Thursday, November 10, 2005

As I neared the picket lines today, from Broadway walking down Washington Place toward the Silver Center, I got a little jumpy. Let's be honest: a bunch of grad students-- teachers, really, who you might have received your grades from--are waving signs, screaming opinions, marching like pro-life supporters outside of Planned Parenthood and chanting in sing-song melodies that I used to hear at camp during naked raids or during middle school softball games. I was a little intimidated, and so when I walked by I slyly looked away...I actually I looked down at my NYU ID in my hand...ya know, just to make sure that it was oriented correctly as I flashed it to the guards.

I was ashamed, in a way, that I was crossing the picket lines, that I was giving in to the apparent injustice. I felt attacked, stared at, mocked...until I realized it was all in my own head. No one said anything to me, no one looked at me. My shame was only within me as my passion for civil liberties were trumped my drive for good grades.

When I got to the stairwell, I overheard two kids talking about the strike. Mocking the grad students until we got to the 3rd floor. And as I walked out onto the Fine Arts floor, the kid that was mocking the most says genuninely, "Wait, so the grad students don't have a union? Wow, that really sucks."

Well, yeah, it does. And the more I think about it, the more confusing it gets.

I don't know where I come out on this issue: if I think this is worth their battling right now or not. And so at first it was confusing why I felt so ashamed walking by them, yet felt so empowered all afternoon as I looked out my boss's window at those very same protesters still chanting a song that reminds me of camp. (P.S. The funny thing about that song is that the camp words which keep popping into my head are: Hey Hey, Ho Ho, this penis party's got to go!-- I still don't know what the grad students are saying, and yes, my camp experience was delightfully insane)

But I figured it out finally as I was walking past Silver again today, on my way home. The cheers, the chants, the drumming and honking echoed through the streets, bounced off of buildings, got swallowed up by the cold. And I looked around and I pictured March of 1911 when the noises that resonated through those same streets, around that same building, were the noises of bodies hitting the ground and getting swallowed up by death.

I imagined the 146 workers who gave their lives to that striking sidewalk and didnt' even have the right to strike on it. The way that things only started to change after they were dead and gone. How they got the labor movement running through their tragedy.

And today, 100 years later, the fruit of their suffering culminates in a strike against the very building from which they jumped and protesters march over their graves. And that's beautiful, and that's honorable. And that's democracy. And I hope they keep fighting.

3 Comments:

At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I neared the picket lines today, from Broadway walking down Washington Place toward the Silver Center, I got a little jumpy. Let's be honest: a

 
At 1:48 PM, Anonymous asaf said...

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