Today, Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Jewish New Year, 5772, is one of the two Jewish holidays I acknowledge. My wife and I will go down to the Hudson River with some stale bread and, according to tradition, cast our sins upon the water. Usually the seagulls eat the bread. "What a relief," I'll then say. "They didn’t turn black." The birds, that is.
I like the Jewish New Year because I feel as if I’m getting a second chance to re-live the year designated in the last two digits—’72 in this case. Yes, it’s the ’70s again, and 1972 was an especially interesting year. The energy of the ’60s was still very much alive, and having recently transformed myself into a radical hippie, I’d become an editor on Observation Post, the “alternative” student newspaper at the City College of New York, where the remnants of the SDS and Weather Underground had fused with an emerging punk sensibility.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that kind of energy. But I felt it yesterday when I went down to Liberty Square, where the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have set up camp. Galvanized by both ridicule in the mainstream media and a cop’s unprovoked pepper-spray attack on a woman demonstrator the other day, the motley gathering veritably exuded the Spirit of 1968 (5729). “There’s something happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear…” is the way Buffalo Springfield put it in those electrifying days.
The demonstrators’ energy was focused around a tribal drum circle on the Broadway side of the park. People were pounding out an infectious rhythm on drums, cymbals, and garbage cans. They were playing tubas, trumpets, and washboards. And they were dancing, while a few yards away, on Broadway, a chorus line of demonstrators held up signs demanding economic and social justice. It was uplifting, hopeful, and magical in a way that’s difficult to quantify, but obvious to anybody who was there.
And take my word for it—these people aren’t going anywhere. Because most of them have nothing to lose and nowhere better to go. They’re serious, angry, unemployed, and dug in for the long haul. Ignore them at your peril.
Happy New Year, Wall Street.