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Update on Occupy Wall St

From the Medical Tent

(cut for some medical grue)

My son has been working as a volunteer at the medical tent at Occupy Wall Street. When he first began there, it was intended as a place to hand out band-aids and cough drops to demonstrators who had gotten a little uncomfortable.

But as the encampment has lasted, and weeks and months have passed, it has come to be much more. The medical tent is open 24/7, it is manned by doctors, nurses, and medics, all working in free time for free. (My son is an EMT.)

The weather has turned colder here in NYC. There has been snow already, and freezing rain. OWS is near the water. Hypothermia is a real concern. My boy has been trying to keep people warm and dry.

But now something else is happening. The word has gone out that there is free medical care. Local homeless are coming in.  My son has seen three cases this week of diabetic necrosis. He had one woman come in looking for antiseptic foot spray.  Her toe bones were exposed in her wet sneakers.  They are people who are living on the street, or nearly so. They may have been seen in the local ER. No doubt they were given scrips to  fill. They can't afford to fill them. They cannot go to a clean quiet home to rest.

He has also seen people with bronchitis, people on drugs, people who are probably schizophrenic. He can give them warm socks. Can wrap them in space blankets. He can bandage blisters, and show them where to get laundry done. He can send them to the volunteer doctors for stitches. He can take their hands or feet in his hands. He can take their vitals.  He can listen to them. He is doing these things. 

(One man had a broken hand from repeatedly punching a piece of steel modern art. My son splinted up the hand. he told the man to go to the ER, and he told him to stop hitting the statue. The man had some complicated reason he felt compelled to keep doing so. Son told to him to at least use the other hand.)

But winter has not started yet.  Some  people are going to die.

These are not the pretty face of the demonstration. But they are the reason it needs to be. They are the pointy end of the 99%. They are the most fragile, the most needy. We in this country have failed them for so long. It has to stop.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 6th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
(Deep breath for long comment....)

I found this post very moving for a number of reasons. I have a couple of colleagues who are experienced feminist activists and they have been highly critical of the Occupy movement (if it can be called that), particularly in the UK. They have argued that the goals of Occupy are nebulous and idealistic, those participating in the camps are inexperienced and naive, they lack respect for minorities and reinforce abusive patriarchal power structures. It’s true that the original goals of the movement in the UK have been obscured by adverse publicity resulting from the controversy surrounding the decision to camp outside St Pauls and the horrendous rape that occurred in the Glasgow camp right in the centre of George Square. These events have generated a huge amount of comment in the press and on activist blogs and the vitriol that has been hurled on both sides of the continue / decamp debate has been shocking and depressing.

For the record I think the Glasgow camp should have halted immediately and that those present showed enormous insensitivity in dealing with the aftermath of a serious crime. However I also disagree with much of the blanket criticism levelled at the Occupy movement by some of the feminist activists. Your post reinforces why Occupy is important. It’s not a pretty demonstration, it’s goals might be somewhat vague, but it is necessary because somewhere along the line things have gone so badly wrong that it is up to people like your son to provide basic medical care and human comfort for those who have nowhere else to turn. That’s really all that matters and we mustn't loose sight of that. There’s still hope for the world when there are people like your son in it.

Thank you for reminding me why this really matters.
Nov. 6th, 2011 09:55 pm (UTC)
I did not know about the Glasgow camp. There has been some crime in NYC too, some people have been ejected/arrested. Son has warm feelings toward police. He says they have been helpful, and remarkably patient. The fire Marshall has also been through, with so much crowding and so much cloth-- big fire hazard.

In a way, the problems that the medical tent is seeing predate the protest. We need universal healthcare in the USA. My government has spent too much time saying 'we should not do it, it will be flawed, or it will cost tax money,' or...lots of other dither. In fact there is a template already. The US military uses it. Its not perfect, but it will keep your toes on.

It is true that the goals of the OWS are poorly defined. But I think that the important thing is that the worship of the rich is coming to an end. For so long, there was a sort of belief that the rich were better, or must have just tried harder, and conversely, (and more damagingly,) that the poor deserved their state. This has led to poor voters aligning themselves with policy that is disaster for them.

I don't know what the answer is-- but there is less apathy now. It is not pretty, you are right. But maybe we can get up on our hind legs and do something.

I felt shy about posting this. It is different from my fiction, (although they are cross-pollinating some I think.)
But I want people to know what I am hearing about.

Son is totally hooked, btw. He wants this for a life.
Nov. 6th, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
It's very hard for us in the UK to understand how there could possibly be any objection to universal healthcare. No matter how much we moan about the NHS I think most people realise we are very lucky to have it. Going back to your last fic post, daughter and I certainly wouldn't be here without the NHS.

For so long, there was a sort of belief that the rich were better, or must have just tried harder, and conversely, (and more damagingly,) that the poor deserved their state.
I really hope this is the beginning of a sea change in that respect.

I want people to know what I am hearing about.
I'm very glad you posted this. It's really important we do hear these things.

I'm glad your son has found a calling and particularly one that makes such a difference to the lives of others. You must be very proud.
Nov. 6th, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
I am proud of him-- he is really very bright and he spent most of his childhood being sort of bitter and scathing and disappointed. At one point I pulled him out of school completely, and taught him at home for a few years. We were in the south then, and they were used to a more submissive kid than he was willing to be.

Now he is happy. I mean not happy with what he sees, but happy with himself I think.

Are these new icons of yours? I do not remember them. Also-- should I have more icons? I worry sometimes people are thinking 'it's that damn swan again!'
Nov. 6th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
Sounds like you did the right thing with the home schooling. Mainstream education just isn't right for some kids, there are so many other ways to learn. I think it takes time for some people to figure out what they want to do and to be and that can be immensely frustrating. I'm glad your son is happy now :)

The icons aren't new but I don't use them often. They are Miyamoto Musashi as drawn by Takehiko Inoue in the amazing Vagabond series. Musashi was a 17th century Japanese swordsman, artist and philosopher. I read a lot about him a few years ago.

should I have more icons?
If you want! I like your swan though, whenever I see if I know its you :)
Nov. 9th, 2011 03:20 pm (UTC)
Echoing what has been said and how proud you should indeed be.
I think that 90 % at least of the press comment here has been distracting and complicit with obscuring most of the things that should be being addressed.
I don't know how many camps there are here = there is one in Bristol besides the St Pauls one and the that wsa in Glasgow.
Unfortunately in the Bristol one there doens't seem to be anyone able to articulate - on screen anyway -well enough their aims = thouhg there is something to be said for the very fact that the inarticulate or realatively voiceless are managing to draw attention to some issues.AT least it deosn;t sound glib and stage managed at all.

re more icons

I rather like the swan too though I did photogarph some more eglantine roses for you when visiting volgivagant back in the hot May spring .
how far away that seems now !
Nov. 9th, 2011 04:46 pm (UTC)
OWS is anything but glib.

Some of them are trying to get large scale things done, sometimes in a hurry, while maintaining 'a horizontal power structure.' While possibly noble, this is an impediment to getting things done. Certainly it is an absolute stopper to any kind of speed. A hospital tent is one. A Navy, perhaps another. Both my husband and son have strong votes for vertical in these cases. (Perhaps I could venture our Admiral would agree.)

Press coverage here has been mainly positive. Local Al-Jezeera did an interview with the medics which my boy spoke in. It ended up on utube. I can send a link to you if you want.

I have not seen much talk at all about the OWS filling a medical gap. There is some indication that NYC is sending homeless to the camp for services.

There are more beggars on the street now than I have seen since the 80's. The city is rightly ashamed.
Nov. 18th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
You have an awesome son. I hope he keeps on keeping on, and that he is OK after the dramatic events at OWS this week.
Nov. 18th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks. He is having a very exciting time. Still going strong after the park raid.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )