Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Report from the Detroit Social Forum: Networking & sleeping around

I arrived at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit today -- without a clue about what I was getting myself into. But it turned out to be a very amazing gig. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people were there, all trying to rack their brains for solutions regarding what to do about America's numerous major problems. Plus everyone was networking like crazy. And the grandiose size of this vast event made past Teabagger conventions look pretty puny. I had NO idea that there were so many progressives still left in America.

And I too was out there networking like crazy and racking my brains -- but mainly about where I was going to be sleeping tonight.

When people came up to the Free Palestine Movement booth where I was working today, first I would try to set them straight about what is really happening in Palestine. "Palestinians are basically just people like you or me, except for one big difference -- they have the jackboots of the world's fifth largest military machine slammed down onto their throats."

"And why is that?"

If you ask me, it's because American weapons manufacturers and their lobbyists keep goading Israel to keep on acting crazy; to keep on acting in ways that anyone with half a brain could easily see is going to totally piss everyone else in the Middle East off. So. Why do they keep doing these stupid things that obviously don't work? Why? In order to create and maintain the perfect Endless War. You can't sell guns if you don't have a war. Duh.

Anyway, back at the booth. First I would cover all the salient points about what the FPM is doing to break the brutal blockade of Gaza -- such as organizing ships and boycotts and divestments and perhaps even planning to fly an airplane loaded with humanitarian supplies into Gaza. The semi-crazy right-wing fundies currently in charge of Israel's "Big Guns and F16s Department" wouldn't shoot down an airplane with little old ME on board, would they? Don't answer that.

Then, after I'd handed out all of my FPM brochures, I'd ask people where they were staying while at the convention. Here are some of the replies that I got:

1. "The Super 8 Motel."

"How much does it cost?" I asked.

"It's located way out on the freeway near Lansing, so it's reasonable."

"But how do you get there?"

"We rented a car." Oh. Screw that. Too expensive for me and no place to park it here anyway. Next person.

2. "I'm staying in a church. In a sleeping bag. On the floor." Oh.

3. "I live here in Detroit. I can bike over." Lucky you.

4. "I've got a really nice room at the Regency." Expensive. "But I'm sharing it with five other people so it's not so bad."

5. "We drove down from Canada. We're staying with friends." Rats. I have no friends in Detroit.

6. "I'm at the Doubletree. But my boyfriend is paying for it." I shoulda planned ahead and gotten a sugar daddy. What was I thinking!

7. "We came up from North Carolina. The Victory Motel. Out on Route 94. $60 a night." Yeah, and I bet that you have a car also.

8. "At the Clarion. $62 a night. No car. We take the 125 bus to the airport and then take a shuttle to our hotel." How long does that take you? "Two and a half hours."

9. A woman with a child had no idea where she was going to be staying. "We just got in from Ohio." I felt her pain.

10. "Holiday Inn. Right down the street." How much a night? "I'm not sure. I'm here with my parents." I wish I had parents.

11. "I'm just down from Ann Arbor for the day. 45 of us chartered a bus."

12. "In the dorms at Wayne University. 35 bucks a night. You get your own room." I'm there! But when I inquired around, I unfortunately found out that there was no there there.

Then my friends said I could stay with them at the Code Pink house. Okay. But then Medea Benjamin got detained while crossing the border back in from Canada and the person detained with her was the one who owned the house here in Detroit and so that deal fell through.

Finally I decided to just go sleep on a park bench over by the river next door to Cobo Hall. On my way to the park, however, I saw some shuttle buses lined up to take conventioneers back to Dearborn. So I just got into the line. I'd never been to Dearborn before. And, once in Dearborn, I was lucky enough to find a cheap room for the night. And it is a good thing that I did too because it would have been like Dante's Inferno out on that park bench because there is nothing outside my window right now except lots and lots of rain and brilliant and terrifying flashes of thunder and lightning.

But at least it's not Operation Cast Lead.

PS: Perhaps you have noticed that without a car I have been pretty much stuck here in downtown Detroit, without many options. They don't call this place the Motor City for nothing.

And when I finally did get onto that bus to Dearborn and hit the freeway, I noticed a lot of crumbling and deserted industrial buildings by the sides of the interchanges -- but the freeways themselves were freaking works of art as they cut through Detroit like knives through butter. No neighborhood seemed to be spared. Freeways definitely take priority here.

And my experiences here in Detroit only fortify my opinion that without gas and cars, America is pretty much screwed. Without gas and cars, we are pretty much stuck wherever we are -- be it in the inner city or out in the suburbs. We don't have to wait for "terrorists" to come and blow us up. We appear to be pretty much doing that to ourselves without any help already, thanks to our crippling reliance on oil and cars.

"Don't forget the Motor City...."