In your face, I see generations of women hunched over endless swaths of cloth for over a dozen hours in a row, knotty and pained fingers weaving, threading, stitching, pushing through the routine of debilitating stiffness.
In your face, there are generations of women who have worked through more squats than the greatest bodybuilders, plowing through muddy water with stout calves and muscular feet, peeling off the leeches that collect on one’s limbs from one row of rice plants to the next.
In your face is the history of a stereotype-basher who smashed through meticulously placed racial divides, who crafted ample space in which to participate in raising marginalized voices to a decibel level that became unbearable to the Establishment.
In your face, the blueprint of your past lies dormant – as a dismissed relic buried beneath the filth of political affiliations, silent and forgotten in the wake of your newly-acquired status.
In your face lies the wisdom of someone who damn well should have known what her constituents would be facing in an impending police raid that was designed to force Occupy Oakland out of the park for good.
When I look at you, I see the Southern Chinese descendant of a people who have and who continue to endure lifelong hardship. I see an Asian American woman who has spent her life keenly aware of the grave inequities fostered by America and bravely, unjustly tolerated by the most vulnerable. In your face, I see myself; except, like a cheaply-bought government informant, you’ve been flipped. I want to know what the fuck happened to you. Yes, your burden was unfair. It was the burden of representing all of us who looked to you as an example of strength within a system that, like some incomprehensible, inbred cancer, thrives on assailing its very backbone. This is personal.
Mainstream media had been especially vitriolic toward the Oakland occupiers in the days prior to the terrorist act that you sanctioned before hopping a flight to finagle more funds for the Oakland Police Department from the fat pockets in D.C. The resilient 99 percenters of Oakland were depicted as filthy vagrants who created unmanageable refuse and invited audacious vermin. You, more than anyone else, should have been outraged at the transparent attempts to smear a population choked by unemployment, student loan debt, depleted social services, and crippled by a historically oppressive police department. Casting decades of your activist-police interaction experience down the cesspool in one deft shot, you ignored the wisdom that must have been tugging ferociously at you when you told interim police chief Harold Jordan to “do it when it was the safest for both the police and the demonstrators.”
And when was it going to be “safest,” Mayor Quan? Would no one’s hands have been broken, no one’s faces marred and scarred if the Oakland Police Department decided to detonate their flash grenades in broad daylight instead of in the pre-dawn indigo? Would an Iraq War veteran’s skull not have been fractured if the OPD decided to launch their heinous rubber pellets directly at demonstrators during the late afternoon instead of during the day’s infancy? As someone who has participated in non-violent civil disobedience, you failed to act on the obvious – that Occupy Oakland, as an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, professed and practiced non-violence from Day One of their encampment. When exactly did you think it would ever be “unsafe” for the police to raid the peaceful encampment while wearing full riot gear, armed with grenades and “non-lethal” pellet guns which, as we’ve all learned to our horror, can indeed inflict tremendous damage.
After a day that looked like this past summer’s London riots all over again, you, Mayor Quan, who previously used her fire to scorch the Establishment’s very foundation, issued a statement that essentially claimed victory over the bruised, beaten, and terrorized. Deepening your steely sole even further into the necks of the perpetually silenced, you praised the OPD, Chief Jordan, and your crooked City Administrator Deanna Santana for “a generally peaceful resolution” to the encampment, as if an encampment established to seek justice for this country’s backbone majority was ever the problem, as if calling OPD terrorism “peaceful” or suggesting that they have resolved anything can even be remotely applicable.
“Over the last week it was apparent that neither the demonstrators nor the City could maintain safe or sanitary conditions, or control the ongoing vandalism,” you said, making all the above-mentioned city officials glow in the gold-star moment you were giving them. While scouring the internet to confirm whether you actually stepped foot inside Occupy Oakland at least once before the terrorist raid, I’m unable to find any confirmation. So, did you, Mayor Quan? Did you ever contact Occupy Oakland to request a tour, did you ever walk through that self-sustaining camp yourself, embrace hands with the occupiers and converse with them, one self-determined eye to another? Can you specify from firsthand knowledge what constitutes “ongoing vandalism” within the encampment? Or were your words constructed out of fear of those who might influence your political future?
It’s no easy task being an Asian American woman in public office, particularly if one proves oneself to be a substantial force who resolutely refuses to kowtow to the Establishment’s rules; particularly if one is not a cheerleader for oppressive Establishment policies that reignited this current People’s fight for a just society. I had expected you to carry the fight forward, despite my knowing that the likelihood was bleak.
Your subsequent apologies to Occupy Oakland are akin to throwing a bucket of alcohol on a house that lies in a delicate pile of charcoal ash on burnt grass. Like a typical politician who smothers the people’s voices before inviting them to candid conversation, unlike the revolutionary you once promised to be, now you’re saying how sorry you are. Now, as a hospitalized Iraq War vet awaits brain surgery, as people heal their broken bones, broken skin, and reconstitute themselves with an even stronger resolve, you want to talk.
Now when I look at you, I think about those seamstresses, abused and exploited; the rice field workers, dismissed as unimportant peasants; the parents, students, union members, the homeless, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the underemployed and the underserved, and about how wrongly you’ve done us all.