This was originally published on the website of Occupy Writers.
As far as I can understand it myself, here’s why I burst into tears at the Occupy Wall Street camp. I was moved, first of all, by what everyone notices first: the variety of people involved, the range of ages, races, classes, colors, cultures. In other words, the 99 percent. I saw conversations taking place between people and groups of people whom I’ve never seen talking with such openness and sympathy in all the years I’ve spent in New York (which is to say, my entire life): grannies talking to goths, a biker with piercings and tattoos talking to a woman in a Hermes scarf. I was struck by how well-organized everything was, and, despite the charge of “vagueness” one keeps reading in the mainstream media, by the clarity — clarity of purpose, clarity of intention, clarity of method, clarity of understanding of the most basic social and economic realities. I kept thinking about how, since this movement started, I’ve been waking up in the morning without the dread (or at least without the total dread) with which I’ve woken every morning for so long, the vertiginous sense that we’re all falling off a cliff and no one (or almost no one) is saying anything about it. In Zuccotti Park I felt a kind of lightening of a weight, a lessening of the awful isolation and powerlessness of knowing we’re being lied to and robbed on a daily basis and that everyone knows it and keeps quiet and endures it; the terror of thinking that my own grandchildren will suffer for whatever has been paralyzing us until just now. I kept feeling these intense surges of emotion — until I saw a placard with a quote from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” And that was when I just lost it and stood there and wept.
Francine Prose is the author of many bestselling books of fiction, including “A Changed Man” and “Blue Angel,” which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and the nonfiction New York Times bestseller “Reading Like a Writer.”