Thursday, December 22, 2011


It's the word of the year, we're told, so I've been preoccupied with its various meanings & connotations: 
       There's the obvious -- occupy movements -- with their sense of occupying public space and the positive (at least for me) consequence of occupying the public debate about what a fair and well-functioning society owes its members. (My vote, to quote some civil liberties lawyer whose name I've long forgotten, is justice and groceries.)
       Then there's the much-awaited, can-you-believe-it-took-so-long end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, though it wasn't usually called that.  We seemed to prefer calling it a war, and someday someone will explain to me why that's a more positive spin on that debacle.
       We're getting a spate of news stories -- someone just noticed -- about the difficulty faced by soldiers returning from that war in finding productive ways to occupy themselves, sniper and truck convoy driver not being high of the list of occupations needed in civil society.
       And our preoccupation with terrorism, which has led to the Orwellian concept of "pre-crime" -- sussing out intention to commit a crime sometime in the future by cobbling together bits of on-the-face-of-it legal behavior and then arresting the purported terrorist-in-the-making.  These days, he's apt to be a young, well-educated Muslim living in a suburb near you.  (See the recent conviction of Tarek Mehanna in Boston.) This occupation of our minds allows us to tolerate a very frightening national security system, whose secrecy and reach I tried to explore for my story in In These Times (which will be available online in a couple of weeks) and over-reaching laws with very broad definitions of what constitutes aid to the enemy. so that juries seldom decide against the government in cases of "domestic terrorism," regardless of the strength of the evidence.  (Remind anyone else of the anti-Communist witch hunts?  Reminds me of the aphorism that a long memory is the most radical act in America today.)
       Of course, occupy being the word of the year, it shows up in ads and jokes and my emails about my office hours.  My journalism class agreed that it was the occupy semester, since the encampments coincided almost perfectly with our classes.  (They didn't walk out.  Not sure if I'm pleased or dismayed.) 
So, inevitably, my holiday wishes for us all: OCCUPY THE NEW YEAR -- in style and peace!