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One thing that is psychologically jarring for me, here in Los Angeles, is to see the extremes of wealth alongside deep poverty and brokeness. I see it most acutely when I am downtown. You can buy a $6,000 suit on one block, and two blocks from that you can mingle with the desperate junkies.

I’ve heard an interesting story about Sitting Bull. Later in life, he traveled with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show as part of the cowboys vs. Indians routine (where, of course, the cowboys always win). Sitting Bull made a good bit of money from he show, he was immensely popular; however, he gave almost all of it away. He would give his money to all poor white people who asked him, and he couldn’t understand why there were people who were not taken care of. Native tribes are far more communal than white Europeans, each person is cared for.

Today I was eating a sandwich at a Subway restaurant in downtown L.A. I usually don’t eat at Subway – I would normally support a local cafe, but I was given a gift card at Christmas by a very kind person. I was nearly to the end of my sandwich, and I was quite enjoying it, when a Hispanic man came in, a street person. He came in the door and walked straight to me and began to gesture that he was hungry, saying something that sounded to me like he was asking for some change. I was a bit taken back by his demeanor, because although he was not demanding or forceful, neither was he merely voicing a typical hey-man-can-you-spare-some-change query. He had an edge about him.

I handed him a dollar, and he snatched it and immediately began gesturing at the last vestiges of my sandwich. “Sure,” I mumbled, after taking a few seconds to let it sink in. “You can have it,” I replied, feeling like it took three years to respond. He grabbed the sandwich, was back out on the street as quickly as he had appeared, and was probably finished with my sandwich before he was gone from view.

6 thoughts on “The man who ate my lunch

  1. Note on photo: taken today at the studio where our Occupy Education group meets for classes. The gallery is 118 Winston, and the current display is an Occupy theme.

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  2. Most of the times we fail to take action because of the virtually infinite amount of work to be done. Congratulations on managing to ignore the infinite and respond to the particular facing you.

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  3. “Now here’s some­thing as­ton­ish­ing. While the camp was in ex­is­tence, crime went down 19 per­cent in Oak­land, a sta­tis­tic the city was care­ful to con­ceal. “It may be counter to our state­ment that the Oc­cupy move­ment is neg­a­tively im­pact­ing crime in Oak­land,” the po­lice chief wrote to the mayor in an email that local news sta­tion KTVU later ob­tained and re­leased to lit­tle fan­fare. Pay at­ten­tion: Oc­cupy was so pow­er­ful a force for non­vi­o­lence that it was al­ready solv­ing Oak­land’s chronic crime and vi­o­lence prob­lems just by giv­ing peo­ple hope and meals and sol­i­dar­ity and con­ver­sa­tion.

    The po­lice at­tack­ing the camp knew what the rest of us didn’t: Oc­cupy was abat­ing crime, in­clud­ing vi­o­lent crime, in this gritty, crime-rid­den city. “You gotta give them hope, “ said an elected of­fi­cial across the bay once upon a time—a city su­per­vi­sor named Har­vey Milk. Oc­cupy was hope we gave our­selves, the dream come true. The city did its best to take the hope away vi­o­lently at 5 am on Oc­to­ber 25, 2011. The sleep­ers were as­saulted, their be­long­ings con­fis­cated and trashed. Then, Oc­cupy Oak­land rose again. Many thou­sands of non­vi­o­lent marchers shut down the Port of Oak­land in a stun­ning dis­play of pop­u­lar power on No­vem­ber 2.

    That night, some kids did the smashy-smashy stuff that every­one gets re­ally ex­cited about. (They even spray-painted “smashy” on a Rite Aid drug­store in giant let­ters.) When we talk about peo­ple who spray-paint and break win­dows and start bon­fires in the street and shove peo­ple and scream and run around, mak­ing a demon­stra­tion into some­thing way too much like the punk rock shows of my youth, let’s keep one thing in mind: they didn’t send any­one to the hos­pi­tal, drive any se­niors from their homes, spread de­spair and debt among the young, snatch food and med­i­cine from the des­per­ate, or de­stroy the global econ­omy.”

    – from this article

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