Yesterday was Geneva's annual "spookerie" parade.
Geneva has a population of around 13,000. It's declined 2.6% since 2000. The median household income is about $35,800.
The parade was at 5:00. Before dark. A couple of blocks were blocked off from traffic.
More people walk in the parade than watch it. Everyone lines up in front of the armory. Kids are arranged by schools--two public elementary schools, a few nursery schools. Whole families walk with their kids. Some are in costume, some are not. Parents run around with cameras. The order of the parade doesn't seem to be set; it depends on who shows up with the banners. The high school band plays. They wear costumes, not uniforms. The whole parade takes about half an hour.
Our zombie horde of 12 (including two Anonymous in Guy Fawkes masks), filled in behind a nursery school, pretty much lined up with the volunteer firemen (in dress blues) and a couple of people with signs for the Catholic schools.
After we started walking (lurching), the Catholic kids, firemen, and zombies flowed in and through each other. A man holding the hand of a kid wearing a bleeding ghoul mask and black robe was like a human pseuodopodium, pulling us all along through the crowd. To keep up, the zombies couldn't really shuffle; we had to hop to it. Zombies walking like regular people aren't all that frightening.
The week before Occupy Halloween, the mayor denounced the zombie march as an attempt to hijack the event. Let the kids be kids, he said. This is supposed to be about and fun and costumes. The words abhorrent and repellant also entered the mix.
Local radio announced the zombie march. 66 people told FB they were going to participate in Occupy Halloween--a humorous, festive, way to pull together conversations about debt, foreclosures, and the economy in Geneva. On FB, the mayor posted a You Tube video from Billy Dean, "Let them be little".
Would 66 zombies hijack the parade? How many zombies does it take to hijack a parade, anyway? 1000 would have definitely done it.
Phone lines were pretty tied up on Friday afternoon--people calling folks on city council, folks on city council calling people at the Colleges. This whole thing could put kids in danger. Some kids might be scared of the zombies. What about violence and counter demonstrations? This is too dangerous and could get way, way out of hand. Politics does not belong in the spookerie parade (religion is okay, though; several guys handed out Christian goodie bags).
Some wanted the zombies to enter the costume contest in the "Group, Patriotic" category--after all, this was free speech, right?
Guarded by Anonymous, the intrepid zombies stumbled and moaned through the parade. An 8 year old Robin Hood and 7 year old cowgirl walked alongside, chatting and laughing, "you are not scary at all." BRAAAIIIINNNNNNNSSSSSSSSSS
The biggest applause came from the stalwarts in front of Democratic Party HQ. The local head judge was there, having been apprised of the potential for zombie blocking or anti-zombie violence. The cheering Dems were the long term bunch, the ones who think that the housing authority should focus on housing for senior citizens of limited means, not the young DLC type Dems who think in terms of what's attractive to tourists.
There is talk about "really" occupying Geneva. Some folks have scouted out a small park in a pretty good location--the edge of "downtown" visible from a major road. No signs warn against loitering or announce closing hours.
Some of the Dems were thrilled with this news--great, somebody should occupy Geneva, that would bring people downtown, provide the downtown businesses with customers. But why sleep in the park? It's getting cold. What would be really good would be if they would occupy some of the empty store fronts or abandoned houses. Shoot, what we really need is for lots of people to occupy Geneva. That would totally liven things up.
What does it mean to occupy a place where the problems are those of abandonment and displacement, where absence of opportunity manifests itself in steady attrition? It's almost as if occupation changes its valence, becoming opportunity or even hope.
But that's not quite right. Up here hope seems unable to escape the confines of the possible, of the (no longer viable) expectation that an answer will come from within capitalism, that will entail capitalism's spread, as if more capitalism is all that is needed to flourish.
In the very small cities of the rust belt, to continue to think in terms of capitalism is to remain stuck, persising like the walking dead in search of something that can never bring you back to life. Tourism isn't a solution (nothing to see here, and whatever there is to see is demolished by tourism), info-tech isn't a solution (there's plenty of that elsewhere), wineries make some sense (but much of the work that goes into them is seasonal and low paid), and so people turn to service jobs with low capital requirement--massage, hair, nails, and the Wal-Mart, especially now that the local K-Mart (along with Burger King) has gone out of business.
Maybe that's where the hijacking occurs--the derailing of hope from its capitalist track and into the muck and uncertainty of capitalism's failure. And maybe the plea to "let the kids be kids" is a call to let parents continue to hope through them, continue to believe what they already know and experience is false--that the economy we have can provide most of us with economic security, with the health care we will need when illness strikes, with enough to live on when we retire. That we will be able to get our kids through college with making them into debt slaves, that they will have lives of consequence.
"Let kids be kids" is another way of asking to be allowed to hold on to the fantasy that it's all going to be ok, even if we don't do anything.
Maybe 12 zombies are enough to hijack a parade.