Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Using City parks to respond to societal disaster

Strange. The City of Portland has named 17 parks where citizens are to gather in case of a major disaster.

In the same issue of The Oregonian that informed us of the opening of the parks, we learned that the City is sending the police to close a single park to Occupy Portland demonstrators.

The protesters are, in real sense, messengers and victims of a disaster happening now. And it is huge, affecting the “99 percent.” It has been going on for at least the last 30 years. For many it has been going on for centuries.

The disaster’s rubble and victims have been ignored in a society addicted to consumption, spectator-ism, false fear, enemy-making and growing debt.

Thanks to the Occupy movement, our eyes have been opened. We see the destruction everywhere — in the American political system, in the ravaged “no jobs” economy, in the shrinking middle class, in militaristic spending priorities, in the ravaged environment, in the inanities of a pandering media, and in a skewed system of “justice.”

On the day the articles appeared, Occupy said it would stay in a single park for two weeks. The police were ordered in to remove them after just a few hours.

In the case of a major “natural” disaster, like an earthquake, refugees would stay in 17 parks for an indefinite period. Will the police be sent in to remove them after two weeks?

The City’s disaster preparedness could be tested and put to work in this real, immediate American disaster by welcoming the Occupy movement. Rather than evicting the protesters, see whether they can be adequately cared for, housed and fed for a fortnight.

Greet and embrace the protest and its message with hospitality, not hostility. Acknowledge that we are today our system has produced a living disaster. In the communities formed in our parks, we must begin clear away its causes and rebuild.

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