Sunday, November 6, 2011
I met an occupier named Martin (not his real name -- he deserves a little privacy). He camps at OccupyDetroit. He always liked camping, he said. Now maybe he doesn't have a choice. I did not ask a lot of questions, but he told me a few things. Martin has lived in many places: Alaska, California, Florida, North Carolina, and now Michigan. He looked young and fit. I would be surprised if he was over thirty. He struck me as smart and personable.
He spoke of family members who died of unfortunate afflictions. He seemed to flinch a little at their recollection, as though the memories sting. These deaths affected the stability of the family he grew up in. His father disappeared and he and his mother moved into an uncle's place. The uncle was one of a set of triplets, two of whom subsequently died.
He told me he does not drink. He can't. He did and it did not work out for him, and now he doesn't. He's seen a lot ugly things in his life. He's seen people fall down and stay down -- people close to him. And my impression was that he does not want to be one of them. He said he'd like a job; that he lost his identification documents; that he is trying to reacquire these documents so he can get a job. For now, he is a camper at OccupyDetroit.
Martin stands as one of the troops, peacefully -- quietly -- breaking down the barricades of injustice for the rest of us. He shivers in the dark through cold nights, he shakes off the rain when the wind blows it in his face and there is nothing to do but duck, and he waits for the sun to shine again, and bring a little warmth into his external existence. Martin is not lost -- he is young, and vigorous, and sharp -- but the rest of us will be lost if we do not create a society that offers a guy like Martin a little help to get on his feet. I think if help were offered, he would take it and thrive. And probably return the favor. We need that society now.