I've been lucky enough to experience many powerful things with Joan Baez. This is one:
When the Occupy movement got started, Joan and I were on tour in Europe. I was able to share things with her - the live feed from the Brooklyn Bridge, Jesse LaGreca's sharp and energized words from the heart of the movement - that gave her a sense of what it was all about. She wanted to listen rather than speak... and so she waited to speak, or to sing in this case, until she was asked. Today, she was asked.
Of course, with a leaderless movement such as this, it takes a while before anyone feels they are in a position to make such a request. Joan didn't enter into it earlier because she didn't want to co-opt it or give anyone a platform on which to say that it was simply another incarnation of something from decades past. She didn't want to dust off old anthems - she believes the movement needs new ones and recognizes that it may well be someone else's turn to create them.
Today, she took the stage in Foley Square, singing three songs that encapsulated what the struggle is all about, not just on the subject of economic disparity but also, on this Veterans Day, of soldiers who have been willing to lay down their lives for a democracy that has largely been bought out from beneath them. The first song she sang was one that she wrote during the Vietnam era called "Where's My Apple Pie?" It was sold as a single at her concerts, with 100% of the proceeds going to help returning vets. She adapted the title line of the song during the final chorus today: "It's time to occupy."
The building in the photo above houses the Supreme Court of New York. The words chiseled proudly into it's face read:
"The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government"
Reading those words, today, it was hard not to shudder. Those whom we have trusted to administer justice at the highest level in this country gave George W. Bush the presidency in a decision so shameful and anti-democratic that they took the rare step of saying it should not be used as precedent in the future -- just in case someone else, someday, decided to hand a Democratic candidate the presidency as they had handed it to a Republican. More recently the Supreme Court of the United States confirmed in a way that would have been unimaginable when Joan was protesting decades ago that there is no limit on their belief that money is the highest and most important form of human expression. Citizens United confirms the worst fears about the powerful in this country; Occupy Wall Street confirms the fear among the powerful that the people will only tolerate so much.
Performing with Joan in Foley Square today, in front of those words etched in granite, I was able to add my voice. I am proud to stand with those who value compassion over selfishness and who understand that, like it or not, this country is not merely an economy, it is a society. Like many others, I stand against those who would destroy what so many generations have fought for in order to line their own pockets.
My American Dream is simple; everyone gets a chance to do better. I will continue to stand for that with Joan and others in this movement.
P.S. If you are interested in Joan and/or veterans, you may want to check out the following diary: http://www.dailykos.com/...
Photos by Kristin Andreassan and Jim Stewart