(The article is posted below, but doesn't include the videos and pictures on the full blog post which can be found here:  http://jewsagainstchutzpah.blogspot.com/2010/07/interruption-as-intervention-why-i.html)


Yesterday, as I found myself deep in a sea of Williamsburg hipsters awaiting a "Pool Party" concert at East River State Park, a rather unexpected "special guest" was announced by an entirely too enthusiastic emcee for the artfully apathetic aesthetes who dared not display any sentiment beyond irony. I assumed maybe we'd be graced by some luminary of the scene (spending the last five years in Binghamton, NY prevents me from naming whom that might be).

Imagine my surprise when he announced Senator Chuck Schumer.

Now, I have a very visceral reaction to some politicians. I'd like to think it comes from the proud populist tradition of publicly shaming the scoundrels of State who rarely face even the most mild rebuke in their pampered existence, yet see fit to unleash misery on working people throughout the world. But maybe it's not so grand as all that. More likely, I was simply overcome by the need to rebuke this vulture.


Now, Schumer is a widely-known hack. He's taken in more money from hedge fund, private equity and securities and investment industries than any other congressperson in either legislative body - a total of over $2.1 million from the financial sector. And Wall Street has been getting a good return on their investments. According to a December 13, 2008 article in The New York Times entitled, "A Champion of Wall Street Reaps Benefits," Schumer was instrumental in securing the $700 billion bailout for his banking buddies, while NY's working class was being decimated by layoffs and foreclosures. They write,


An exceptional fund raiser — a “jackhammer,” someone who knows him says, for whom “ ‘no’ is the first step to ‘yes,’ ” — Mr. Schumer led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the last four years, raising a record $240 million while increasing donations from Wall Street by 50 percent. That money helped the Democrats gain power in Congress, elevated Mr. Schumer’s standing in his party and increased the industry’s clout in the capital. But in building support, he has embraced the industry’s free-market, deregulatory agenda more than almost any other Democrat in Congress, even backing some measures now blamed for contributing to the financial crisis.

This is all, of course, totally predictable. A capitalist politician will first and foremost tend to the needs of his greatest benefactors - the good people of Wall Street who see to his re-election every six years. As counter-culture as Chuck might be for "allowing people to pose ironically with him," his presence at the Williamsburg "Pool Party" was probably not so divergent from his generally pro-business stance. With new luxury condos sprouting up around East River State Park, these events - which attract a young, culture-producing populous with expendable income - don't exactly hurt the property values nearly as much as the trash dump that concert organizers claimed was almost put there instead. (The noxious neighbor probably found a different area to collect city refuse where property values were already low).

Williamsburg is friendly turf for the likes of Chuck. For those unfamiliar, the Washington Post describes the neighborhood in "A Condo Tower Grows in Brooklyn,"

Much has been written about gentrification and its discontents, but in few places has the speed and finality of that transformation been more startling than in Williamsburg, a formerly working-class Brooklyn neighborhood of 180,000 people along the East River. A wall of luxury glass towers is rising for 25 blocks along the "East River Riviera." Wander inland and check out the needle condo towers with three-bedroom places retailing at $1,135,000. Overnight, another preserve of working-class American culture is rendered unaffordable to thousands of families -- and to the hipsters themselves. Want to know the next move? Toll Brothers, the nation's preeminent McMansion builder, has built a new luxe waterfront condo. Its ad features a preppy and distinctly unpierced blonde and the line: "Williamsburg, All Grown Up."

The article quotes CUNY anthropologist Neil Smith, a scholar of gentrification. "We are witnessing the corporate and geographical restructuring of cities -- the wealthy are suburbanizing the center and pushing the poor to the fringes, and it's turbocharge," he argues. This process is familiar to the residents of the West Bank, where Israeli settler expansion - funded by generous U.S. tax breaks - pushes the indigenous Palestinians into increasingly marginalized ghettos.

Which brings us back to why I fucked with Chuck.

The aforementioned grievances seem trivial to what the good senator said just weeks ago, in the aftermath of Israel's massacre of humanitarian activists aboard the Free Gaza flotilla.

Only a monster could see the human devastation of Gaza, the suffering of siege, blockade, bombardment and humiliation, and declare - in full sincerity - that the best approach is to strangle them further. Beyond the sheer depravity of it, Schumer should also be aware that it calls for collective punishment of a civilian population, a breach of international law and a crime against humanity. What chutzpah.


So, when Schumer took the stage, I had only one option to prevent the gag reflex from choking me to death. And that was to yell at him. And then yell at him some more. The adrenaline prevented anything particularly articulate but I managed to get the most important parts out. Free Gaza. End the blockade. Strangling a people is a war crime.


Clearly flustered, Chuck first tried to shush me, a task made more difficulty by his mic cutting in and out. A few people in the crowd - anxious for an uninterrupted Schumer opening act - managed to hurl a few shut-the-fuck-ups my way over their stifling apathy. Realizing I would not relent, Schumer finished with something along the lines of, "This is not about politics. It's about enjoying our freedom." He hurried off stage.


With such a high per capita volume of smart phones, I expected someone to take a video, or at least blog about it and my desire for a you-tube-able moment trumped my instinct to ignore the entire scene. While full video is still yet to be found, some internet denizens caught hold of the confrontation. In various posts and comments on Brooklyn Vegan and Sentimentalist Mag, I've been called a "debbie downer," "fat," inciting a "political heckle fest" and - much to the chagrin of the staff of Vestal Parkway's Cost Cutters (can't beat $10 wednesdays) - of having a "bad haircut."


More seriously, interrupting criminals of U.S. and Israeli imperialism has been gaining ground of late among solidarity activists, and while it falls short of a movement strategy, I am inspired by its bravery in confronting demons. This is not because of some crypto-fascist hatred of the first admendment and its blessings of liberty, but because the very politicians who stand behind the bill of rights also position themselves well-above democratic accountability essential to any actual exercise of such a right. Schumer, whose stamp of approval is on every piece of legislation transferring a new batch of weapons to Isarel and providing ideological cover when Israel employs those weapons on Palestinians, is never confronted for his barbarity. The media, in its well-documented subservience to imperial power, asks few relevant questions. And the people, should they be so roused, find the channels of communication to major politicians blocked by insurmountable obstacles. No such problem exists for bankers and CEOs, of course, who always have a friendly ear with Chuck.


So what came of all this? One solidarity-fist from a comrade in the crowd, a few boos and one really pissed off concert organizer whose day was apparently ruined by the Senator's hurt feelings (as she told me before flipping me off and calling me a "little shit"). But I can rest easy knowing I made Chuck's day just that much worse, as he's done for so many others throughout the world.