Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

A Small Slice of Occupy Lansing

Caveat: I love my parents; it’s good to visit them at their home (my childhood one) here in East Lansing. That said:

1. As my mom remarked today, I’m in “flyover land” in Michigan; I unthinkingly, instantaneously thought she was right, making me realize, in turn, how coastal-centric or perhaps even snobbish I’ve become.

2. Most things seem bigger here in this Big-10 town, from cars & vacant factories, to super-supermarkets & billboards & roads, to 2-for-1 coupons & food portions, to right-wingers & god-fearing churchgoers; I also realized that to my mind, this bigness perfectly equates with sadness, with emptiness.

3. Gargantuan state college towns are ghost towns during Xmas time, and Xmas time is the only time marked, at least in public, but in a ghostlike way, since there’s almost no one out & about to see it.

4. Occupy Lansing’s General Assembly took place tonight in the basement of a library that I hadn’t been to since I was a teenager–a place I remember (embarrassingly now) reading Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” in one summer–and no one at the library desk knew what I was talking about when I asked which room it was meeting in, not even the bored security guard. I found the GA, though, along with all five of its participants. They could barely muster up three agenda items, could barely stay focused on a topic or make a decision, and when I said I was visiting from Occupy Philly, one guy wrote on the chalkboard next to their lean agenda: “What’s the best thing about Pennsylviana?” Followed by: “Yuengling” (for those not in the know: a beer, from oldest brewing company in the United States).

But at the end of the meeting, after they’d passed a near-carbon copy of OWS’s powerful “Statement of Autonomy” (OP: We need to do this too!), they told me about their occupation, which at tops had included 50 people, but in many ways was so similar to “my” occupation in Philly, save for the incredible grit & determination of these 5 people tonight in the face of what they described as a state (Michigan) where people were so beaten down that almost nobody wanted to stand up anymore.

The odds of their “movement” winning here, so tiny compared to all the woes in this devastated middle American capital & region, was in stark contrast with the bigness of their hope-against-hope, especially their exuberant plants for a bigger & better spring occupation. Bigness felt like sadness again, as I walked with big key chain in my hands to the big car I was borrowing from my parents to drive down the big roads to their big house, but I couldn’t help but feel the perhaps-foolish sense of something big happening here when, on parting from the two women in Occupy Lansing, who stayed after to chat with me, one of them exclaimed, “There’s even an occupy in my old hometown of Bay City!” (pop. 35,000), as if that definitively proved that we were surely on the verge of changing the world.


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This entry was posted on December 23, 2011 by in Dispatches from Occupy Philly.
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