I was sitting in Zuccotti Park, during a solidarity demo with Gezi Park in Turkey, talking and catching up with Brendan who I hadn’t seen in a while. He and Colin were talking about a book about the demise of a major network where Brendan’s father had worked. Brendan asked me how I’d been, I told him that I’d mostly been broke, looking for work, killing time and trying to get my head straight by writing an article and lots of essays. I told him I was going to write about Chepe attacking me a few weeks ago (on May 3rd 2012). “Pysically?” He asked, “yeah I said and I told him my story.
I was hanging out with Corujita at a wake for Bud aka Besouro, a capoeirista and animal rights activist who had sadly away from leukemia in spite of being an incredibly fit and active straight edge vegan. He had helped Corujita overcome a very debilitating knee injury and he helped remind me how much I enjoy playing capoeira. He had been playing for about four or five years at the time and was far less jaded by years of capoeira politics. I had been playing for about ten or eleven. He inspired me to smoke less pot before we’d play at Zuccotti or at Washington Sq. His loss was a huge loss for a lot of people from a lot of different communities to say the least.
Corujita and I were both bummed out to say the least and we were glad that we had a birthday party to go to for Kat after the wake. It was proper rouge’s gallery of seasoned #OWS organizers and protestors at Odessa that Friday night. It was good to catch up, fraternize, swap new schemes, old stories and drink cheap scotch. I recall going off on my cannibalism rant against vegetarianism and veganism. The thought of eating (certain) people doesn’t appall me in the slightest and I can appreciate why certain indigenous peoples’ were and likely still are into eating other people. I recall telling a short story that I heard Baudrillard tell at the New School about a South American tribe that ate a missionary after they kidnapped and forced him to live among them with full rights and privileges, which he seemed to enjoy at least until the tribe wound up eating him. I told everyone that Baudrillard suggested that cannibalism was an expression of love. I now recall that my old man told me that our ancestors once practiced cannibalism as well as a matter of fact, and I told Mark, who was at the party that night, that he was exactly the kind of person that I would want to eat, not because I had any animosity what-so-ever towards the man but because he had a soul far kinder and nobler not only than my own but quite possibly everyone else in the movement as well. He understood that I wouldn’t actually eat him and he took it as the strange compliment it was intended to be.
Chris spontaneously devised a drinking game. The object would be to continuously speak about a randomly selected topic without pausing by saying anything like, like, uh, um, ahh, etc. Chris, Captain, Danny, Dawn, myself and later Richie wound up drawing topics such as ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire,’ the similarities and contrasts between #OWS and the rebel alliance from Star Wars (my topic of course) Thompkin’s Square Park, Metaphysics – which Danny killed if I’m not mistaken and other topics that don’t stick out quite as well in my mind. It was good clean revolutionary nerd fun.
I got up to stretch my legs after a few rounds of the game and started standing and talking with Corujita by the bar. Chepe approached her. She had told me earlier in the evening that they had had a bit of history together. Chepe and I had a bit of history together as well. I had given him the three hand clickers that I would use to take early morning head counts in Liberty Plaza during the first weeks of the occupation. He had given me a lot of shit on Twitter several months later about how I should check my privilege after I did an interview on Sean Hannity’s show.
I don’t recall what he said to Corujita, or what she said back as she leaned closer toward him, however she gave him a look which said ‘hey! I’m glad you finally said something to me this evening, what’s you’re next move!?!’ He submitted his gaze down to the floor, and which indicates intimidation and insecurity. His shoulders slouched over his chest. He turned and looked up at me, raised his chest and his shoulders again and he said “If you ever call me a spic I’ll kill you.”
What happened next came quickly, my instantaneously outraged instincts however momentarily froze time for me and my mind began to wrap itself around the situation.
I hadn’t been a part of their conversation at this point. I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I didn’t know why he thought I would call him a s*** in the first place. His implication that I would do so as well as the more general implication that I’m some sort of racist really pissed me off.
The thing that made the familiar old ‘red mist’ appear in front of my eyes however was the fact that he had just threatened my life. His raised shoulders and chest conveyed that he not only thought he was justified in doing so, but that he intended on backing up his threat. The belief that he seemed to have in himself that he was in anyway capable of taking my life or of doing any harm what-so-ever to me in our current situation made me take him seriously in spite of the fact that I didn’t didn’t think him capable of doing any harm what-so-ever to me in our current situation even though it was obvious that he not only felt justified in doing so and that he wanted to do so. So, For the first and presumably last time in my life I committed a sin against my own values and tersely said “spic” in order to find out if he really would back up his threat to kill me for using the racial slur he suggested. Sure enough, Chepe attacked, and probably cause he wanted to look tough in front of Corujita more so than because I’m an oppressive racist, because I’m not.
He lost the fight he started well before he ever attacked me and attacked like a sloppy, drunken armature. He lashed out with rage and clearly without much idea of what he was doing, simultaneously trying to grab and shove me. I grabbed him close to his collar with my right hand and by his scrawny right arm with my left hand taking a classical Judo stance. I shoved my body and it’s weight into his (which was significantly less than mine he was at a serious disadvantage even if I hadn’t spent most of my life training and even if he had) while I used my grip to shift almost all of his body weight onto his right leg, bringing his left off the ground, as I brought my right leg across our bodies so that I could use it to reap his supporting leg out from under him, sweeping him to the ground. The same technique, otsoto-gari, applied with more force or less control and restraint would have killed him by smashing the back of his skull and the most important parts of his brain upon the filthy floor of Odessa Café, but he repaid my generosity by thrashing and struggling after I had swept him down to the sticky bar room floor gently.
I patiently wrapped my right arm around his neck, pulling it and it’s trunk off of the floor a bit so I could shift and outstretch my right leg under his shoulder and pull his body by his right arm with my hand on his tricep across my outsretched leg, in a ‘scarf’ position I was taught to refer to as kesa-gatame. He eventually stopped thrashing his arms around and I decided to let him up after he said I won this round. “this round” I thought to myself out loud. Would this happen again? and did he actually think he stood some sort of chance against me even though I had just beaten him without even having to injure or cause him pain? The worst aspects of my personality automatically wanted to inflict pain and injury upon him even though my intellect knew that I had handled the situation with less violence than he had and that I should leave before the craving to seriously fuck him up came upon me.
Chepe told the bartender that we were cool after I let him up. The bartender pointed at me and said I didn’t look like I was cool, which I wasn’t at all by this point to say the least. I did my best to play it cool however and I told the bartender that I was heading home as I shook his hand and threw on my coat. I knew I had my debit card on me before he even considerately asked me if I had a tab to settle up and I shook Chepe’s hand, did my best to smile and told him “it’s all in good fun” just before I left. I didn’t mean what I had just said to him at all of course, but I did my best to play along so as to not cause any further problems. capoeirista’s call this malicia.
I was murderous when I got home, and inhaled the fumes of as much indica as I could in fit into my lung cavities in order to calm down while I told my roommate Tim about what had just happened. Tim’s a part-Korean high-school dropout who was raised on the south side of Chicago by a single mother, but who can pass for white, and therefore has often been told to check his privilege as well. Chepe had talked and started shit with him too and Tim laughed his ass off after I finished my story. He gave me props for dominating Chepe without having to hurt him and he said he thought Chepe was stupid for continuing to talk shit to me after I had done so. I was inclined to agree with Tim’s assessment.
The next day I received a series of text message from Richie, one of my dearest, closest and most trusted comrades in the movement that read…“Dude I wonder if you can learn from your practices of being a consensual asshole, to maybe stop being such an asshole to friends and comrades in ways that are not only unconsensual, but also incredibly traditionally oppressive. IMHO (5/4/2013 4:12pm)
I began writing my response back to him which read “and I wish my comrades wouldn’t make threats to kill me an then attack me, so I guess none of get what we want.”
My response was sent at 5:30 probably well after I looked up from the message I had composed only to find by some great but not at all unprecedented coincidence, none other than Kat and Richie sitting right in front of Lorna and I on the L train. I looked over at Lorna and said ‘get the fuck out of here,’ then looked over at Richie who still hadn’t seen me yet and held the face of my iPhone to him and said ‘dude what the fuck?’
Kat asked what happened, she didn’t know what happened until after it happened and she patiently listened but noticeably stiffened up when the word s*** came up in my story. Richie and I shook hands with each other and noticeably bowed our heads out of our eternal and fundamental mutual respect if not our perfect understanding for and of one another.
Lorna suggested that I might not want to refer to anyone by name when I told her that I intended to write and publish this story online.
My friend Amye from Revolutionary Games told me that calling chepe a s*** wasn’t the wisest thing I had ever done. She suggested that my use of the word could’ve offended other people who happened to be in the bar. I pointed out that he had actually been the first person to introduce the word into the conversation that evening for reasons which are still completely unclear to me. We got into a long conversation about the incident. The fact that I had uttered a racial epithet was a bigger moral issue for her than the fact that he had uttered a death threat. She told me about how the word Jap affects her, as if I had no idea how the word s*** might have affected someone else. I told her that I could relate because I feel the exact same outrage every time I’m told to check my privilege, because it stereotypes me as white (which means bad and evil in our community) and it completely disregards my ethnicity and the Oneida aspect of my identity, it turns me into a stereotype of the very same people who harassed and terrorized me as a child and who I joined #OWS in order to fight against as well. It is alienating and enlightening beyond belief to be portrayed as that which you have been conditioned to hate and all the more-so by people who claim to be on your side.
I told Brendan, during the solidarity rally with Gezi on 6/15/2013 that I had to write this story and a few more besides, but that I planned on changing names so as to not identify anyone like Lorna suggested as it’s also the ethnographic convention I learned from the New School. Brendan said fuck that and plenty more besides. He looked offended as he basically told me, among other things, that this is revolution and not some ‘kumbaya shit.’
We had been talking about the Hunter S. Thompson Story from Songs of the Doomed in which the great doctor of Gonzo had sent a guy who had been taking credit for his writing to jail by planting a revolver on the plagiarist before entering a courthouse after they had done crystal meth together. Brendan recounted how Thompson wrote about himself screaming ‘fuck you I’m Hunter S. Thompson you mother fucker.’ I told Brendan that I am Hunter S. Thompson with the same spirit that I saw the gladiator slaves in Kubric’s depiction of the Third Servile War of Rome yell “I’m Spartacus!” Brendan not only indicated his understanding and agreement but told me that I not only had a right to tell my side of the truth but also a responsibility to go “Gonzo” on self-righteous assholes like Chepe. We both agreed that there could be shitloads of flack, that it would be for the best in the long run, and as always that I should “take the initiative, smile, get the killing done and take the flack” in spite of any and all consequences.
I was unable to disagree with anything Brenden had said. Moreover I realized that my reluctance to publicly tell this story as well as others about the movement indicated to me that something has been very wrong with the movement for far too long now. I have been acting out of fear to speak out about the prejudice, discrimination, physical attacks and even sexual harassment that I have experienced in this movement, sometime by hypocrites who have actually attended and/or taught workshops on anti-oppression. I have been afraid to publicly tell the whole truth about our movement, afraid to break norms of the movement that have been oppressing me and clearly others as well. I felt ashamed about feeling modest about potentially tarnishing the reputations of people who haven’t thought twice about the harm that they have attempted to inflict upon me and no doubt others as well. We’re all public figures in this movement and revolution is a contact sport for grownups. I’m tired of taking the suggestions of anyone who has ever told me to step back and lower my voice so that others might tell me to ‘check my privilege’ and to anyone who has or ever plans on telling me to do so based on the judgments that they may apply to my skin tone or my dick…fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.