Silent Witness

Tuesday morning, October 25th, in Denver.  Another perfect mountain high day.  Clear blue sky, temps in the high 60’s, air perfectly still and the sun, because we are a mile closer to it than you flatlanders, hotter than it has any right to be with only a week to go before Halloween.

But over to the west,  snow-capped fourteeners poke their heads over the rolling tan of the Front Range  foothills and, already, banks of cottony white clouds are massing behind them.  By noon, wisps of high altitude clouds are floating off the peaks and heading for the city.  Then, the wind picks up and the high clouds thicken and turn gray.  The temperature drops.

My friend and I are visiting the Occupy Denver site.  White-haired ladies (well, me anyway) in from the suburbs.  I have, on previous visits, brought piles of winter gear.  And cash.  We buy “OccupyDenver” and “99%” buttons and pin them all over our jackets.  A young woman, in shorts and tee shirt, comes to the table and asks to rummage in the big pile of donated clothing in search of warmer garments.  She holds up a pair of thin cotton pants and a cotton hoodie.  I jump in and hand her a fleece top, warning her against wet cotton in low temperatures.  “Under 55 degrees and you can become hypothermic.”

She laughs and joshes me for “channeling mom”.  And walks away with the cotton stuff.

People are already in their sleeping bags. The young man at the table tells us the Denver police have nixed any  type of  structure.  A cardboard box counts as a “structure.”

By 4:30 a cold rain has begun to fall.  At 11:00 PM, when I go to my warm bed in my snug house, a heavy wet snow  blankets the garden.

This morning I read athena1’s roundup of events in Occupy sites around the country and watch the YouTube video of the Occupy Denver encounter with the DPD.

At Denver, the police had taken down the tents that the Occupiers erected to protect themselves against the snow.  A few Occupiers had to be treated for hypothermia.

I read the latest poll numbers on what percentage of people distrust Congress and the mounting anxiety over jobs and the economy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/26/us/politics/poll-finds-anxiety-on-the-economy-fuels-volatility-in-the-2012-race.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

I think about the homeless people sleeping on the Denver streets or in their cars, in the snow.  I think about the jobless people I know:  son-in-law, daughter-in-law, my husband’s 50 year old former co-worker.  The one with colon cancer.  The lovely man who has just moved in with the kind couple across the street.  He’s been jobless for over two years.

I think about the gathering storms of high altitude winter and the silent mountains bearing witness to all our human grief.

Colorado has 2.9 million people and an 8 percent “official” unemployment” rate, give or take a few tenths of a point.  That’s about 232,000 people.

And Colorado’s homeless population?  I discovered that HUD does a “homeless count” every year.  Like, I guess, the Audubon Society’s annual New Year’s Day bird count.  The latest “count” for Colorado that I could find on the internet was done in early 2007.  An estimated 15,394 people.  Did they stop counting after the crash?  Did the counting funds run out?  Do they not want to terrify us with the increase in homelessness?

Colorado’s General Assembly begins its 2011 session on January 12th.  Occupy Denver is determined that the legislators will have to look out at them every day from their marble and oak chambers up the hill.

But what we need, on or about January 12th, 2011, are 232,000 more living, breathing bodies.  One for each jobless person in Colorado.  Plus another 16,000 for each Colorado homeless person.  Surrounding the State Capitol.  Standing in the Civic Center Park.  No need to speak, or chant, or shout slogans.  Suffice that each person hold up a number – from 1 to 248,000 – in silent and tangible witness to those  quarter of a million of our fellow Coloradans who are paying the price so a few enormously wealthy people can add to their riches.

I read last week that Denver is the country’s “angriest city,” based on the number of people turning out for protests.  Are we angry enough to get almost a quarter of a million of us out there to bear  silent witness?

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