What kinds of circumstances, arguments or earth-shaking events would convince you to show up for a political protest? Would you have to know someone who was going? Or would you follow someone you wish you knew, or wanted to know better?
Or if you’ve already been out with Occupy – or the Tea Party! – what drove you to take action?
A Time to Cast Away Stones, my novel set in Berkeley and Paris in 1968, explores these questions. During my years of research and writing, I never lost sight of my obsession (admitted!) with the topic. What would convince a person previously disinterested in politics – or cynical, wishy-washy, self-interested – or conformist, ambitious – or shy, scared, spooked by crowds – to demonstrate? Why do they come out to observe, let alone stay and carry a picket sign and shout and march?
For years, I sat on campus lawns, remembering, and in libraries, at microfiche machines, and later in front of computer screens, trying to imagine what would make shy, insecure Janet Magill and her cynical, nerdy childhood sweetheart Aaron Becker take to the streets.
Janet Magill looks back from the lofty heights of a years-later Prologue, and complains that the myth of the ‘60s has persisted, promoted by the media for its entertainment value. “…miraculously,” she says of college student stereotypes, “they had acquired the ability to analyze every American blemish as if they’d earned PhDs in sociology. And courage! What bugged me most was the courage they all supposedly had: to change the way they looked, to expose themselves to loss of family and friendships, to attack and be assaulted physically, to risk everything for their ideals.”
So, what has this got to do with the 1968 May Revolution? Simply, that was my vehicle for exploring the topic, but in the past year, it has become much more.
Through this blog, I set out to compare the 1968 May Revolution in Paris with the Occupy Movement. I find there are amazing similarities, on so many levels! Things happened in France in 1968 that haven’t happened since, but are happening in cities all over our country, right now. I’ve been reading other blogs about it, but I see only descriptions of what happened then. Readers are supposed to infer how this compares to the Occupy Movement. I intend to go through specific aspects of the movements—the roles of intergenerational participation, health, media, leadership, organization, etc.—and compare.
The irony is that all those years I spent focused on the past, there was so little protest. We had brief forays in Seattle, and abroad, protests skirted alongside of wars, civil and otherwise. But now that I’m blogging, I find myself focused on the present and the future. With the Occupy Movement, the world has shifted on its axis once again in my lifetime!
So, please, read on and let me know. Have my experiences and research given me some insights into the mind of the protester – and some reason to hope that the Occupy Movement might be sustained and effective?
For more about A Time to Cast Away Stones (Sand Hill Review Press) and the history behind it, please visit my website at http://www.elisefmiller.com. My Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003495436635.
And I would love to hear from you! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org