Occupy Boston: Peace and Understanding

Kathryn C. Reed

The South End of Boston has always struck me as too sterile—business suits, straight lines, concrete. It lacks the color of Chinatown, the characters of the North End. I prefer to feel out-of-place, surrounded by foreign words that hold no significance to me on signs made by people with whom I have no connection. It is the process of understanding purpose, place, direction in which I find meaning. I prefer to be forced to locate myself within a setting, to discern my relation to that which is around me.

Today, South Station is as before. Ties, briefcases, heels rush past on the escalator, perpetually preoccupied and behind. They pass. I stand to the right. Within seconds, the push spits us out. The paneled buildings have always had the most beautiful reflections.

Yet, looking ahead, Dewey Square has become unfamiliar—tarps and tents rise between the concrete, grounded under a steel-frame sky. Immediately, Occupy Boston has neither the look nor the feel of revolution.

“Mic check!”

Scattered voices reply.


“Occupy Boston, have you forgotten? Mic check!”

The response is strengthened by a few.

The scene is a dilapidated museum; I—and many others—pass through. It is a lunch break, a detour, a sideshow. Some pause to talk to those sitting on camping chairs, perched on overturned buckets. Many just take photos. Most, on their way to other things, other places, at least take the time to read the signs: stop the war, stop the hate, stop the greed, stop the inequality—stop, stop, stop—legalize marijuana. A man asks if I am a registered voter—do I have a minute to sign a patient’s-right-to-death-petition? One woman asks no one in particular—everyone, I suppose—why there can’t just be more love. The general consensus is a general discontent. (There are a million different reasons why people are here; that’s what I love about it. We’re not trying to specify it to one thing.)

A mother stops to bend down next to her daughter. She points to a sign.

“Do you see that? What’s that symbol? Do you remember?”

“Peace!” The emblem, in many colors, also plasters the young girl’s sweatshirt.

“So let’s read it together. It says, ‘Lesssss Greeeeeed, More Peeeeaaaace’!”

“I get it, mommy!”

“I know you do, honey. You get it better than a lot of people these days”—more to herself than to her daughter.

To their left stands a plot of wilted sunflowers. Their seeds have been picked, their season has passed. A nearby sign—solid, city-approved, not cardboard like the others—explains its purpose. (What is growing on here?)