Friday, October 28, 2011

Occupying Saint Louis in the Cardinal Nation or Politics and Baseball

Today is the day that the Lord has made; I am rejoicing and conflicted.

As with a good portion of St. Louisans, I am worn out but elated with the St. Louis Cardinals win in the sixth game of the World Series last night. Because of their win, the Series is tied again by the Texas Rangers and the aforementioned Cardinals. The Cards have a new nickname, “Cardiac Cards” due, in great measure, to the fact that they basically lost the game and almost the series to the Rangers. Score lagging, error prone, bats only hitting to infield causing double plays…not a good combination to win against a World Series team…which the Texas Rangers definitely are.

Regardless…at the last moment with two strikes and two outs in the 9th inning, the Cardinals pulled out of a loss and into a tie and extra innings. Then behind. Then again – so close to losing the 2011 World Series, they tied the game up. In the 11th hour … well, not really, it was actually the 11th inning, they finally, unexpectedly and many might say undeservedly, won. Had the Cardinals played throughout the game as they did in the last three innings, there would be no question of deservedness.

Regardless, as a result of the crazy and dramatic win, the St. Louis Cardinals, with their new nickname, will host the Texas Rangers in the very last game of this year’s World Series. There will be a winner tonight. It will be done. Who it will be will be determined by the 9th inning…or the 11th…or, let us say, at the end.

So, what is the conflict? Not between the Cardinals and Rangers…although I have had several moments and actually quite a few more last night when I thought the Rangers deserved to win the World Series. But no. That is not it.

My partner Debbie had a meeting last night at the Cathedral so our son and I decided to walk down to Kiener Plaza to see up close and personal how OccupyStL has expanded since the first time I was down there. Since that one time, I have only followed and supported through Facebook.

It was 6:30 in the evening, sixth game of the World Series. There were people everywhere! At Kiener Plaza, a few blocks from Busch Stadium, within the plaza itself, there was quite a bit of activity within the ring of tents that lined the area. Yet on the sidewalks briskly walking toward the stadium, were those in a hurry to get to their seats prior to that first pitch.

Tucker and I stopped to speak to a couple of the OccupyStL group…a young man and an older woman who were handing out info flyers. The young man said he wasn’t staying at the plaza because he had a job but that he came in the evenings and on weekends. He said he had been there since near the beginning. The woman appeared less likely to have a job…or a home other than the one there in the plaza. She was very enthusiastic in her support of OccupyStL and seemed to be a part of and very well informed as to all that was going on. As much as anything, she seemed hopeful that what was happening was a good thing and that as a result, good would come from what they were doing.

The young man and I talked about the lack of police presence at Kiener. We talked about the frightful scene at Occupy Oakland that had happened earlier. I wondered aloud if the St. Louis police were staying away from Kiener Plaza because of the World Series in town. He said he thought they were hoping that all the protesters would go away as the temperatures fell and that they were just waiting for winter. He said with great pride and a good deal of hope that “we” (the protesters) were not going anywhere. And I believed him.

Drawn by the lure of lights and all those things that have drawn generations of people of all ages to the sound of a baseball game, Tucker and I continued to wander towards the sight and sound of something as American as rebellion...Baseball. We paused outside of Mike Shannon’s on the corner just across from the Stadium. A big screen television was blaring in the outside bar; a woman in a kiosk was selling beer, people were standing around drinking, talking, laughing…hoping…

Still, the lights and roar of the crowd drew us closer until we were standing outside the wrought-iron fence that separated those who had and those who wanted.

All along the way, we were stopped by one or another who wanted us to buy or give. One guy stopped Tucker, handed him an American flag pin and then wanted a donation. I told him I had no money…which was truth. Tucker gave him the seventy-five cents he had in his pocket and the guy told him, “Well, you can keep the pin anyway” as though Tucker had not given him the correct “donation”. Later he said, as we passed a buy playing a guitar with a tip jar near his case, “I should have saved the change to give to this guy.”

One couple that passed us answered Tuck’s question of how they got their tickets and how much did these cost with a quick, “a friend and face value”. Tucker asked what was face value and the guy told him $250 each. A couple of comments were tossed out of how much the tickets would cost for the 7th game IF there was a 7th game.

It is a definite that the stadium will be filled tonight with people who paid exorbitant amounts for a chance to be a part of this historic season as a Cardinal (with their 10 previous WS wins) or a Ranger (second time to the series and a very good chance of winning their 1st WS) team wins.

Baseball, a game so many have loved and revered as a part of the American dream, thrives with its philanthropic millionaire players blasting homerun balls into the upper tiers of mega-dollar stadiums filled with affluent and, at minimum, very lucky attendees. Meanwhile, down the street, testifying against the corporate greed that has so rocked and rolled our world that the homeless and those who have chosen to be away from home, the toothless and the pediatric orthodontic white gleaming smiles of young adults, the dreadlocks and the balding, the dirty from the inability to wash and the dirt taken on in penance, have all mixed together in one voice, here and across the nation to say, “It’s gone too far.”

I am drawn to the voices speaking out in the midst of the injustice in the chaos of the day and in the silence of the night, turning their lives upside down for a chance to be seen and hopefully heard…for a chance to be a part of a change for the good. And I am drawn like a moth to the bright lights and the roar of the crowd and the allure of all that is baseball. I am drawn to and filled by the hope that comes from both. 

I believe the hope will outweigh the conflict. Well I know that the Occupy spaces across the nation hold within them the power to bring about the changes that are so needed in our world…a chance to adjust the imbalance created by our legislature and our courts…created in large part by our own lack of action…our silence that allowed this imbalance to over tilt to one side.

We are the Occupy forces whether we realize it or not. We are them. They are us. Homeless or not; teeth in place bright and shiny or not; by choice or by circumstance…we are them. They are us.

We are a part of the American Dream, be it politics or baseball. Regardless of whether we have the money to buy a World Series ticket or even a cheap seat ticket during the regular season; even if we are one of the ones who have the dollars to philanthropically give to the charity or cause of our choice whether it be hundreds of thousands or simply seventy five cents…we are a part of the American Dream.

It is time for us to live into that idea that politics are a part of that dream and that if we, the 99%, are missing from that mix, the dream is not being fulfilled. Regardless of our place in life, we have a responsibility to be an active part of the system.

As I walked by the young man and the woman as we headed back to the Cathedral, I told them thank you. It’s not enough but it is a beginning. Hope lives.