days of the previous generation. They were demonstrating for no reason. They were confused about why they were there and had no real goals. Deja vu.

I watched the newscast as they interviewed drunk and stoned people; people who did appear to be there only because it looked like a giant party. The interviews were senseless and incoherent. They reinforced what the reporters were saying.

WTO protests 21But in the background, nothing appeared the way the reporter said. In the slightly blurry distance there was a huge, well-appointed sound stage with a myriad of well dressed speakers. It was organized. The speakers came and went on schedule. There was music. There was a parade with giant puppets and banners that the news cameras kept just out of focus so you could not read them. Clearly, all this had not been organized by the inebriated partiers of the reporter’s interviews.

I grew curious. What were they saying with such obvious passion on the stage? Why weren’t we allowed to hear it on the news? Who were these people really?

WTO protests 5I turned to the newly forming independent news on the internet for answers.There I found them, and so much more. I found Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! I found Lyn Gerry and later Robin Upton and Unwelcome Guests. I found Pacifica radio and Guns and Butter and Against the Grain. I found socialism and anarchism and an education I never knew I needed, until that moment. I found great lies and great truths. I found my heart, my soul, my voice and I began to write.

So here I am. I know this moment in history is what I was born for. For the first time, I am in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. I am no longer in the military. Instead, I am writing an anarchist blog and helping to administer an anti-capitalist blog. I am finishing my first fictional manuscript and working on the second. I am attending General Assembly and I am part of a global revolution.

Were you the one who put the paint on the giant puppets at the WTO demonstrations all those years ago? I appreciate your efforts. Did you organize the speakers? I am in your debt. When you set up the sound stage at the WTO demonstrations, did you think you would be changing someone’s life by plugging in speaker wire? You just never know when you put your energy out there, what it will create. Thank you.