Occupy Orlando-Wild Weekend!
Give me an old trombone.
Give me an old baton,
before the parade passes by! ©
Before the parade passes by. By Jerry Herman
Everyone loves a parade, and everyone loves an excuse to either watch, or be in one, or both. The weekend starting with Veterans Day provided ample opportunity for all to participate. Occupy Orlando is now holding its General Assembly at Orlando City Hall on Friday evenings at 7:00 PM. This is a prime opportunity to march from Senator Beth Johnson Park chanting, attracting attention and giving life to the old ghost of a downtown. On Veterans Day this was the only parade going on. Once at City Hall the GA took over. It was long; there were also individual speeches that added to the length of time spent occupying City Hall. What actually gets discussed at GAs is posted on the web page www.occupyorlando.org along with the now added calendar of events, articles, information and donation button through WePay.
Veterans Day actually started out life as Armistice Day. After World War I the nations involved in the conflict chose November 11 as a day to remember their war dead and they declared it a national holiday, as did the United States. This was a day that we shared with the rest of the world and it was not a celebratory holiday. Armistice Day served us very well until 1953, when, at the height of the Red Scare and a “Commie under every bed” era (actually, as I’m writing this article, I’m watching the “The John Garfield Story” on TCM) some people in Kansas decided to withdraw from the rest of the world and expand the holiday to include all US veterans of all wars. This was serious stuff. The merchants actually closed their doors and the kids didn’t go to school. It was a solemn occasion. The movement gained popularity and congress passed the bill. President Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954. In 1971 the holiday was moved to the fourth Monday in October in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Law Act. Nobody much cared for the October date and in 1978 it was moved back to the original November 11.
“Everybody wants ta get into da act”-J. Durante
Somewhere along the line the day morphed from a solemn occasion to the circus atmosphere almost paralleling July 4th. The original concept was for stores to actually be closed on that day and that business as usual not be done. That’s why it was a national holiday, so that banks, the post office, schools and non-essential government services would not be open. The Orlando parade took place Saturday so that if a kitchen sink sprouted legs it could also take part. The festivities included Mayor Buddy Dyer, beaming out of both sides of his face and members of the city commission plus the usual suspects- veterans of all types and ages, floats, military hardware and devices. As if that weren’t enough the parade also included high school bands, vintage car motor clubs, motorcycle groups, police, firemen and all sorts of people who have absolutely nothing to do with Veterans Day. Occupy Orlando was there in force cheering the veterans on, however, the Tea Party unsuccessfully tried to spin it the other way.
Veterans deserve a lot more than a day of remembrance and a little hoopla thrown in, but since the Bush presidency and the privatization of America and the appalling facilities deterioration that was found out several years ago it is apparent that they have been given short shrift. There are probably no veterans doing meaningful work at the VA Hospital project in Lake Nona, even after the president signed an executive order in February 2009 specifying that Project Labor Agreements be the order of the day. Central Florida’s labor unions were quick to include veterans in their ranks to work on the project. The parade downtown would not have been possible without the service and sacrifice of our veterans. We owe them a lot more than a frivolous parade.
“and we’ll have a gay old time.”
There was a time in this country when you could use the word gay in polite conversation without raising eyebrows or outrage as witnessed by this last line from The Flintstones theme song which everyone watched no matter what their age. The word meant everything that encompasses fun and delight short of (or perhaps including) joyous climax. That describes to a tee the events that occurred on Sunday, Nov. 13 the rain date for the Come Out With Pride celebration in Lake Eola Park. The Weather Gods blessed the day with as perfect a day as could be and the hordes of people were having a marvelously gay old time (see how well it fits?). Tents were erected all over the park for the service providers and merchants who were wise enough to display their wares. Even Mayor Buddy Dyer spoke “straight” talk (think about it) out of the proper orifice when both he and Orlando City Commissioner, Patty Sheehan, announced the Orlando Registry for domestic partners living in the city. Orlando is one of the first cities in the state to establish domestic partnership benefits for LGBT couples and the establishment of the registry is a further step in the right direction, and definitely something the city should be proud of. It is hopeful that GLBT rights are starting to make the progress they deserve. The end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a real bright spot and the coming spotlight on DOMA will eventually be overturned as wedge issues continue to erode, however slowly. It takes a long time and a lot of courage to defeat these issues, yet it is a necessary battle. I met two members of Occupy Orlando two years ago when the Westboro Baptist Church was here. Here’s my article on that event and how two brave individuals routed the protest.
The parade started at 4:00 PM and it seemed that everyone was in on the march. Occupy Orlando joined the parade after it started and received wild applause and cheering from both the parade participants and the crowd. The video I shot was from Robinson Street at the beginning and it is in four parts here, here, here and here. Featured prominently were the Mayor, Commissioner Sheehan and State Rep. Scott Randolph. The parade ended with the members of PFLAG, the understanding and caring parents of LGBT youth, who proudly marched.
As I started to leave to go back to the occupation I encountered what was perhaps the most compelling booth in the entire event, The Zebra Coalition. It is relatively new, yet it provides needed services for GLBT youth who have been kicked out of their homes by callous, ignorant, and hateful parents. The image of those parents, juxtaposed with the PFLAG parents was enough to make my stomach go sour. How could any parent be so disgraceful? There is no excuse for that behavior. The Zebra Coalition has suddenly become very important. To get involved go to the website zebrayouth.org or call 407 909 3272 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. On the way back to the occupation I stopped in a 7-11 to get a cold drink. As I was in line to pay a young man shouting curse words came into the store and loudly said “There’s a (expletive deleted) fairy party going on all over”. I watched the store manager’s temperature rise as she said “Oh, Lord Jesus, give me strength.” As he continued his tirade she commenced to give him a tongue lashing and a dressing down that would be the envy of any Marine Drill Sergeant. She kicked him out of the store and received uproarious applause from the customers. I quickly noted that there is some justice in this world.
Once back on occupation grounds it was time to celebrate the occupation’s one month anniversary with a cake cutting ceremony. One of the cake donors was former county commissioner Linda Stewart who is now a candidate for State Senate district 19. Commissioner Stewart has been a stalwart supporter of Occupy Orlando and she deserves everyone thanks for her support. At 7:00 former OCDEC chairman Doug Head held a livestream teach-in on redistricting. A throng of direct action team members have attended and will continue to attend and official meetings of city and county commissions, boards and events and make their voices heard. If our officials don’t like the quiet serenity of their meetings disturbed, well, that’s too bad.
I really, really, really didn’t want to comment this next subject, really, but there is a teaching moment here on both human behavior and human nature that affects all of us, and none of us are an exception. Corruption in sports has been with us since sports were originated. It should never have been overlooked and should never be overlooked. Once we find out about it the damage is already done. College sports have been a hotbed of corruption considering how the athletes are treated in comparison to the rest of the students. The reasoning-sports bring tons of money into the school; IQ events don’t. Unwritten code: go for the money, screw the brains. In my lifetime I witnessed the college basketball scandals and Jack Molinas involvement in point shaving and betting on your own team, as well as the mid 60’s Philadelphia Eagles girls for hire scheme that sent Sonny Jurgenson and Tommy McDonald out of town on a rail, and the betting scandals that put Alex Karras and Paul Hornung out of professional football and Pete Rose out of baseball. Of course the most famous scandal of all, the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, where the above quote comes from still haunts the sport.
Joe Paterno should have known better than to try and save his football program at the expense of human suffering. My wife graduated from Penn State when Jerry Sandusky was a rookie on the team, before Paterno was the head coach. Paterno’s career in football started at Brown University in 1947 when head coach Rip Engle molded him into a quarterback. Engle moved on to Penn State in 1950 and took Paterno with him as an assistant, so Joe Paterno has been at Penn State since 1950 and has always been a popular figure on campus well before he became head coach. I was in attendance at Homecoming 1962 against Syracuse, where football great Ernie Davis made his farewell appearance, succumbing to Leukemia only a few months later. I also abruptly left a Thanksgiving Day dinner in Allentown, Pa to take my son to the 1978 Penn State-Pitt game in almost freezing weather. Yes, we were Penn State freaks.
Prior to Paterno, Rip Engle was also a legend. He started Penn State’s greatness both on the field and in the classroom. Paterno took it one step further, yet something in his 20 year association with Engle should have rubbed off on him and did not. Other than two years away from Penn State coaching at other schools Sandusky returned and spent the rest of his career coaching under Paterno. That’s a lot of years to not know somebody as well as you could. There had to be red flags and other warning signs. When things finally blew up Paterno did only the absolute minimum to deal with it, because protecting his legend was more important than doing the right thing. Had Paterno blown the whistle at that time the football program never would have suffered as it is going to now, and his legend would be inviolable. That’s all gone now. He’s learned the hard way what Richard Nixon, Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby learned. The crime, no matter how heinous is further exacerbated by the cover up.
“Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch……..”
Conditioning is something that happens to us many times without our knowledge. We hear comedians or commentators or politicians refer to others in such a certain way that it affects our perception. Just mention the names Noam Chomsky or George Soros to right wingers and watch their heads explode. They can’t rationally explain why they hate them, but they’ve been conditioned to and they won’t break that programming. It’s the working model of Pavlov’s experiment with dogs and mealtime. The bell would ring and food would be served. After many times Pavlov withheld the food yet when the bell rang the dogs automatically started to salivate. The vaudeville routine using the trigger word Niagara Falls has the same effect. The trigger turns an otherwise docile, down on his luck hobo into a raving maniac who takes out his bloodlust on the hapless second banana. The routine was a classic for the Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello, and there is a ring of truth to it.
I did an unthinkable thing; I violated my own standards. Days later, when I heard of the meeting off-site to invite Matthew Falconer to speak on Nov. 5th I naturally assumed that Wilson Cox was part of the cabal of Tom Tillison, Jayson Hoyt and the United West Hit Squad. I reacted by pointing Cox out as a Tea Party plant. What I did not do was give Cox an opportunity to respond before publication, thereby doing just what the Tea Party does. I’ve had subsequent dialogs with Cox, A veteran who served both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he swears he was acting as his own agent, trying to do what is good for the Occupation, so I’m going to retract the allegation that he was working with Tillison and co. At this point I have to say that like a mother lioness, and a Nittany Lion coach, I am very protective of my family and friends and make hasty snap decisions, almost knee-jerk in my reactions. Just the mention or thought of what those people did to Shayan Elahi, who is like an adopted son to me, can trigger my Niagara Falls moment. I still do not condone what Wilson did, but he made an honest mistake. Matthew Falconer is a shameless self promoter who will take the microphone any chance he gets to spew his ideology. The microphone was open to him without an invitation and any moderator would have allowed him to speak. It is not the policy of the occupation to bar speakers. Compare that with the way the Tea Party handled protesters Saturday at one of their events where Sheriff Joe Arpaio was the keynote speaker. The event at the Airport Marriott was so poorly attended that they had to send out e-mail blasts to give out free tickets. Even at that the event attracted perhaps 50 people. Four women from Palm Beach County interrupted the event and they were thrown out, being manhandled all the way by Brandon Darby and his big strong bouncers. The video is on the Occupy Orlando website and it is chilling. So, the bell rang and I drooled. I’ve got to get out of that habit. It is obvious (at least to me) that the lesson we learned here is to stop and think about what you are doing. Doing the right thing may at the time be painful, but in the end there will be fewer consequences.
Life’s full o’ consequence
That old devil consequence
He takes all the frival out of fun
When you’ve got the candle lit
At both ends the scandal it creates
Always keeps you on the run
Life’s Full O’ Consequence © by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg