I ordered a corporate logo flag and it arrived a few weeks ago. Ever since then I’d been trying to find someone to walk with me and hold it, rather than put it on a pole, where I didn’t think the logos would be as obvious.
It turns out that for most people they weren’t obvious anyway! — but that comes later.
Meanwhile, I put up a pic of my flag on my fb page,
— and in amongst a number of friends who said they’d walk with me if only they were in Bloomington, I got a decidedly different response from Judy Peterson, who had been a classmate of my younger sister Marnie, class of 1962, Twin Falls Idaho.
Wow! Though I responded immediately with my take on the situation, Judy’s response unnerved me. Wow, again! Do lots of people feel that way?
She wrote again:
That she used the word “oligarchy” interested me. Judy’s no fool. So what’s going on that she would find my use of the flag “disgusting?”
Needless to say, that exchange inserted a note of “Hmmmmm . . . what’s going to happen in the parade?” as I readied myself for the trip downtown early yesterday, the 4th of July. When I asked the day before, Rhonda Baird had given permission to her homeschooled daughter, and my weekly helper, Maya, to be the other person to carry the flag with me. And early that morning, one local woman, Wendy Bernstein, had also commented on fb, saying that Charlotte Hess had told her I was looking for someone. I gladly accepted Wendy’s help, in case one of us had to go to the bathroom, or wanted to take photos while marching.
We were to meet in the second of four parking lots for this gigantic parade that had 100 entrants(!), including marching bands, political candidates and their fancy or vintage cars, Miss Indiana in her fancy vintage car, the Hudsucker Posse (a female hula hoop troop), Harmony School kids on bikes following an old ragtag bus, a roller blade troop, boy scout troops, lots of strange clown types, Hoosiers for Common Sense (Single Payer) Medical Coverage, and others I only heard about but never saw, due to being in the 16-block long parade rather than sitting on a curb (hopefully) in the shade to watch it.
We were going to march with the 10th Amenders, #46. All we had to do to find them was to “look for the octopus” — and yep, there it was,
The first time I saw corporations compared to Octopi was in a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi, back in 2009, where he famously called “The world’s most powerful investment bank (Goldman Sachs) a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”
Hard to forget a phrase like that!
But now I see that the history goes way back: From Octopi Wall Street! October 6, 2011:
A few days ago, photographer and idea blogger David Friedman tweeted, “Octopi Wall Street. You can have that.” Beyond the Occupy Wall Street-inspired wordplay, he was on to something. There’s a long American tradition of mixing economic populism with cephalopods.
Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi famously described Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” More recently, Mother Jones cartoonist Zina Saunders drew the Koch brothers as the twin heads of an oil- and money-spewing “Kochtopus.” But the first comparisons of moneyed interests to voracious tentacled creatures date back to the Gilded Age. Here, a quick review of the metaphor’s greatest hits. More:
So to construct a giant squid with eight arms to be carried by sign-waving “Corporations are not people! Money is not free speech!” protestors was a great idea — even obvious, to those who know what we’re talking about, that is. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that still lets out most of America. More on that in a minute.
Of course there was a lot of waiting around until the parade finally got going at 10 AM. (We were supposed to get there at least by 8:30 A.M.)
Meanwhile, Maya and I traded stories. When I remarked on how glorious the cool blue sky day — “NO CHEM TRAILS!” — I exclaimed excitedly, she immediately asked: “What’s chemtrails?” I told her, including the possibly wishful thinking that chemtrail-eating “sylphs” (smallish wispy clouds), supposedly sent by ETs, are sometimes seen near them. “God knows, we need help in cleaning up this mess,” I ended. But not before adding, “It may seem farfetched, but I do know that ETS have been seen near nuclear missile bases, disarming the missiles on occasion.”
13-year-old Maya, wise beyond her years, listened closely. Then she launched into a story of her own. Something her mentor had taught her. It goes something like this:
In Lakota land, there was one young brave who kept climbing trees, and he was so careless that sometimes he’d fall down, crashing through the branches, managing to grab hold of them on the way down. But one time he fell, and only barely managed to break his fall with the branches on the way down. He lay there on the ground, stunned. A shaman who had been somewhere on the same land, but not visible or within hearing distance, connected to him internally, and realizing he had fallen, rushed to find him. When he finally came upon his prone body, he admonished: “You’ve got to stop that. You’ve got to be more careful. The spirits tell me that they are not going to protect you anymore.”
“The spirits tell me they are not going to protect you anymore!” she repeated, and ended her story there. Without explanation. Wow. What a teacher, this young one, already!
At some point, I decided to walk around and check out some of the other entries on our lot. One of the clowns:
And always one of my favorites, the Southern Indiana Pipes and Drum, who, when I stopped to take their picture, were practicing, lending a spirited air to an already festive morning.
Okay. Finally! We begin. (IFA, in photo below, stands for Indiana Forest Alliance, which had joined with the Tenth Amenders to help hold the Octopus tentacles. This felt synchronous to both Maya and me, since her mom co-founded the IFA!)
Maya and I had counseled each other to watch carefully to see who noticed our flag, and if they did, what was their reaction? And within a block or two, we both realized that maybe one person out of a hundred both saw the flag and, if they “grokked” it, had an immediate thumbs up, or clap, or huge grin, or even, an “I want one of those to replace the one on my house!” The rest of the folks were mesmeried by other things, not the least of which was the Octopus. Though of course, the tentacle holders wondered how many people “got” what they were trying to convey about corporations. Charlotte Zietlow, one of the tentacle holders, said she thought maybe one in fifty got their message.
In any case, I certainly didn’t have to worry about being stoned, or cat-called, or anything else polarizing. Judy Peterson’s fb remark turned out to be the “worst” thing that our flag called forth.
We also have to keep in mind that there were thousands of U.S. flags there that day, and that our flag’s message was subtle, because you really have to look to see that its got logos on it, not stars!
Aaah! There’s Wendy! Good. She took a photo of the two of us —
And then stepped into my place for a few blocks —
— so I could take photos. The closer we got to the Courthouse Square, the larger the crowd.
As the parade went on, I started to possibly understand where Judy Peterson is coming from. Yes, she “gets” that oligarchs have taken over our country. But she wants to think that at its heart, we can and should still “rally around the flag.” Which means, to me, that she, and no doubt others, have penetrated one layer of the deception being practiced upon this unsuspecting populace, but not the layer deeper down, where “they” play on our emotions about being patriotic, “my country right or wrong,” etc. For each of us, upending our programmed conceptual framework of a lifetime is a learning process, and takes time.
Wendy kept wondering why the Tenth Amenders didn’t simply make a sign that said, “Repeal Citizen’s United!” or some such. But as Charlotte Z. (who, at various times in her long and fruitful life, has been on both city and county councils, and who, among other things, also saved the Courthouse from being torn down) said, when we requested her opinion: “People wouldn’t understand that at all!” Why? I can answer that: Because it’s an Orwellian phrase. As if we “citizens are united” in saying that corporations have the same rights as flesh-and-blood people . . .
It takes a lot to wake up. And this 4th of July was not so much about waking up, as it was for young families and older retirees and others to celebrate our local, community-spirited, very midwestern town, as we watch ourselves parade by in front of each other with music and dance and fanfare.
P.S. I had been wondering beforehand, if the military would show up in force, but I didn’t see it. However, Herald-Times photographer, Jeremy Hogan, did.
Oh yeah, and afterwards, Maya and her family and I went out to lunch at Esan Thai, where Maya and I ordered identical meals. LARB, I think it’s called, with beef and sticky rice. We’ll both be snacking on leftovers for days.