My first contact with Occupy San Diego was on Yom Kippur. A liberal Jewish congregation holds Kol Nidre services downtown at the Civic Auditorium. Civic Auditorium plaza is also where Occupy San Diego meets. OSD didn’t realize that it was the holy days, and the rabbi met with the organizers, who were thoughtful and accommodating. That particular evening, OSD agreed to meet a block away. There were 2,000 Jews headed downtown, and the Civic plaza isn’t large enough to accommodate both groups. OSD even asked the senior rabbi to convey apologies for their insensitivity. He was very impressed with the group, and spoke well of them during the service.
This simple act of kindness of OSD speaks volumes. I’ve been following OSD on Twitter, and recently had the opportunity to go down and see the group. I was struck by several things: the crowd is young and diverse. There was a sea of rainbow faces that reflects the wonderful ethnic diversity of California. OSD has made common cause with the homeless, and feeds about 100 homeless people daily. I couldn’t find any specific OSD press release or statement; the group appears to stand in agreement with Occupy Wall Street, and there were copies of OWS’s declaration of demands and principles of solidarity.
Visiting the plaza, I noticed the overwhelming presence of law enforcement. The occupiers are a peaceful lot, committed to nonviolence. There were no displays of armed citizens familiar from teabagger days. I estimate that there was one policeman for every 4-5 protesters. Is the intent of law enforcement to intimidate and discourage the curious?
It’s hard to know what the future and impact of groups like Occupy San Diego will be. Allying with the homeless and impoverished seems natural. Chris Hedges writes “The best opportunities for radical social change exist among the poor, the homeless, the working class and the destitute. As the numbers of disenfranchised dramatically increase, our only hope is to connect ourselves with the daily injustices visited upon the weak and the outcast. Out of this contact we can resurrect… a social ethic, a new movement” (Death of the Liberal Class).
I admit to being hopelessly bourgeois. Chances are, you won’t find me in a sleeping bag downtown. I may not always march with the group, even though I’m in sympathy with the cause. Each of us has to find a way to contribute. I’m heartened to see the mantle of change and progress taken up by the young: the future belongs to them. We old white guys have had our chance to muck things up, and it’s time to learn from our youth. Let’s hope Occupy San Diego and the many similar groups around the country can usher in the real hope and change this country so desperately needs.