May The Earth Not Catch Fire Below Me: A Prayer For Boston

Boston is where my blood is. The blood I left as a child, scraped against sticks, stones, and sidewalks. The blood I left as an adult, pumped by the hearts of family and friends there when I moved to New York less than three months ago. So on Monday night, as the @Occupy_Boston Twitter feed began to report escalating police activity and eventual use of force around the Dewey Square protest, my own heart beat anxiously and out of time.

When I visited the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City last week, I was touched by the alliance of hippies, punks, mothers, children, artists, and more that had assembled to speak out, largely against corporate corruption and a government that they felt no longer represented its constituents. It seemed like a thoughtful and compassionate demonstration of American dissatisfaction.

Then the protest in New York inspired similar action all over the country, and it transformed from an isolated demonstration to something like a movement. Citizens all over the nation from Atlanta to Chicago to Los Angeles standing together to make their voices heard. Still, even though I’d seen one of the sites and made a small donation to its makeshift “kitchen,” I still felt remote from the congregation.

Monday night’s action, in a literal sense, hit closer to home. Bostonians congregated in Dewey Square held hands and sang as riot police and emergency vehicles clustered around them. I finally fell asleep around two in the morning, nervous about the potential for violence. When I awoke Tuesday morning, I was crushed to learn the situation had turned ugly. Especially disheartening were reports of the police pulling American flags out of the hands of veterans and throwing a 74-year-old man to the ground.

A grassroots movement cannot be treated like a tantrum, ignored until it becomes unbearable and then crushed or shouted down. Though social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are often rightly derided as frivolous time-sinks, they have the very practical social function of making the general public very, very loud. Violence and politically neutral statements from state officials cannot silence the voice of the people. It can only galvanize an indignant public to turn the general thrum of communication into an urgent roar.

Everyone at the protest that I attended just wanted to be heard. They carried signs with their slogans and were willing to explain themselves to strangers in the street. If city governments continue to show their unwillingness to engage in dialogue, I fear for what may happen. Like toddlers who lack the words to express their frustration, long-ignored segments of the population may begin to strike out physically, smashing people and objects in their way in a misguided plea for attention. I pray this does not occur. I hope that our educated, informed, frustrated citizenry maintains its code of nonviolence and that the one percent they’re trying to talk to listen.

“People are tired of being dominated,” a man at the Occupy Wall Street protest told me. And I agree. If there’s any unifying message of the Occupations of American cities, it’s that Americans want to make themselves heard. They will no longer submit to domination, legislative or as in Monday night’s case, physical.

To those who like to dismiss the protests with their attitude of “America, Love it or Leave It,” I say shame on you. Love is not the meek submission to the will of another. Love is the ability to grown and change together. To listen to one another.

America, please listen.

There is a mass of seething anguish within you. In a city like Boston that riots over sporting events, that could turn to recklessness and destruction at a moment’s notice. I hope that legislators and officers of the law remember who puts them in office and pays their salaries before that happens.

Tuesday morning I sat in the Newark airport, about to get on an airplane for a business trip. That sentence alone means I have more resources at my disposal than most people in the world. But I am far from wealthy, and I stand with those who feel disenfranchised and downtrodden. Money talks, but apparently, it doesn’t listen.

There is a palpable worry inside of me that violence could break out any moment amongst people who feel they’ll never be heard. As I prepared to get on the airplane that morning, I hoped for a smooth safe flight, but even more than that, I said a silent prayer:

“May the earth not catch fire below me.” TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

  • TO

    Occupy Wall Street gives me hope.

  • http://twitter.com/Ouleena Wf

    magnificent.

  • Cathy

    Really fantastic.
    Not from the US, but I’m with these protestors in spirit.

  • Guy

    Very true and poignant. Thanks

  • sweetpea

    Shooting up herioin, taking a shit on top of cars, and having sex on the sidewalks, is hardly a heartfelt expression.

    • Guest

       uhhhh what news do you watch? is it the onion, cause you know those aren’t real, right?

  • Anonymous

    I love your Boston love.

    • Josh Gondelman

      Got to represent the homeland! Go Sawxxx, kid!

  • http://goldenday.tumblr.com Kia Etienne

    poignant. thank you.

  • Holly

    I NEVER comment on Thought Catalog, but this piece (and yes, it’s an actual piece, unlike a lot of the adolescent drivel on this site) really moved me and I felt that I had to let you know that today your writing had a real, palpable effect on my day. And what a stellar opening paragraph. Well, all the paragraphs were fantastic, actually. 

    • Josh Gondelman

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I really appreciate your reading and commenting. 

  • Anonymous

    You capture what so many have been grasping for in these past few weeks. It is a relief to know that there are voices out there that can express so much in so little for so many. Thank you.

  • Jenny Difference

    Enriching. Thank you for sharing :>

  • http://MishapsandMiracles.blogspot.com MishapsandMiracles

    I live in Japan and the older ladies here have purple hair and rock Issey Miyake to lunch. I dress over the top my self, but not because I want someone to take my picture. I just love wearing something that reflects my mood or thoughts that day. I do every now and then wear an evening dress or two, not to show off. I just feel as if we are a culture that”s obsessed with jeans, leggings, uggs, and many other things that make me cringe. When did fashion stop being fun? When did people stop dressing up just because they wanted to? When did clothing become so fucking expensive? What pisses me off is that all of the people photographed look similar. They are all wearing at one trendy or designer item.

    • Kennneth

      Japan is weird. 

  • Anonymous

    This gave me goosebumps, and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    This gave me goosebumps, and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    This gave me goosebumps, and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  • sonne

    I’m living in Boston at the moment, so I’m with you. Beautiful piece!!

  • Maggie

    This is a fantastic, well written and wonderful piece. Thank you from Occupy Detroit. 

  • Mia

    This was beautiful. thank you.

  • Waicool

    it is difficult to imagine anything more  satisfying than taking a shit on a cop car and HOPEing the government will come wipe your ass.

  • macgyver51

    If you want to Occupy Wall Street then get off your ass, go to college, get a degree, and then take their jobs and do them right. Eating a granola bar and holding a sign isn’t going to cut it.

    • Guest

       oh wow you’re so right because it’s definitely that easy. i’ll get right on that OH WAIT no i won’t because that could never happen in the system we have now, hence why people are protesting, amongst various other symptoms of the same disease. you should read up on some articles, preferably ones from reliable news sources?

      also i have yet to see a single granola bar. those damn ~~~~*hippies*~~~~

      • macgyver51

        Truer words have never been spoken. I will get to reading up on some articles very soon. How could I have not seen that standing around holding a sign is 10x harder than getting a college degree/job? Thanks for setting me straight amongst various other symptoms of the same disease!

    • Guest

       oh wow you’re so right because it’s definitely that easy. i’ll get right on that OH WAIT no i won’t because that could never happen in the system we have now, hence why people are protesting, amongst various other symptoms of the same disease. you should read up on some articles, preferably ones from reliable news sources?

      also i have yet to see a single granola bar. those damn ~~~~*hippies*~~~~

    • Josh Gondelman

      I could not agree with you less. With 10 percent of our country unemployed and more than that “underemployed,” it seems that the model of “Go to college. Get a job. Be okay.” is broken. Lots of college-educated people are struggling. Poverty and recession aren’t problems of laziness. They’re problems with inequitable access to resources and opportunity. 

      Not everyone has the skill set to “take their jobs” but everyone deserves to be able to meet their own basic human needs. Right now, our country doesn’t meet those conditions. And it’s the responsibility of the people currently in charge of it to bridge the gap. They’re not just entitled to take all they can until a new generation unseats them. That’s the behavior of a sociopath. 

      Clearly eating granola won’t help anything. But maybe holding a sign will. If enough people hold signs. Remember how legalized segregation just disappeared when black people started going to college and taking the places of white students? Right. That didn’t happen. It was a grassroots movement, complete with sign-holding that sparked legislative change.

      PS. I went to college and have a job.

      • macgyver51

        I had many of those participants in the civil rights movement as my college professors. They would laugh softly at your comparison but if you looked closely, a flash of anger would cross their eyes. Theirs was a struggle to bring humility to an evil and smother it. That’s what worked.

        Occupy Whatever is about blaming anyone but oneself for the woes of this country. Woes caused by misplaced pride, ignorance, and apathy. There’s no wizard behind the curtain thats hoarding all the wealth and masterminding vicious acts. Theres a system that needs to be fixed and its going to take more than standing around with a sign to do it.

      • Josh Gondelman

        I am totally in agreement that it will take more than standing with signs to effect meaningful change. On the other hand, your attitude of : “Do what your parents did and get a job” isn’t going to help anything either. Sign-holding is maybe the step that some people need to become aware of the fact that the problems with the system are more widespread than folks realize.

        I agree that the protests seem disorganized without a firm unified mission statement, but to write it off as “pride, ignorance, and apathy” and belittle the dissatisfaction as the insistence on there being a “wizard behind the curtain” is to kick sand in the face of the already downtrodden. Yes, there are some entitled, misguided people at the protests, but that’s part of any cross-section of people. There are certainly several entitled, misguided people with full time jobs. 

        I don’t believe in a “wizard” that’s ruining peoples’ lives, but maybe cutting out some of the tax breaks for the very wealthy and working towards ending corporate personhood are good places to start. And these are ideas that are getting talked about more since the protests have begun. They’re a jumping off point for dialogue, which I think is a positive step.

      • macgyver51

        Why would I advocate doing what our parents did? They helped caused this in the first place. I’m not kicking sand in anyone’s face, I’m telling them not to lie in the sand and whine. Not every college degree is worthless these days, one is needed to work in the jobs that would replace the current generation of business people. Not just the degree, the education. Any modern economist will tell you that raising taxes on any particular tax bracket is not going to solve anything. What will solve the crisis is a system being set in place that will encourage businesses not to hoard their money but to use it for expansion.

        Did you know we have some of the highest business taxes in the world? You want to talk about what is keeping jobs from being created, there it is. Thats why money is hoarded and both workers and wealth is moved overseas. You want a business to hire people, give them the tools and hold them to it, not demonize them and hold cute meaningless sit ins with celebrity guests and homemade libraries. Real change is never that easy.

      • Josh Gondelman

        I think that our fundamental disagreement is that I have no faith in corporations to divide wealth under any circumstances. I believe regardless of how businesses are encouraged to expand, those at the top will continue to hoard money. 

        You seem very smart and accomplished, but I think that the fact that so many people from so many different backgrounds are so upset is a symptom of a different problem than you are seeing. 

      • Guest
      • macgyver51

        I had many of those participants in the civil rights movement as my college professors. They would laugh softly at your comparison but if you looked closely, a flash of anger would cross their eyes. Theirs was a struggle to bring humility to an evil and smother it. That’s what worked.

        Occupy Whatever is about blaming anyone but oneself for the woes of this country. Woes caused by misplaced pride, ignorance, and apathy. There’s no wizard behind the curtain thats hoarding all the wealth and masterminding vicious acts. Theres a system that needs to be fixed and its going to take more than standing around with a sign to do it.

      • macgyver51

        I had many of those participants in the civil rights movement as my college professors. They would laugh softly at your comparison but if you looked closely, a flash of anger would cross their eyes. Theirs was a struggle to bring humility to an evil and smother it. That’s what worked.

        Occupy Whatever is about blaming anyone but oneself for the woes of this country. Woes caused by misplaced pride, ignorance, and apathy. There’s no wizard behind the curtain thats hoarding all the wealth and masterminding vicious acts. Theres a system that needs to be fixed and its going to take more than standing around with a sign to do it.

      • macgyver51

        I had many of those participants in the civil rights movement as my college professors. They would laugh softly at your comparison but if you looked closely, a flash of anger would cross their eyes. Theirs was a struggle to bring humility to an evil and smother it. That’s what worked.

        Occupy Whatever is about blaming anyone but oneself for the woes of this country. Woes caused by misplaced pride, ignorance, and apathy. There’s no wizard behind the curtain thats hoarding all the wealth and masterminding vicious acts. Theres a system that needs to be fixed and its going to take more than standing around with a sign to do it.

      • macgyver51

        I had many of those participants in the civil rights movement as my college professors. They would laugh softly at your comparison but if you looked closely, a flash of anger would cross their eyes. Theirs was a struggle to bring humility to an evil and smother it. That’s what worked.

        Occupy Whatever is about blaming anyone but oneself for the woes of this country. Woes caused by misplaced pride, ignorance, and apathy. There’s no wizard behind the curtain thats hoarding all the wealth and masterminding vicious acts. Theres a system that needs to be fixed and its going to take more than standing around with a sign to do it.

    • Josh Gondelman

      I could not agree with you less. With 10 percent of our country unemployed and more than that “underemployed,” it seems that the model of “Go to college. Get a job. Be okay.” is broken. Lots of college-educated people are struggling. Poverty and recession aren’t problems of laziness. They’re problems with inequitable access to resources and opportunity. 

      Not everyone has the skill set to “take their jobs” but everyone deserves to be able to meet their own basic human needs. Right now, our country doesn’t meet those conditions. And it’s the responsibility of the people currently in charge of it to bridge the gap. They’re not just entitled to take all they can until a new generation unseats them. That’s the behavior of a sociopath. 

      Clearly eating granola won’t help anything. But maybe holding a sign will. If enough people hold signs. Remember how legalized segregation just disappeared when black people started going to college and taking the places of white students? Right. That didn’t happen. It was a grassroots movement, complete with sign-holding that sparked legislative change.

      PS. I went to college and have a job.

  • Derpina

    as someone who’s been actively following and participating in Occupy Boston–and as someone who was there Monday night–thanks for writing this piece.

    also, might I add to any of the doubters/h8ers- Boston is a safe city. The relationship between the protesters and the police was admirably peaceful until that night, and has continued to be peaceful.

  • Derpina

    as someone who’s been actively following and participating in Occupy Boston–and as someone who was there Monday night–thanks for writing this piece.

    also, might I add to any of the doubters/h8ers- Boston is a safe city. The relationship between the protesters and the police was admirably peaceful until that night, and has continued to be peaceful.

  • Derpina

    as someone who’s been actively following and participating in Occupy Boston–and as someone who was there Monday night–thanks for writing this piece.

    also, might I add to any of the doubters/h8ers- Boston is a safe city. The relationship between the protesters and the police was admirably peaceful until that night, and has continued to be peaceful.

  • Derpina

    as someone who’s been actively following and participating in Occupy Boston–and as someone who was there Monday night–thanks for writing this piece.

    also, might I add to any of the doubters/h8ers- Boston is a safe city. The relationship between the protesters and the police was admirably peaceful until that night, and has continued to be peaceful.

  • Derpina

    as someone who’s been actively following and participating in Occupy Boston–and as someone who was there Monday night–thanks for writing this piece.

    also, might I add to any of the doubters/h8ers- Boston is a safe city. The relationship between the protesters and the police was admirably peaceful until that night, and has continued to be peaceful.

  • Derpina

    as someone who’s been actively following and participating in Occupy Boston–and as someone who was there Monday night–thanks for writing this piece.

    also, might I add to any of the doubters/h8ers- Boston is a safe city. The relationship between the protesters and the police was admirably peaceful until that night, and has continued to be peaceful.

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