1) I was standing against a wall in Penn Station (because ever since the attempted awakening of U.S. citizens by the Occupy Wall Street movement Penn Station bathrooms and waiting room are cleaned for 2 1/2 hours every night and no one is allowed to sit on the floor. This goes for customers with tickets as well as for the homeless and is eagerly enforced by NYPD). I saw two homeless men “horsing around” and, when they got a bit too enthusiastic, one of them slipped and smashed his head on the floor with a chilling sound that filled the concourse. The man was on the floor bleeding from the head for over an hour. Five members of NYPD witnessed this. Did they rush to help the injured man? No. They stood around harassing paying customers of LIRR, verbally abusing victims of a predatory social system and cracking cruel jokes about those unfortunate enough not to have a full-time job that includes health care. Two officers questioned me for running to the man’s aid. Interesting. Today, an attempt to help an injured person is considered “suspicious” behavior.
Then, an ambulance was called. Priorities.
At the very least, the man suffered a serious concussion. As he was wheeled by me on a gurney, I saw blood pooling around the thoroughly soaked bandage on the man’s head.
2) I was chilling in Union Square Park one beautiful afternoon feeding squirrels and enjoying the sunshine. For those who aren’t aware of it, Union Square Park is a National Historic Landmark in NYC due to its rich history in the U.S. labor movement. It is known as a gathering place for caring citizens to peaceably assemble in order to raise awareness of problems facing society that aren’t being addressed by our corporate-controlled political bodies. A former potter’s field, it was the site of the first Labor Day celebration in U.S. history in 1882. That’s why it is chillingly ironic for it to be the site of what I was about to witness.
I was watching kind activists give basic necessities to homeless people who gather there in small groups in order to feel safe. Many come together to share what little food they have with each other and to feel a certain camaraderie. Obviously, homelessness is a difficult existence. Doing it alone is much more than most people can handle.
The park was crowded with tourists from all over the world and no one seemed to mind the presence of these people. NYPD showed up. To help feed hungry people they are sworn to protect? To supply them with much-needed clothing for the upcoming Winter?
Of course not.
They were there to harass these people – asking them about their meager belongings (which didn’t appear to me to bother anyone except the cops). They also questioned these people about illegally eating and drinking (water and soda, not alcohol) in the park. Meanwhile, the tourists were eating their sandwiches, burritos and pizza while sitting on nearby benches.
Message: obey the dogma of the dominant culture, spend all of your money (plus a bit more) and you are allowed to enjoy what NYC has to offer. Become sick, injured or unemployed due to the redistribution of jobs to other nations and be unable to pay exorbitant prices for necessities (that everyone deserves) and face possible incarceration. This is criminalization of poverty in a society with a system that creates an immense amount of poverty.
3) I met a man sitting on the sidewalk on W. 44th St. He was unable to move freely from his home – a filthy pile of blankets. His other belongings were a cup of coffee and a pair of crutches. One of his feet was so badly infected he was scraping dead skin off an open wound oozing blood and pus. It had the feel of the aftermath of a brutal war scene, in which a soldier is desperately fighting to save his life.
This man is a victim of war – a privately declared war that isn’t publicly acknowledged by corporate media because they are too busy promoting a sick, twisted system that has no room for empathy. It’s a war on the poor. You’d think we’d declare war on poverty instead of the victims of poverty. No. Not in the good ‘ol United States of Corporations. We’ve decided to treat those who prey on fellow humans (as well as the rest of the planet) as royalty and to criminalize poverty. It’s simply another way to make a buck. (Or a billion. JP Morgan Chase has made profits of about $1 billion from EBT services, but that’s a story that needs its own telling).
4) I was eating an egg sandwich one morning on Broadway in Times Square. Why? Because it’s one of the few places in Manhattan where a person can sit without being harassed for not immediately buying something. I only wanted to eat my sandwich and drink my coffee in peace, but I found it difficult to be at peace in such a soulless pit of excess and waste. I saw a mindless horde of tourists tripping over each other with maps in one hand and assorted electronic gadgets in the other…
Welcome to “the greatest city in the world.”
To be continued…