photo by Fibonacci Blue
I was three hours late, violently hung over from two bottles of cheap wine the night before, and driving thirty miles over the speed limit through the heart of downtown, en route to the “We Stand With Standing Rock” protest—or whatever name they chose this time. I won’t bore you with the details of where, when or with who this protest took place, as I can safely assume that this particular gathering was in no way, shape or form any different from any other impotent attempt by my esteemed generation to “shake up the establishment” (also at the advice of my lawyer).
Distracted by a song on the radio that I was trying to decide whether I hated or not, I slammed into the left headlight of a silver ’96 Corolla filled with horrified local college girls while blindly merging into the turn lane. There was a moment of silent eye contact as we all registered the situation, and then, tentatively, the blonde with the tits rolled down the driver’s window—to say something? But before a dialogue could begin, I threw off my sunglasses (strategically worn to combat the effects of my pernicious hang over) and screamed through my open window, “You bitch! I have a riot to report on; out of my way!” I then sped off down Main Street, fairly confident that I had escaped before my license plate was made legible.
I skidded into a loading zone down the block from the heart of the demonstration and tripped on the curb, adjusting my sunglasses and situating the hood over my baseball cap: this was my “incognito reporter” costume, the idea being that it would make me able to slide between friendly and enemy ranks alike. Upon second thought, I probably looked more like a booze-addled troublemaker, but this crowd would have been lucky to experience any trouble, anyway.
I made my way into the center of the crowd—made up of about fifty peaceful protesters holding up signs and lit joints—and began the process of blending in with the people. A man dressed from head to toe in traditional Native American garb was yelling about equality and the purity of the Earth, as a decrepit, elderly woman banged rhythmically on an animal-skin drum. People were holding hands in a wide circle, chanting some variation of “We Shall Overcome”.
There were no police in sight and everything seemed to be going smoothly. This was disappointing. Where was the clashing of the common people with their armed controllers? Where was the tear gas and masked, self-proclaimed revolutionaries breaking the glass windows of the banks and local businesses? As I said before, I was three hours late, and certainly by now I assumed some kind of clash would have taken place here.
I stood around for a while, watching the man in Native American garb shout about the power of the people and the progress made in North Dakota thanks to the people like us—well, them. I certainly agree with the cause, but can’t lie and say I’ve done anything for it other than crashing a small demonstration smelling like five-dollar pinot noir, and yelling at my computer screen while watching alternative news. People next to me held up signs reading things like “Water is for the People, not the corporations!” and “You don’t own the Earth!”
At this point, I began getting some inquisitive looks from the poncho-wearers and dread-heads, and so buried my nose into my notebook to appear as though I was truly reporting on the event. This is what I wrote: man not making any sense. blah blah blah. don’t forget to pretend to be interested. Soon after, some protesters near me noticed that I must be a journalist in some capacity, and approached to make their comments. The following is the conversation that took place between myself and a young man in a torn army jacket and red-dyed dreads:
Hippie: You writing for the cause?
Me: …Yes. Yes I am.
Hippie: You need to let the people know.
Me: What should they know?
Hippie: That we’re here, and those fuckers on Capitol Hill can’t control us anymore.
Me: So who’s starting the fight with the cops?
Hippie: No one…this is a peaceful protest.
Me: Do you think you’re accomplishing anything here today?
Hippie: We’re changing the global consciousness. We’re letting our voices be heard, man.
Me: So when does the riot start?
Hippie: Who did you say you write for?
I excused myself and bought a pot cookie off a toothless man in a Grateful Dead t-shirt walking through the crowd with a sign on his back that read “Trump President. World Ending. So Get High. $5”
With that, I decided that I had gotten what I needed out of the gathering, and left the heart of the crowd as a woman in her mid-twenties began chanting a string of guttural noises into a megaphone. Upon returning to my car, no ticket sat on the windshield. I chalked the day up to a success and drove out of downtown, to the nearest bar.
I compiled other quotes and other experiences that day that perhaps were noteworthy enough to include in this piece, but I’ve been drinking and by now, the whole thing is boring me. We live in a time and generation of apathy and the Lemming Syndrome; all that matters is what side you were born into, thus determining what it is you’re going to be apathetic towards and what you’ll be following; it’s all laid out for us. No one crosses the picket fence anymore.
Our beliefs are developed in factories and sold to us through technology that fits in the pocket of our ripped, skinny jeans. Those that believe they are going against the grain, those that believe they are being an individual, were cut out of the same shapes used six decades ago, but are simply wrapped in brighter packaging. Irony will be the death of this generation. Do I think we make a difference? I can’t know just yet. But do we really care? Is that why we act out like we do? Or are we just obsessed with being special—more concerned with being the people that made the difference than in making the difference itself? Fuck if I know. I suppose I just like being the lemming that didn’t jump off the cliff. That doesn’t make me any different though, does it? Ha, the irony is killing me. Whatever.
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