We’re a small but hearty and dedicated group of exactly two Occupiers in Mancos, in the southwestern corner of Colorado, about seven miles from Mesa Verde National Park as the crow flies.
Don’t be surprised that you’ve never heard of us; not even the silly woman who runs the local weekly newspaper has ever stopped to take a photo or asked why the hell we’re standin’ on that corner in front of Coldwell Banker every Saturday afternoon holdin’ our admittedly unprofessional “I am the 99%” and “Occupy Wall Street” signs.
We stand, seriously, at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Main Street, the joke equivalent of ‘at the corner of Walk, and Don’t Walk’. They happen to be the only two paved streets in this town of about 800 souls at an altitude just under 7,000 ft., between the La Plata Mountains and the southwestern desert.
The Mancos Times reporter/editor just smiles serenely as she cruises by in her car, obviously in a hurry to interview the newest artist opening the next ill-fated gallery for her chamber-of-commerce-like rag whose mission seems to be cheerleading the most recent efforts for Cowtown Mancos to miraculously transform itself into Sedona Artista Mancos. A funny little place this is now; the past decade has brought lots of new folks to this little valley, and a couple new factions stick out to me.
The ‘Where the West Still Lives’ folks are pretty much ‘all hat, no cattle’, as they say around here, mostly faux western rabid Republicans who fled Texas and California for whatever it is this valley offers; I don’t know, maybe cheaper land, cleaner air and water, the core group of Sagebrush Rebellion/anti-government folks who abound? They tend to love their guns, hate their gays, disregard their government, but love all things stagecoach, bullwhip, and gunslinger.
Another group of latte libruls came and coalesced around an agenda to have the town be restored to its Opera House glory days; they are determined to change Mancos into a place cool enough to wear Edwardian dress and feather boas and whatnot to events and parties, another brand of ‘class distinction’ frippery that I can live without.
It’s all created some serious schisms over time within town politics. You won’t be surprised that I tended to ballast the no-frills, live-and-let live, lower taxes way we used to live before the Milagroization began in earnest. As in Milagro, by and by, many of the old agricultural and cattle families have had to skedaddle; I hate that. Lots of them were our only friends when we moved here in ’73, and even though we were ‘the hippies down the road’ for a couple decades, we found accord and quite a lot of love with lots of them, and eventual acceptance by them, even while we were busy being kick-ass activists for many things they didn’t exactly embrace.
The valley was settled by Mormons, and close on their heels came a lot of Austrian folks leaving the copper mines in Montana, and Kansans fleeing the Dust Bowl; the two groups didn’t mix well back then, to say the least. The valley had its shares of Mormons v. ‘The Others’ Wars, and lots of old enmities remain today.
There must be about thirty different churches in the valley, some of them comprised of a few families who’ve peeled off another church over some arcane point of Biblical doctrine or other.
There’s a strong second-generation Mexican demographic, and when we first got here, lots of racist garbage and bullying made life at school hard for any of the Hispanic kids, speaking of which:
Mancos is obviously a Spanish word, but here it’s pronounced, rather hideously: Mank-us, accent on the first syllable. Legend has it that the two friars, Dominguez and Escalante, traveled through here on their expedition in 1775 or so, and one of them broke a leg…or maybe two… It may be made up out of whole cloth, but regardless, my little town is named (in Spanish): lame in both legs! I always wonder if the Fancy Folks here have a clue about that! Tra la!
Forgive the digression, but I wanted to give you a bit of a feel for Mancos, and some of the people who would be driving by our small weekly demonstrations, and calculate what their reactions might be like.
As for us, we’ve been pretty high profile in the valley over the years. I’ll spare you the lists of our activities; suffice it to say we were pretty much Movers and Shakers of the Leftist Kind, but also in the schools, boards and organizations that require people to keep the valley running well. In recent years, I haven’t been able to get out into the world much, so there are plenty of new folks for whom we are mutual strangers, but as we Occupy, even I recognize loads of them as they hit the intersection.
You can see the funky western flavor they’ve created, and the line of shops and galleries that have sprung up catering especially to summer tourists. There’s even a Western hat maker, who forms the felt with vintage forms and tools, a stagecoach builder, and a man who makes furniture from peeled second-growth pine.
As I haven’t any pictures of the two of us Occupying, I thought it might be fun…to see what we see instead, thus…the substitute art I’m providing. This is a renovated bank full of yuppie offices of all sorts.
A My.FDL blogging friend had recently seen a comment I’d made at kgblogz.com after coming home from our most recent Saturday stint in town; he suggested I might want to write up Occupy Mancos to encourage others since it might be a little bit inspirational to others, and show the importance of visibility, letting even the citizens in tiny towns know that this democracy and justice movement is alive and well, and ain’t going away. This is pretty much what I’d written:
“We have such bloody fun; it’s just the two of us, but after so many weeks we’re sorta a fixture on Saturday afternoons. More and more folks are waking up to WTH we’re doing there, and we get honks and waves and thumbs up and yells…maybe 80% positives, and we just howl at the few who pointedly ignore us, or make a show of shaking their heads (rather with gusto) as they drive by; you know by their faces…what they’re thinking…
We are so incredibly aware of the absurdity of it. The first time I protested, I’d been alone on one of the important solidarity dates a few months back. The stares and utter incomprehension made me feel like I was wearing one of those wackjobs wearing a sandwich signs saying:
REPENT! THE END IS NEAR
or something. Thinking of it made me laugh even harder than I had been earlier. It doesn’t seem quite as goofy with two of us, thank the gawds. Lots of these folks we know, and it makes it even both more fun and more ridiculous.
Last week a Lexus SUV came by, and the guy driving rolled down his window and yelled, “We’re the 1%!”, LOL! We twinkled our hands and pealed with laughter; he did, too. It was great, and echoed the week before, when an old Mexican man in a rusted beater rolled down the window…yelled with a huge grin, “I’m the one percent!” It was so freaking funny!
Do laugh with me about this part, okay? Standing that long (okay; it’s only an hour usually) sorta requires that I use crutches, and by now I’ve gotten over feeling like an idiot. If I go take a quick break for a rest and a puff or two of tobacco at the car, no one honks and high-fives; I tease Mr.wendydavis that it’s either because the pity factor is lacking; or else the Beauty Factor, lol! I spiff up a bit, wear purdy clothes and eye makeup or even some lipstick if I’m feelin’ extra racey, and even curl the ends of my hair sometimes.” A few weeks ago, after returning from Occupying, I’d been laughing about wishing my crutches were that sexy metallic blue I used to have; WTF kind of vanity could that be, about, eh? “If they were only cooler looking, it would be less embarrassing!” Arrrggh! ;o)
Anyway, I wanted you to share some of the fun we have, and encourage others of you to make small efforts as you can. I think it helps; the support we get is growing and growing; pretty cool. And hell, who knows? I might take the time one day to make a small cardboard tent to ‘pitch’ on the sidewalk, if this scary-but-lovely weather holds long enough to Keep Occupyin’ Mancos.
And in answer to my friend at the other site where I blog, yeppers; the two of us really dominate at our General Assemblies; Mr.wendydavis has finally figured out that I’m always right, so we reach consensus sooner now.
Love, strength and courage to you all, and: Occupy Everywhere!
(I always blast this to give me courage while we’re getting ready to go to town, though it’s not so much about fearing being arrested, as that I find driving in the car kinda daunting any more.) ;o)
Occupy Manocs, Co: the Importance of Small Occupies
We’ve been Occupying this tiny town in the Four Corners area since last October to beneficial effect, imo. I introduced readers to our wee Occupation here back in January (includes very funky and cool photos), and this past Saturday it occurred to me to share our recent experiences and small victories with you in hopes that you may be inspired to engage in similar efforts.
This photo of the valley was taken at the Mancos Overlook on the way up to Mesa Verde National Park; the town of 1334 residents is visible if you squint a bit; Mr. wendydavis and I live at the right side of the picture under the small mountain named Menefee, just about halfway down the photo; the lovely La Plata range is above.
We’re in Montezuma County, which the late Edward Abbey long ago dubbed ‘Dipstick County, Colorado’. He’s right, and by and large it’s a pretty red county, and it’s clear by now that no Dems or Indies should run for County Commissioner unless said person enjoys sadistic humiliation at the ballot box. But as all areas have wonderful and kind residents, this county is no exception; once upon a time we even had a vibrant Democratic Party in which I was extremely active, but those days are distant memories now.
A contingent of recent arrivals hope to make Mancos the next Sedona artiste community, so we’re now a mix of salty ranchers, farmers, latte liberals and small-time entrepreneurs. The population is mainly anglo, with about 15% of the population is Mexican/Hispanic/Native American.
Our Occupy consists of two members, Mr. wendydavis and myownself, and we Occupy a corner at the intersection of the only two paved streets in town on Saturdays for an hour at about one o’clock.
Now and again different folks have let us know that they’d join us, but as they’ve all been the Move-On/American Spring adherents, we mumble grateful declines. Beyond philosophical differences over the purpose of the democracy movement, we both believe that small is better, which conviction I’ll explain soon.
To provide some atmospherics behind our experiences, I need to say that most traffic that passes us is vehicular; it’s a Western town, thus plenty of latter day ‘ponies’ (pickup trucks and cars) go by as folks pass through in or out of the wider valley, another thousand people or so. Other cars are a mix of beaters and newer ones, even a few hybrids and Lexuses (Lexi?) sprinkled around. Climate change seems to have brought an eerily early spring, so tourists and fat-tire bicyclists are increasingly cruising through, maybe doing a bit of lunching or shopping at the artsy shops.
We’ve become a fixture during that time slot, and folks let us know they noticed if we couldn’t make it due to inclement weather (a freezing strong north wind, for instance). One very cool thing is that support has been increasing all the time, which to me means a couple things: folks are increasingly aware of the meanings of ‘the 99%’ and ‘Occupy Wall Street’ which our signs display, and that they may be figuring out which side they’re on. They must have been clicking through the files in their minds since the last time they saw us on the corner, calculating how hard it is now to earn money, find a job, pay for gas, groceries, a phone, and medical bills…while Fat Cats are rolling in money, in careless disregard of their wants and needs. The images must look increasingly wrong, as do reports of ‘Recovery’.
Measuring support is hard, as different days bring different results, but in general I’d guess at least 60% of the cars going by either bring honks, waves, twinkles, or thumbs-ups, with here and there some encouraging calls out the windows. We’ve had very few strong negative reactions; a couple emphatic negative head-shakes ‘NO’, a couple thumbs-down. The saddest was from a ten-or-eleven-year-old kid on the passenger side near us as Dad turned the corner. ‘Dad’ had obviously issued instructions, and the poor kid made an Ugly Face, and did an energetic two handed thumbs-down with his entire upper body; it just depressed the hell outta me knowing how proud he must have been pantomiming his dad’s disapproval for him (How’d I do, Dad, huh?”). As in: kids aren’t born learning to hate.
But back to the choice to be essentially a Binary Occupy:
In full disclosure, I’ll admit that one reason is that we can make a little sport of guessing by faces and ‘ponies’ (First American for ‘rides’) what might be going on in the heads of folks who look away from us lest they meet our eyes or scowl a bit; Mr. wendydavis says I’ve developed a particularly comical and demonic form of low-pitched laughter that bubbles out of me to go along with the slightly disparaging brief narratives I’m wont to utter. Okay, it’s not really One Love stuff, but it passes the time, and is…seriously fun.
The other reason we like it is this: as two, we are not intimidating as a big group would be. Plus we dress up a bit so as not to be targets for ‘get a job ya dirty hippies’ catcalls, but really, so we look approachable, meaning that sometimes people stop their cars to come and talk to us, or pedestrians cross the street to ask us what the hell we’re doing; in the kindest possible way, of course. ;o)
As we explain what the democracy movement is about, as in: the fact that increasingly the corporations own not only our government in terms of contributions to candidates, but that they essentially write the tax code and anti-regulatory laws that ensure their maximum profit and endless bailouts for which taxpayers foot the bill. Post financial meltdown is a good place to start, and then scoot back to earlier deregulation of Wall Street under Clinton, and what caused the meltdown and losses to their homes’ values and pensions. We explain that the old labels of Left and Right, Democrat and Republican don’t matter any longer: it’s a top/bottom wealth division that is at the core of it. We listen to our visitors, and try to answer their questions in ways that make them see more clearly that electoral politics are pretty much beside the point now except for a few possible social issues, and that even those are no sure bets any longer, as there are few politicians with any remaining ideological convictions, and that SCOTUS is no longer a hallmark of higher Constitutional deliberation, but an increasingly politically partisan institution. TILT.
Depending on our visitors and their questions and concerns, we might speak of Endless War based on chimerical ‘terrorist’ excuses, police state issues, the death of first amendment freedoms, the military budget, dying national infrastructure, etc. But always, always coming back to what the democracy movement is trying to accomplish: wresting our nation back from the Plutocracy that will soon own us lock, stock and barrel, and that with the recent laws and executive orders in place, any one of us can be declared an ‘enemy of the state’, and held without charges, effectively becoming ‘Un-people’, or ‘the disappeared’. The new SCOTUS strip-searching decision the Obama administration worked hard to support will be a good story in future conversations.
It continues to amaze me how many of visitors end up in accord with us; you can practically see the wheels turning and the gears clicking in their heads as they begin to accept a narrative that ballasts what they may have sensed, but not understood that might lie behind the propaganda on their teevee’s evening news.
I swear, I love it like all giddyup! And when the odd person calls out, “The only cure now is revolution”, I practically swoon, and laugh with utter abandon and glee, reminding myself that folks are saying that in Mancos, Colorado. Outstanding!
So if you want to make a difference, albeit a small one (but think of the power of millions of ‘em), grab a friend (so you don’t feel like an idiot), make some signs, and Occupy a Corner. Talk to folks; they need to hear what’s really going on in our country. I keep thinking that even large Occupies could send out folks armed with simple explanatory pamphlets, like a New Common Sense, into the communities to encourage one-on-one conversations. Yes, it’s slow, but it feels good, and spreads the word.
Occupy Everywhere! Rock and Roll The Democracy Movement! Make it fun!
Stay strong, and spread love and true feelings of community,