On Legacy

What we leave behind is our only proof of existence. 

Space Needle

One of the various monuments I saw on my travels, the Space Needle in Seattle,WA, stands a proud over its city, a great achievement of human engineering. Photo by F. Thomas Cardenas.

If we are to leave anything, it should be good. Full of life and boldly telling a legacy worth remembering. Despots and misers live in infamy but those who build nations wear the same cloaks. Positivity is all subjective based on the perspective of those interpreting the actions of another completely separate entity.

If we are to move forward with good will towards all, which I understand is not a universally held belief, we must also look to our past with admiring eyes. If all we remember and spread is our negativity, that is bound to also be what returns.

By remembering and honoring the good and striving to be more like that, instead of repeating the viciousness and violence of our daily transgressions, we might then also improve our own morale and aspirations to a positive difference being made.

Whether it is a footprint, a monument, or a message in a bottle; we should only leave the best for our descendants, and for ourselves, collectively.

– Serious Note

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On Reasons for Involvement – Experience

Chan Kil joined the Occupy movement because he has seen this situation before.

Kil was born to a farming family in Daegoo, South Korea. They usually did just fine; harvesting their rice fields and growing vegetables in a greenhouse over winter. But, after years of living under martial law, they fled for their lives to the U.S.

The family arrived 1988, when he was only 13. He was too young to work at the time, but not too young to remember why they left.

South Korea was governed by a serious of harsh dictatorships  and strictly enforced martial law during the1980’s, while Kil was growing up. It was a tumultuous few decades, with several government coups and political assassinations, following Korea’s civil war and U.S. intervention in the country. He remembers particularly the Gwangju Democratization Movement  and subsequent massacres.

His eyes glazed over as voice got low as he spoke of his experiences.

“The whole city was united in protest,” he said. “People were losing their families and their children. I couldn’t even count the bodies; there were corpses everywhere.”

Kil’s cousin, a college student at the time, participated in the populous protests against the government. He was subsequently detained by police for his actions and never heard from again.

“[The army] went neighborhood to neighborhood, door to door, busting in, looking for college students who were protesting,” he said. “They came in and killed everybody who protested. Many of them were not even protestors, but they had laws like NDAA, so they were detained anyway until they admitted it.”

Kil said he tried to ignore the similarities he was noticing between modern America and the Korea of his childhood, but once he heard about the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), there was no more pushing it aside.

The NDAA is a $662 billion “defense” spending bill. This year, however, it also contained clauses (1021, 1022, 1026, 1027, 1028) authorizing indefinite detention of American Citizens and other such precedents.

Kil said that, because of the current legislation, he fears what already happened in his homeland will reoccur in the U.S.

“[America today] is very much like where I came from,” he said. “They already passed [the NDAA] and they [could] detain you, torture you until you admit that you are a terrorist.”

He joined Occupy Salt Lake City specifically because of the 2011 NDAA.

“I just feel like I want to runaway from here again,” he said. “I just don’t know what to do now. If they don’t let us fight for [our rights] I’ll probably have to move to another country.”

Kil said he dreamt last night. It was a nightmare.

He dreamt that he was asleep like normal, but that someone crept up and poured gasoline all over his tent, then set it on fire. He woke up startled as if he was about to die. The stress of his fears was taking its toll.

“I heard about the NDAA and it made me scared,” he said. “That’s why I had that dream.”

The similarities of what happened in Korea, and all over Asia, to what is currently going on in America alarms him. He was never one for politics, but could not stand aside any longer.

“I don’t want this to happen again,” he said. “NDAA is the worst thing for me. I am afraid for myself and want to fight for my freedoms.”

Kil joined the movement on Oct. 6, 2011 and has been trying to inform people ever since.

“Maybe if I fight for them, I have a chance to fight for everyone’s freedoms, not just mine,” he said. “I would rather die than not have my freedom.”

– Serious Note

Success in Salt Lake City

I was reinvigorated today.

The Occupy Salt Lake City movement is truly remarkable. Occupations were first established in Pioneer Park and nearby private land, but fell to police pressure and issues with drug use, vagrancy and violence, as have other Occupations throughout the nation.

Still, dedicated organizers were able to Occupy the Federal Reserve in Downtown SLC. When police threatened to shut down that camp as well, even though the previous problems were not longer an issue, the Occupiers were able to work with them and secure a new location.

Occupy SLC now has a permitted Occupation at Gallivan Plaza, right between the Wells Fargo and Chase corporate offices, across the street from Goldman Sachs, and around the corner from U.S. Bank, Merrill Lynch and the Federal Reserve.

The Occupy SLC movement now has a permitted space in the middle of downtown in the center of many financial institutions it is protesting against. Financial giant Goldman Sachs looms large behind the collection of tents and central meeting dome of the movement.

The movement now has about a dozen tents for personal use, supplies and other specific functions, as well as a main dome tent that serves as a meeting place, library and welcome area. One of the keys to success, they said, is that they have been actively working with police, not against them.

One organizer said that once they were able to relate to the officers on a personal level, and see their common goals, things became much easier. The camp does have a strict non-violence code and zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol.

Problems that have plagued many Occupations, including previous Occupy SLC sites, were circumvented in this case by a sort of vetting process. Only after Occupiers have contributed to the camp for a few days and participated in discussions can they reside there.

Organizers say this approach has helped prevent many of the issues of drug use and violence that plauged other camps. It is a movement, not a squat they said. Occupiers are able to see the value the camp offers and that it is a privilege to stay there.

The camp is a peaceful place for discussion and planning. Occupiers hold several informal meetings throughout the day and formal GA’s several times a week.

They are currently working mostly on local issues of community building, foreclosure support, prison advocacy (with support from American Legislative Exchange Council), financial system reform and helping troubled local businesses.

Also, they are planning various events in solidarity with the MLK March, Longview Action, Move to Amend People’s United and Occupy the Courts.

Occupy SLC’s main focus, however, is education. They are trying to educate the public, and themselves, on the major issues facing modern America. They said only by spreading awareness and information about what is going on can real positive change be achieved.

“Knowledge is power, and knowledge should be free,” one Occupier said.

– Serious Note

* I was initially planning to skip Salt Lake on my tour. Only now do I realize what a travesty that would have been. It was amazing to see the depth of discussion and dedication these Occupiers had to their cause. Their movement is not just a political tool, but a reexamination of cultural consciousness. They are trying to change the way Americans have come to relate to one another by engaging the public in discussion about important issues of direct significance to their lives.

Occupy Knowledge. Occupy your Mind. Long live the Occupation.

On Growth and Death

Many Occupations have lost their physical encampments. That is a sad fact of the situation. Some have not.

Occupy Eureka, CA and Occupy Tacoma, WA have been in the same locations, every single day, since this movement began. Much respect to them for their perseverance and dedication.

Their continued presence continually garners support and provides an important hub for engaging the public and providing a central place for people to learn about the movement. They are centers of information and discussion that cannot fully be replaced. It is an incredible tool for visibility and gathering new recruits to the movement, although, simply their constant presence is a threat to many individuals and a reason for constant harassment.

These are innate problems with a revolutionary movement. When you try to change things, those who benefit from the current system, and often hold power over it, will do all they can to quell the resistance. Still, having a lasting Occupation in the same spot is a powerful tool in this movement, regardless of the issues.

However, other Occupations in places like Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle, have lost their original sites but are still growing. Instead of letting the lost of a central location hurt their movement, they have used it as a catalyst, expanding and localizing their efforts into small neighborhoods and individual communities.

I attended the first N/NE Neighborhood General Assembly in Portland on Saturday and it was quite a sight to see. Crammed into the tiny back room of a local restaurant were 40+ residents of the area, many of them entirely new to the movement.

Occupy Portland has a space in the St. Francis De Asissi Church. It regularly holds meetings, workshops and other events in the space.

By localizing the Occupations, it is easier to focus on local issues, problems and solutions specific to the area. Neighborhood residents are also more likely to participate in an action they have a direct stake in. It can also be more welcoming than a huge GA of 100+ people from all over.

This is not fragmentation, it is cooperation. The 5 neighborhood sections of Portland are working together with their efforts. Instead of a single spearhead, they now have a hand to hold it, aim it, and throw it.

Seattle is rapidly expanding and still creating new Occupations. They have a central meeting place at the City Convention Center, but also have havens and meeting places throughout the larger area.

It is not that the Occupations have lost members because they have lost a park, it is that the single occupation has evolved under pressure. It is now many movements within a single city, working together to keep this movement going.

The short version is this:

THIS MOVEMENT IS STILL GROWING.

Each and every day new people learn about this movement. Some cities have the same spot as always, some have rented or hosted species for their efforts, some have new places all the time, but they are all still growing. As this movement continues, we will see the result of this apparent lull in activity, Spring will bring together all these different hands.

It will be glorious.

-Serious Note

Portland is Alive and Kicking!

Just a quick update since I could write an entire book on just today.

I was privileged enough to visit two different events in Portland. The first was a Neighborhood General Assembly ( a rarity of which I had not seen before today) for the neighborhoods of North and North-Eastern Portland, as well as a Feather Circle at the new OPDX workspace at St. Francis de Assisi on the East Bank.

At the Feather Circle each person had a turn to speak about the issues they found important. It was very constructive and respectful. I learned a lot from these people and was honored to be there.

Both gatherings were amazing!

The Neighborhood GA drew about 40 people with an extremely short notice. People were actively engaged and supporters who had never been to an occupation event ever before showed up.

This was the first push towards localizing protests that I had seen on such an organized scale. I heard that Los Angeles was becoming something similar since its eviction, but that no unifying structure or coordination was really taking place. After seeing it first hand, I can honestly say that smaller physical operations are extremely beneficial and must be preserved if this movement is to continue.

The Feather Circle at St. Francis was a similarly incredible experience. I may have been the youngest person at the meeting, which is actually quite encouraging  for me. After so long of seeing primarily other young people, it was great to see people in their late 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond coming out to voice their concerns.

As a group we discussed the biggest issues facing the movement as well as some interesting local points of contention, but more on that later.

After everything I saw today, all i really have to say is, “Stay strong.”

These movements are growing in the best ways. They are becoming ever present in the hearts and minds of those who participate in them and area being spread to those around them.

Even if the physical Occupations are dwindling, the Occupy mentality is still going strong. People are waking up to the various injustices in their world, and no longer standing for it, but against it.

It was a great day. In closing I would just like to thank the Occupy Portland people for renewing my passion in the movement and helping me see that there are still people in this movement ready and willing to fight for what they believe in. People of all ages. People of all creeds. Of all nationalities.

Thank you Portland, for continuing to fight the good fight. Period.

On Purpose…

When I started planning this trip, I had no idea what I was doing, all I knew was that I wanted to see these movements for myself.

After the initial planning stages, I began to think about what I actually wanted to learn from this trip. I am a writer and a journalist, so naturally, I wanted to gather information and disseminate it. Therein I found my purpose.

This trip is meant to gather information from different occupations and share it with the other occupations I travel to. Of course, all this is in the hopes of creating a central place people can use to find information they want to know, but cannot get elsewhere.

It is this purpose that has given me renewed hope in my profession.

Since the first day of my trip (all those many hours ago ;), I was greeted and thanked for what I am doing. And to be honest, people told me what I was doing was important even before I left, but I never really believed it.

I am not trying to inflate my own ego, but the implications really hadn’t hit me yet. It was not until I reached my second meeting today in Portland that the significance became clear.

In the second floor conference room of a battered old church on Portland’s East Bank, I stood in a group of my elders, one of them a media broadcasting professional, and was repeatedly thanked for my contributions to the group and the work I was doing.

Though I could not fathom it at first, probably because it was always what I intended to do, but not many people have been coming through the different Occupations with the same intentions as I have Some do travel through but it is rare that they actually bring different documents and share the information they have come across. This is not to say that no one has, but it has been rare.

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Eating Local – Part of the Occupation

It is small diners and restaurants like this that we should be supporting.

Locally owned and operated, they are able to truly serve their community, not just profit from it. They kind of place with big oval plates and pancakes that still hang off the sides, big glass mugs for hot chocolate piled high with whip cream and home fries always on the menu.

Addi’s in Springfield, Oregon, is one of these places. It is true to form and down home as it comes. From the lumberjacks and locals that fill its aluminum diner chairs, to the school bench booths, it is somewhere to fill at home. Street signs and LPs decorate the walls underneath coke bottles and old serving trays on the window sills. Hub caps from the same era of 40’s and 50’s feel good music coming from the jukebox, which is of course still one of those big, light-up half domes that flips cards filled with names of songs in the repertoire.

It’s the kind of diner that serves delicacies like fried Twinkies and Oreos as part of its regular menu, along with Whatcha-ma-call-its and taco omelette. The kind of restaurants with white washed lattice-work as all that separates the counter from the kitchen, coffee mugs dangling from it and all. The kind where the bathroom, still decorated neatly with home fixtures and cheek placards thanking you for good aim, is in the back of the restaurant; down the hall past the potato crates and multi-station milkshake mixers, around the corner that once used to be the door to the wash room, at the end of the hall that used to lead to the kids bedrooms.

It’s a wonderful place. From the cherry covered vinyl table cloths to the old drive-in window order boxes and parking meters on the booths. The food comes quick and the patrons eat well. Filling meals of the typical white-bread americana, but just as salty and good as ever. The regulars pass through and most newcomers are referrals. It’s that kind of place, and at 6 a.m. in a strange city, I could not be happier to find it.

Thank you.

Thank you for not only your food and hospitality, but for your smiles and conversation. It reminds me that these local establishments are the true foundations of our economy. We can all benefit our communities by making the conscious decisions to eat a small restaurants like these, instead of massive cookie cutter franchises that move in and take over. If you wish to say no to corporation and build your local economy, eat local, drink local, and support your local businesses.

There is always something you can do, even if you don’t want to get involved directly.