Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Emergency Relief: Thank You Mary

Liquid Tide laundry detergent splatters into the puddle as the rain splashes down around the prancing homeless man, Jack, - his soggy shoes and clothing full of suds in scrubbing his hair and singing to the Occupiers under the awning of the Union Square subway. This is normal. But he is happy, if not a little warped in spirit. Sunday's New York Times had led with a story and photo of the blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, arriving in Greenwich Village whilst coverage of the thousands of American dissidents who had descended on Chicago to protest the NATO summit went unnoticed by the mainstream media in a New York weekend that revealed sunshine, a 30 million dollar NYPD overtime expenditure for Occupy Wall Street, and the introduction of Robert Lederman, the artist/activist who was arrested over 40 times in NYC for display and sale of his art - living to not only beat all 40 charges, but to free city artists from needing permits or licenses to exercise their first amendment rights on public property in the city. This too is normal as the dichotomies of American civil liberties scale further to illuminate that the United States is a gargantuan quagmire of constitutional promise, police harassment and personal physical defense of our own rights in our own country on a daily basis.

And Mary sends me $250. Thank you Mary, because at the rate the government and financial concerns are taking Americans to the cleaners, we'll all need $250 every time an illegal summons is issued to citizens exercising their rights - like myself. Just two weeks after being arrested and having all my art and supplies confiscated by the NYPD, I lost the first round of my summons case for 'unlawful' vending claiming I was a protester and not a vendor, but unaware that the law had been made so specific so as to classify anyone who took money of any kind to be a vendor. I will appeal, but for now, the summons fine of $250 stands - so I went absolutely nowhere in now counting 3 weeks of police harassment. For the time being, Goliath wins.

Thank you America for continuing to encourage me to acquire meaningful work and contribute to society. What I have learned so far is that it would be much safer to work in a bank than to protest their slovenly business practices, because the way the law works currently, Occupy activists go to jail whilst thieving bankers get to stay out and have their businesses bailed out. So much for doing the right thing. 

Mary and I have not seen each other for maybe 10 years. She and I had worked in Korea in the advertising business, although never directly together. What we shared most professionally was the organization of a quarterly business diner call "Edmen" ('Admen' mistakenly spelled by a Korean hotel employee) that regularly brought together the far fewer than 20 senior professionals who worked together in Seoul at the turn of the millennium. It was fun. It was professional. It was hosted in a country where the police don't carry guns. We were allowed to smoke indoors. I miss that.

Meanwhile, the class war continues in America, even inside the Occupy movement. I had heard someone over the weekend describe the reason our media groups wanted the office in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan was that they "didn't want the homeless people showing up at the office". The homeless people. The people with which the Occupy movement was able to maintain a 24/7 standing army in a city park - thus bringing in nearly a million dollars in the fall of 2011- the people, or should we say soldiers, that gave the movement meaning, physical mass and millions upon millions of dollars of TV coverage so that the word Occupy could enter the global lexicon as a modern day battle cry against the greedy, the criminal and the immoral who seem to be driving way too much of the bus these days. The people, as in 'We the people' - but for many meaning, 'We the homeless people', as the number of Americans who do not make enough money to pay rent continues to increase. The people even Occupy doesn't want anymore. Sadly.

Today I've spent hours reading city law in regard to artists displaying their work in city public spaces. Sometimes it's amazing to bury oneself in good ole' American law to see how few real rights and liberties we really do have. But in Robert Lederman, at least artists have found a champion. Through his sixteen years of artistic activism he has not only made it possible for artists to display and sell their works in the city without permit or license, but even gone so far as to make it possible for you, yes you, to protest on the steps of the capital building in Washington D. C. without a permit. "Hmm. It's a protest against us", the government used to be able to say, "Permit denied!" But no longer. At the close of this post I'll return mail to Robert Lederman on my 3 open cases regarding police harassment and blatant disregard for our first amendment rights - to see how I can beat these things. It is indeed good to know I'm not going into these battles alone. Thank you Mary, and Robert and all who follow and support me. I've been complimented recently for being of extraordinarily good mood and character considering the real severity of many of my circumstances and I am lucky - I chalk a lot of that up to proper prioritization. So long as I can put my creatives muscles to work everyday, that goes a long way to keeping me happy - only after that can I work on making sure I make a proper living out of it. Living art.

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