I said to Brook on that long march from Union Square to Veterans’ Plaza, “It would be a relief to be arrested just to sit down.” We’re not that out-of-shape; it was the stop and go, creep along, that the NYPD made us do to keep order that wore us out. Truth be told, the crowd—though hefty at fifty thousand strong—was docile. I say that because when we passed Zuccotti one could feel a pang of helplessness. If someone had broken out then to re-occupy the old homestead I would have gladly joined in. Our crowd stretched for twelve blocks and occasionally with a rise in the pavement you could look back on its enormity. We were like the Israelites still wandering in the desert.
Despite the fatigue the traverse past Trinity Church brought a wave of continuous and universal disdain. Sad, really, because that parish/corporation—true to the Gospel--could have brought a moment of magnanimity to the Occupy Movement by granting refuge on their vacant Duarte property back on December 17th. What had been an esoteric argument over using church property wasn’t wasted on this endless parade of protesters. They got it. Trinity had the resources but committed them not to a communal good but to proprietary interests. This parish’s mission has become so atrophied and a caricature that even a much ballyhooed May 1st “teach-in, rally for Occupy” was moved from public access to a television studio where the public relations department could slice and dice the message to suit its interests. This, right in accord with corporate life.
As we left those sad sites of Zuccotti and Trinity I recalled what I had said to Rector Jim Cooper after a forum the prior week. “Let’s move on; Trinity’s old news.” His only reaction was relief still apparently missing the deep sadness of our Church missing something special in history.
So, we wended our way down past the infamous bull on lower Broadway with a surprising left turn toward Water Street. My legs were yearning for the benches around Bowling Green but sometimes the inscrutability of places like Trinity can only be matched by the likes of my young friends of Occupy. Where we were going? Enroute we all received this text message: “New Occupation Assembly at Veterans’ Plaza.” The NYPD continued an imbecilic ushering procedure by making us all squeeze past bumpers of parked cars instead of a byway 12 feet away. Somebody needs to get clear about what’s a stupid and what’s a sensible tactic.
So this might be our new home! Before choosing curtains and arranging furniture you just wanted to sit down. It was then I realized I’d been there before. http://www.vietnamveteransplaza.com/ Back in 1985 the culture had warmed enough to the memory of the Vietnam War so we veterans finally “returned home” with a much-delayed ticker tape parade. I remember catching the train to that event and feeling self conscious in my old jungle fatigues. That ebbed away as I blended with thousands of other Vietnam veterans.
Here's the irony: that was a different day but it was the same march route but in reverse…so emblematic of the errant course this nation has taken. After that march and this march I was still stopping to rest in the same spot.
Once there, you can’t help but think of the young men with whom you served. In those days I was an Army platoon leader.
|Fire Support Base Aachen after a patrol, outside Lai Khe, Vietnam. |
Packard is bottom center.
Memorial stirs you not only with quiet beauty but also by the ingenuity of the letters and poems in its facade: a yearning for home here…a missed and broken relationship there.
I’m probably at the end of God’s list of coincidental places from which to be arrested: church property on December 17th and now the Memorial for my fallen brothers and sisters on May 1st. And certainly other Vietnam vets have a different claim to this lineage. But for me it all made sense that the vivid memory of my comrades from one time should meet the insistent truth of new friends now. That clarity conveyed a hospitality of space I felt required to pass on and so I ignored the police instructions to leave the park.